Course Information

Description: An introduction to the concepts of modern-day astronomy. Topics include: classic descriptive astronomy (stars/constellations, celestial sphere, astronomical coordinate systems); geocentric to heliocentric models of the universe; light and electromagnetic spectrum; optical telescopes; solar system and comparative planetology; formation and evolution of the sun and stars; Milky Way galaxy; cosmology and the expansion/fate of the universe.

Lectures: are illustrated with overhead transparencies, color slides, and other means, to try and express abstract concepts in concrete terms. If you miss a lecture for any reason, you may find a copy of the lecture notes (from a previous semester) placed on reserve in the Woodman Library. Caveats: These notes are not intended as substitutes for attending actual lectures. Some materials (and illustrations) covered in lecture may not appear in the notes, and the order given may not exactly match the current lecture itself.

Discussion Sections: You must be enrolled in one of the six weekly discussion sections. The purpose of discussion sections is to clarify terms, concepts, and questions not adequately understood from readings, homework assignments, and lectures. Discussion sections are facilitated by the course Teaching Assistant (TA). Come prepared to ask, and to answer, questions about the readings and/or homework assignments. Discussion sections do not meet during the first (incomplete) week of class.

Reading Assignments: Reading assignments from the textbook (Arny) are given on the course outline. With the exception of the first lecture, students are expected to have read the assigned materials before coming to class on the given dates.

Homework Assignments: Assignments will be distributed in lecture and will be due one week later, in lecture. Late homework assignments will not be accepted after the course grader has made his/her pickup, after class. If you cannot make it to lecture, you may turn in your homework assignment before the lecture in Mr. Marché's mailbox on the 5th floor of Sterling Hall, across from the elevator. Do not place homework assignments in the course handout racks on the fifth floor. Graded assignments will be returned in discussion section.

To facilitate prompt grading and return of your homework assignments, please write your discussion section number after your name on each assignment. Homework assignments must be submitted as hard copy; neither e-mail versions, nor document attachments, will be accepted (software compatibility issues). Homework assignments comprise 20% of a student's course grade (below). There will be eleven equally-weighted assignments given during the semester. Each student's one lowest homework grade will be dropped. Homework assignments are graded according to the following scheme:

2 points = satisfactory; 1 point = unsatisfactory; 0 points = no credit

Grading: Course grades are determined on the following basis:

Final Grade calculation: (Exam I + Exam II + Final Exam)/4 + Homework

A straight scale is assumed throughout:

Exams: Three in-class exams are given during the semester. Exams I and II are equally weighted (25%); the Final Exam is weighted slightly more (30%). Exams will consist of multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and matching questions, plus a few short-answer responses, drawn from reading assignments, lectures, and discussion sections. Sample exam questions will be distributed before Exam I. If you cannot take an exam because of illness or family emergency, you must notify the instructor or the department office (262-3071) on or before the day of the exam, and explain why.

Attendance/participation: Your attendance and participation at each class meeting are vital. Poorer attendance is correlated with lower grades. To receive the maximum educational benefit from this course, students are expected to attend the full length of each regular class meeting (lecture and discussion section).

Special accommodations: Please inform me early in the course if you require special accommodations for a documented disability.

Planetarium: During Week 3, each discussion section will have an opportunity to visit the astronomy department's planetarium, located on the 7th floor of Sterling Hall, for a demonstration of concepts pertinent to the celestial sphere and geocentric motions. Use the staircase opposite the elevator from the 6th floor (there is no handicapped access). Washburn Observatory: One or more nights (TBA) will be set aside for a visit to the Washburn Observatory, located atop Observatory Drive. Weather permitting, we shall try to show the moon and planet(s), along with some seasonal deep-sky objects. The Observatory is also open to the public (including you!) on the first and third Wednesday evenings of each month, if the sky is clear. Call 262-WASH for more information about regular public viewing nights.

Woodman Astronomical Library (6521 Sterling): See the URL below for fall semester hours. http://www.astro.wisc.edu/library/.

Honors Students: If you have signed up for Honors credit in this course, you must meet with the instructor by the end of the fifth week of class to discuss/plan an Honor's project. Only projects approved by the instructor will be considered for Honors credit. Projects must involve independent study/research, and result in a written report by semester's end. Projects may include research on an astronomical topic of your choice, an observing project, or another finished product/construction. If you later decide not to complete an Honor's project, you will have to drop the Honors credit and re-register for the regular course credit before a final course grade can be issued.

Academic Dishonesty: If you are in doubt about UW's policy on academic dishonesty (involving cheating or plagiarism), please inform yourself about it (the UW Student Handbook is the place to begin). Detection of cheating or plagiarism may result in disciplinary action including possible suspension or dismissal from the University.

Creation of informal study groups can be very beneficial to the learning process. Thus, verbal collaboration on reading/homework assignments, and exam preparation, is to be encouraged. Each student is responsible, however, for his/her own thoughts/work, on all formal assessments (submitted homework assignments & exams). Any submitted homework assignments found to be near-duplicates of each other (a form of plagiarism) will automatically be penalized, whereby both parties will receive zero credit.

If you are having problems with any aspect of the course, including the contents, lecturer, or the TA, you should contact the TA, the course professor, or the department chair (as appropriate), as soon as possible, so that we can attempt to resolve the problem.