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An Introduction to Solar System Astronomy
Autumn Quarter 2007 Course Syllabus
Students with Disabilities
- MTWRF, 2:30-3:18pm
- 1000 McPherson Laboratory (MP1000)
- Section Number: 21688-1
- Professor: Richard Pogge
- Office: 4037 McPherson Lab, 292-0274
- Office Hours: Tue, Wed, & Thur 11:00-12:30, or by appointment
- E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- TA: TBA
- Office Hours: TBD
- Course Web Page:
- Recommended Textbook:
- 21st Century Astronomy 2nd Edition, by Jeff Hester,
et al. (W.W. Norton & Company)
- Note that this book is Recommended but not required.
- If you are not planning on taking Astronomy 162, consider buying
The Solar System by the same authors, which is just the
first half of the full textbook repackaged. It will save you money.
- If you are planing on taking Astronomy 162, I recommend buying the full
textbook, as just buying the first and second halves as separate books
will cost much more than the full edition.
- Required Clicker:
- For this section we will be using clickers (aka "personal response systems") to
ask questions in class and grade them in real time. OSU has adopted the
clicker made by Turning Technologies, LLC. These clickers are available
at the campus bookstore (used will work fine). Note that no other
clicker technology will work.
Astronomy 161 is an introduction to modern astronomy, with an emphasis
on the solar system. We will begin with an exploration of the
historical development of astronomy to trace the path by which we have
come to our present understanding of the Universe, building up along the
way the basic toolkit of physical concepts that we will need for our
later discussions. The second half of the course will be devoted to an
overview of modern solar system astronomy, with particular attention
paid to the constituents of the solar system, comparative planetology
(structure, surfaces, & atmospheres) and the history and evolution
of the solar system.
There will be five (5) Homework Assignments
during the quarter, each consisting of a set of short-answer questions.
The exact format will be announced at the start of class.
Collectively the homework will count for 15% of your grade, equivalent
to one in-class quiz. These are not just practice quizzes, but instead
are an opportunity to ask somewhat more challenging questions than I can
on the multiple-choice quizzes. They are designed get you thinking
about the course topics in an active way. I strongly encourage you to
form study groups to discuss the questions, though you must decide on
the final answers yourself (beware the perils of group-think!).
Late Homework Policy
No late homework will be accepted. All assignments must be
submitted in class on the due date. Exceptions will only be made for
legitimate, documented emergencies.
There will be four (4) in-class quizzes, scheduled for the following
Please mark your calendars with these dates.
- In-Class Quiz 1: Friday, October 6
- In-Class Quiz 2: Friday, October 19
- In-Class Quiz 3: Friday, November 2
- In-Class Quiz 4: Friday, November 16
The quizzes will be held at the normal class time, 2:30-3:18pm, and you
will have the entire class time to take it. Bring only a #2 pencil with
you: no notes, books, scrap paper or any other items will be allowed.
All of the in-class quizzes and the final exam will be closed-book,
closed-notes multiple-choice tests. These computer-generated tests
provide each student with a unique test (you are asked the same
questions and answers as everyone else, but the order of questions and
answers is randomized).
The in-class quizzes will cover the material in the lectures and
readings since the previous quiz, whereas the final exam will be
comprehensive, covering the entire quarter. Each consists of 50
multiple-choice questions. The general emphasis is on the important
core facts covered, plus some questions that require putting ideas
together and drawing correct conclusions. I do not expect you to
know multi-digit numbers, historical dates, etc. I will also ask a
small number of quantitative questions, but the constraints of the
multiple-choice format restrict the kinds of such questions I can ask on
a 50-question test. As such, I usually defer more complicated
quantitative questions to the homework where we have more scope to ask
Makeup in-class quizzes are only offered by advance arrangement
with the professor. Exceptions will be made for legitimate,
documentable emergencies which require no advance notice. If you will
be away on an official University-sponsored activity (e.g., sports
teams, band, etc.), please provide a letter from your coach, director,
etc. in advance of the quiz. In-class quizzes must be made up
before Wednesday after the quiz that you missed, otherwise that quiz
becomes the one that I will drop in computing your final grade.
The Final Exam for this course is scheduled for Thursday, December 6
from 11:30am-1:18pm in 1000 McPherson Lab. Attendance at the Final
Exam is mandatory.
The final will be comprehensive, covering all lectures and
assigned readings, and of the same format as the in-class quizzes, only
longer. It is worth 40% of your final course grade.
No makeup final will be offered.
Persons who miss the final exam will be given an incomplete (I) with an
alternative grade equal to getting a zero on the final, and have to make
it up during Winter Quarter 2008 to avoid the alternative grade (which
at 40% of the total course grade, will be guaranteed to be much lower
than you will like).
In keeping with official University policy, early finals will not
be available for those persons who wish to depart early for the Holiday
Break. Please plan ahead and make your travel plans accordingly, as I
will make no exceptions.
- The 5 homework assignments will collectively account for 15% of
your grade, equivalent to 1 in-class quiz.
- I will drop the lowest score of the 4 in-class quizzes, and use the
scores on the 3 remaining quizzes to compute your grade. Together,
these in-class quizzes count for 45% of your grade.
- The final exam will be cumulative, covering all material from the
class. It accounts for 40% of your grade, and must be taken
by all students.
- All grading, homework and exams, is done on a standard C+ curve.
