ASTR 101: General
Sections 0101-0110, Fall 2017
Prof: Sylvain Veilleux
Phone: (301) 405-0282
Email: veilleux @ astro.umd.edu
Office: PSC 1109
Office Hours: TuTh 12:30 - 02:00 pm or by appointment
Welcome to Astronomy 101! You are about to embark on an ambitious
project - to survey our known Universe in one short semester. We hope
that you'll find this course enjoyable and walk away with a better
knowledge and understanding of the universe that we live in. With that
goal in mind, the course attempts to focus on major concepts in
astronomy and where possible tie those concepts into issues relevant
to your life. For example, global warming, an important worldwide
issue for the 21st century, is also central to understanding the
differences between the environments of Venus, Mars, and Earth. At a
more philosophical level, understanding how our universe works and how
planets, stars, and galaxies are formed gives us a better perspective
on our place in the universe and how special planet Earth is to our
Most of you have chosen this course to fulfill your science
requirement (see GENED Requirements below). GENED courses are designed
to ensure that you will take a look at several different academic
disciplines and the way they create and analyze knowledge about the
world. We will introduce you to ideas and issues that are central to a
major intellectual discipline and involve you actively in the learning
process. Please take advantage of the opportunities this course
Attendance: In order to succeed in this course, I
expect you to attend ALL lectures and discussion sections. This is
very important! The material on the homeworks and exams are based upon
the material covered in the lectures, the text, and discussion
sections. If you have to miss a lecture or section, be sure to look at
another student's notes and make sure that you understand what was
covered. See me or your teaching assistant if you have questions.
There will be times during the semester, in both lectures and
sections, when we may ask for written responses to questions. Your
written answers will count towards your grade in the class.
Preparation: I expect you to be prepared to work.
You will understand the lecture more easily if you preview the reading
assignment. A more careful reading is recommended after lecture. You
should study your class notes some time before the next lecture to
make sure that everything is clear. I encourage you to ask questions
in class, in discussion, in lab, and during office hours.
Study Habits: Study wisely and ask for help if you
need it. If you just cram the night before the exam, you probably
will not do very well. It is better (and easier) if you keep up with
the material on a daily basis. If you have questions, please see me
or one of the TAs. We are here to help you learn.
Class Textbook: The Cosmic Perspective
Fundamentals (2nd Edition), by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, Voit,
2016 (ISBN-13: 978-0-13-388956-7). You do not need a CD or any online
access for this class - just the hardcopy textbook. You may buy a used
version if you wish. We will be covering most, but not necessarily
all, of the material in the book. There will be reading assignments
associated with the lectures. You are responsible for materials
covered in the lecture, discussion, and labs.
Class Lab books: Experiments in Astronomy
(Fifth Edition), by Leo Bliz and Michael F. A'Hearn, Voit, 2017
(ISBN-13: 978-1-323-58146-9) and ASTR 101 Supplemental Lab Manual
(Fall 2016 Edition), by the University of Maryland Copy Services,
2016 (ISBN-13: 281-8-440-15787-5). You should get the new fifth
edition of the first book. An unused copy of the fourth edition is
also OK if you get a good deal. But be sure that the book is 100%
intact, as you will have to tear pages out to hand in. You may not use
photocopies of the book for your labs.
Class Web Page:
have course information, lecture slides and homework assignments,
supplementary readings, and interactive programs to make ASTR 101 fun
and to help you learn. See cool space pictures and movies!
ELMS: We will also use ELMS in this course. Your
grades on assignments and exams, and point total throughout the
semester will be available on ELMS.
meet in PHYS 1412 on TuTh from 11:00 am to 12:15 pm. Lectures are led
by the professor and will include several demonstrations, slides,
videos, etc. There will be in-lecture activites that are graded.
Sections meet in ATL 2400 or ATL 1113 at times listed
below, starting the week of September 5. Discussion sections are led
by Teaching Assistants (TAs). The sections provide a smaller and more
informal environment for further developing the material taught in
class. The TAs will also answer questions about the lectures and
reading and will hold review sessions before exams.
in room ATL 0254 at times listed below starting the week of September
5. The labs are led by Teaching Assistants (TAs). You are required to
attend lab section in order to do the labs; you MAY NOT start writing
answers to the lab outside of the lab room. You must go to the lab
time associated with your section number each week. If you expect to
miss your lab section due to illness or a University approved excuse,
you should contact your TA as soon as you know and make arrangements
to attend another section in the same week if at all possible.
