ASTR 330: Solar System Astronomy

Fall 2000

Lectures: Tu & Th, 1400-1515, CSS 2400



Prof. Michael F. A'Hearn

Mr.Jian Chen

CSS Room 2337, Phone 56076

CSS Room 0252, Phone 51545

Tue, Thu 10:00-12:00

Tue, Thu 16:00-18:00

Breaking News about the course!

Course Description

This course is intended for juniors and seniors who are not majoring in the physical sciences and who have successfully completed either ASTR 100 or ASTR 101 and also the CORE Distributive Studies Requirement in Mathematics and Sciences. The course will emphasize the way in which we combine different types of information to answer fundamental questions about the solar system, such as

This means that we will consider the important physical and chemical processes in the solar system, illustrating them with examples from the real bodies in the solar system, rather than trying to inventory each of the objects in the solar system separaately.

We will consider how our ideas have changed over the centuries, as well as the most modern data. What was Galileo's view of the solar system? How has our view changed and how has the spacecraft named for Galileo helped to change this view? (You can find out more about Galileo at the project's Home Page.) What are all the new Trans-Neptunian Objects that we have discovered in the outer solar system over the last several years and what relation do they have to the objects we have known about for centuries? (If you don't know about Trans-Neptunian Objects, you can find out more at the Kuiper Belt Home Page, created by the astronomer who discovered the first of these objects.) Why do we need to send spacecraft out into the solar system to learn about the solar system?

We will use very little mathematics in this course but we will use a lot of physical reasoning and we will use information from geology, meteorology, and physics as well as from astronomy, all sciences that have contributed importantly to planetary science. Thus you will be expected to master an extensive body of knowledge.

Work Expected

In addition to mastering the material in the lectures and in the textbook, students will be expected to read articles in the popular scientific literature. The primary evaluation for the course will be via three in-class exams during the semester and a final exam. The exams will consist primarily of essay questions, with a few short-answer questions to get you started on each exam. In addition, there will be some short, written, homework assignments requiring you to summarize scientific articles in the popular press.

There will be no makeup exams for people who miss an exam. Provided that you telephone or send email prior to the exam, stating why you will miss the exam, and then provide appropriate documentation when you return, the exam will not be counted at all. The only legitimate reasons for missing an exam are sickness, death in the family, and religious observance. In all cases, you should be able to notify the instructor one way or another prior to the exam.

The written homework assignments should each be approximately two typed pages. The assignments are as follows:


Syllabus: Click here to see the syllabus.

Text: The Planetary System, 2nd Edition, by David Morrison and Tobias Owen

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University of Maryland .......... Department of Astronomy .......... M. F. A'Hearn .......... The Real World

Created: 29 Aug '00, mfa; Last updated: Monday, 09-Aug-2010 13:48:06 EDT, mfa