The Solar System, Spring 2001
Prof: Doug Hamilton
Phone: (301) 405-1548
Office: CSS 1245
Office Hours: Drop by Anytime!
TA: Amir Caspi
Textbook: K. Beatty, C.C. Peterson, and A. Chaikin.
The New Solar System (4th Edition)
ASTR430 Course Description
I have two main objectives in teaching ASTR430. First, I want you all
to gain a basic knowledge of the Solar System: its origin, the
interesting and diverse worlds that orbit within it, and the remnant
debris left over from its creation. We will learn about the history of
Planetary Science as it grew from one practitioner in the 1940s to
over 1500 active scientists worldwide today and its meteoritic rise
due primarily to the spectacular results of the U.S. and Russian space
programs. We will see the results of titanic collisions and mammoth
volcanoes, peer through a murky atmosphere of a world whose surface we
can barely see, and speculate on Solar System niches where
extraterrestrial life may exist. Scientists working in Planetary
Science come from many fields including geology, chemistry, physics,
astronomy, mathematics, fluid dynamics, and biology. Similarly, the
class textbook, The New Solar System, is a collaborative work
involving multiple experts, each contributing to the topics that he or
she knows best. One of my primary goals in ASTR430 is that you
thoroughly read and understand all of the chapters from this excellent
textbook. We will cover about two chapters per week and, to help
motivate you to keep up the reading pace, there will be short quizzes
on the reading every other week. We will also spend about 15 minutes
per lecture discussing the reading. This will work best if you all
bring questions and comments on the reading to class so that you can
contribute to the discussion.
My second main objective in ASTR430 is to help you develop your
problem solving skills. I assume that you all have had at least one
year of college Physics, and have some familiarity with differential
equations. Having the necessary prerequisites for this class, however,
does not necessarily make you a good problem solver. There are a
number of excellent techniques that you can and should use to improve
you ability at problem solving (see Hints
for Problem Solving). These techniques are powerful and general,
and can be used in your other classes as well as this one. We will
spend the semester working on your problem solving skills, which you
will have a chance to practice on homework assignments, and to perfect
on the midterm and the final exam. This semester we are also lucky to
have a Teaching Assistant, Amir Caspi, who will lead special informal
problem solving sessions prior to homework deadlines.
Assignments and Grading
There are five types of assignments in ASTR430 listed below.
I grade on a point scale with different assignments weighted as shown
in this table.
- Homeworks: The seven homework assignments
are meant to help you improve your problem solving skills. The
problems will cover aspects of orbital dynamics and planetary physics
and will emphasize using the basic conservation laws of Physics
(Energy, Momentum, and Angular Momentum).
- Quizzes: The seven quizzes will cover
material from the assigned reading only. Quizzes occur roughly every 2
weeks and typically will cover four chapters from the book. The intent
of the quizzes is to help me determine whether you have read and
understood the material in the textbook.
- Midterm: The midterm will emphasize problem
solving and will also include questions relating to the reading,
lectures, and class discussions. Problems will be similar to, but
easier than, those on the homework assignments.
- Final: The two-hour final exam will be
similar in format to the midterm. It will be cumulative, covering material
from the whole course but with emphasis on the post-midterm material.
- Participation: Approximately 15 minutes of
each class will be devoted to a class discussion of the assigned
reading. These discussions are more fun, more interesting, and more
relevant if you take an active role in contributing to them. Maximum
participation scores will be awarded to students who keep up with the
reading, regularly bring interesting topics and questions to class,
and actively help to shape these discussions.
The number of points required to get a given grade will depend on the
class average. In addition, getting 90%,80%,68%,55% of the total
possible points guarantees at least an A,B,C,D, respectively. You can
monitor my current estimate of your grade from the What's
my Grade Right Now? webpage as the semester progresses.
to ASTR430 Home Page
Last modified: Tue Jan 30 10:38:05 2001