Lectures will be given daily, 2:30-3:18pm, in 1000 McPherson Laboratory
on the OSU main campus in Columbus.
The daily lectures are your primary resource for this course. Daily
attendance is strongly encouraged.
Next in importance to you are the daily lecture notes available on the
web. While you will very likely find these notes to be useful aids for
studying and following along in lecture, they are not substitutes for
regular attendance. Most students find that the best strategy is to
print out the notes, bring them with to class, and then add their own
notes in the margins. Remember, these are only outlines of what
I cover each day in class, not comprehensive transcripts.
The third component of lectures are the questions I will occasionally
ask during class that you will respond to using the clickers that you need to bring to class
everyday. I will be using clickers as a way to make the class more
interactive by asking questions and giving immediate feedback, a way of
breaking out of the traditionally passive "professor talks and students
listen" mode that prevails in such large classes. The clicker data also
gives me a way to take regular attendance efficiently, so I can give
proper credit to those who attend regularly and participate in class.
Technology can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you use it. I
have found that by putting my notes online, it has helped many students
pay closer attention to lectures without having to sweat writing
everything down, and it provides a useful study guide. The dark side of
this useful technology is that many students fall into the habit of
blowing off class and just reading the web notes before the quizzes or
final. This is a seductively easy but dangerous path to follow through
a content-rich course like this. It is akin to reading the script of a
movie instead of watching it for yourself: while you will get all of the
words, the important nuances, visuals, and connections between ideas
will be lost. Astronomy is a very visual science, working with often
striking images, and you'll get none of this from the notes because many
of the images are protected by copyright and cannot be posted with my
In general, students who do not attend class regularly score one whole
grade below those who attend class (i.e., a D instead of a C).
I will be using data from the daily clicker questions to assess
Any student who feels that he or she may need an accommodation based on
the impact of a disability should contact the Professor to discuss their
specific needs. We will work with the Office for Disability Services
to verify the need for accommodation and develop appropriate strategies.
Students with disabilities who have not previously contacted ODS are
encouraged to do so in advance by visiting the ODS website and requesting an
All OSU instructors are required to report suspected cases of academic
misconduct to the Committee on Academic Misconduct. See the
University's Code of Student
Conduct for details. The most common forms of misconduct in classes
like this are copying from another student's exam or homework assignment.
All cases will be investigated following University guidelines.
To help establish and maintain a courteous, distraction-free learning
environment in our classroom, I ask that all students please observe the
following rules of behavior during lectures and exams:
A little courtesy and common sense can go a long way. Thank you for
- Use of cell phones and pagers is prohibited.
- This includes using cell phones for instant messaging, email, web,
pictures, etc. When in class, all cell phones and pagers must be
turned off (do not simply put them into stand-by "silent ring" modes).
- Use of Wireless Laptops or other networked devices is
- Surfing the web, instant messaging, reading email or typing on a
keyboard during class is extremely distracting to those around you.
When in class, all laptop computers and other networked devices
(especially devices like PDAs and Blackberries that can be used for
2-way communications, email, IM, etc.) must be turned off and put away.
Exceptions will be made for assistive technologies for the vision- or
hearing-impaired in consultation with the professor.
- Please do not start packing up until class is completely
- Nothing is more rude or distracting than the noise of notebooks
closing and jackets and backpacks rustling while the professor is trying
to finish up. I'll be very clear when we're done, and work very hard to
stay on time, so please wait until I get to the end.
- If you come late or have to leave early, please sit near the back
of the room on the GROUND FLOOR.
- This will make your late arrival or early departure less disruptive
for your fellow students.
- The balcony of MP1000 is OFF LIMITS.
- McPherson 1000 is a larger room than we need, and so I ask that you
not sit in the upstairs balcony. This makes it easier for the clickers
to work, and I have to strain my voice less to be heard. I have also
found that people who talk in the balcony can be heard down in front
because of the odd acoustics of this room
Astronomy 161 is a General Education Curriculum (GEC) Physical Science
course in the Natural Science category. The goals for this course
- Understanding the basic principles and central facts of astrophysics,
and their relation to other ideas in the physical and biological
- Understanding how we discovered the important principles and facts
of astrophysics, thus understanding key events in the history of science
both as events in human history and as case studies in the methods of
- Investigating the relationship between science and technology,
- Understanding the social and philosophical implications of
major scientific discoveries.
In Astronomy 161, the specific learning objectives to achieve these
course goals are:
- To investigate the basic facts, principles, theories, and methods of
modern science as practiced in astrophysics.
- To learn the basic observable phenomena of astronomy, and how these have
had both practical applications (time keeping and calendars), and played
a key role in advancing our understanding of the Universe.
- To learn important events in the history of astronomy, particularly
the development of our understanding of the nature of the Solar System
and the discovery of the physical laws that govern its motions,
formation history, and evolution.
- To explain the role of modern technology in the investigation of
astrophysical phenomena, and the crucial role played by technological
advances in extending our knowledge of the Universe.
- To explore how discoveries in astrophysics have implications for how
we have come to view our place in the Universe, and by comparing the
Earth to other planets in our Solar System provide a physical framework
for understanding the possible impacts of our activities on the Earth.
Return to the Astronomy 161 Main Page
Updated: 2007 August 6
Copyright © Richard W. Pogge, All Rights Reserved.