ASTR 101 is intended for non-science majors and requires no more than a
modest, high-school level science and math background. This course
satisfies the University of Maryland's requirement for a lab natural science
course. To satisfy the requirement for a non-lab natural science
course, you might wish to consider ASTR 100. Note that you cannot get
credit for both ASTR 100 and ASTR 101. Please be sure that you have
chosen the correct course.
Discussion Sections and Labs
Your weekly 50-minute discussion section, which begins the week of
September 5, is an integral part of this course. The sections are run
by the TAs, with just general guidelines from me; they will generally
include a review of lecture material, presentation of problems and
material not covered in lecture, exercises and quizzes etc. These
sections serve as a forum to enhance your understanding of the course
material. Your TAs are an excellent resource; get to know them and use
that resource! Homeworks, exams, and other work will be returned to
you during your discussion section. Please attend all your discussion
sections. The general schedule of the discussion sections can
be found here.
Understanding laboratory techniques and reaching conclusions based on
careful observations is a hallmark of scientific inquiry. Your weekly
2-hour lab is an important part of this course that provides you with
the opportunity to think like a scientist. Our goal is that you leave
ASTR 101 at the end of the semester with critical thinking skills that
will allow you to better appreciate science in the news and elsewhere
that you encounter it. The lab schedule can be
Be sure to attend the discussion section and lab combination for which
you registered. The only way to switch sections is through the
registrar's office; unofficial changes are not
allowed. Memorize your section number and put it on
everything that you turn in.
||Tu 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
|| Tu 3:30 pm - 4:20 pm
Ken Koester/Jacob Shpiece
||W 8:30 am - 10:30 am
|| Tu 3:30 pm - 4:20 pm
||W 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
|| W 10:00 am - 10:50 am
||Th 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm
|| W 10:00 am - 10:50 am
||W 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
|| W 11:00 am - 11:50 am
||Th 08:30 am - 10:30 am
|| W 11:00 am - 11:50 am
||W 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
|| W 12:00 pm - 12:50 pm
||Th 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
|| W 12:00 pm - 12:50 pm
Ken Koester/Jacob Shpiece
||F 9:00 am - 11:00 am
|| W 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm
||F 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
|| W 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm
Your grade is accumulated on a point scale throughout the semester
with assignment totals summarized in the table below: 5 homeworks at
10 points each; 12 discussion activities at 5 points each; 10
questions during the lectures at 4 points each; and 11 lab activities
at 15 points each. A description of each of these components is
detailed later in this syllabus. You should note that there are a
total of 155 points in homework and lecture/discussion activities, and
165 points in lab activities. It is impossible to get a passing grade
in this course by just showing up for the exams!
||Syllabus Cover||Homeworks||Discussions||Lectures||Labs||Midterm I||Midterm II||Final||Total|
Letter grades will be assigned based upon your curved cumulative
score. Grades for some sections may be adjusted slightly so that the
average grade given by each TA is similar. Here is how your grade will
be determined from your point total in the class.
The use of an absolute point scale makes it possible for everyone in
the class to do well; it is up to you to put in the effort. I will use
+/- modifiers on letter grades for the course; you will get a "+" if
you are in roughly the upper 1/3 of point range in a letter grade and
a "-" if you are in the lower 1/3. You can monitor your current
percentage estimate of your grade in ELMS as the semester progresses.
If you are unsure about why something was marked wrong or you believe
that it was incorrectly marked wrong, please contact your TA
promptly. Grading can be reconsidered for only a reasonable time after
the assignment is returned to you, typically 7-10 days. We make every
effort to grade your work correctly and to record your grades
correctly into ELMS. We can make mistakes despite our best
efforts. The last day for notifying us of suspected errors in
previously recorded grades is Thursday November 30.
There are a total of five homeworks in this course. All homeworks are
included with this syllabus and can also be obtained from
Assignments link from the class website. They will NOT be posted
on ELMS. Your answers must be written neatly or typed on a
separate page from the questions; there will be a deduction
of 2 points for answers squished into the space between the questions
or written on the back. It is perfectly ok for you to copy the
questions over to your answer page and then use as much space as
needed to write the answer. Solution sets to the homeworks will be
handed out by the TAs in the discussion sections.
Homeworks will be collected at the beginning of the lecture in
which they are due. Fifteen minutes after the start of the
lecture, any homework not turned in will be considered late and two
points will be deducted from the total. Homeworks may not be turned in
by email. If you experience a valid emergency, you must write
me and your TA an email before the assignment is due, telling
us why you will be late.
If, for whatever reason, the University is officially
closed on the due date, the due date shifts to the next lecture date.
Although you may discuss the homework problems with your friends,
the final writeup must be in your own words. Copying
from a friend's homework, copying from a book or websites, or allowing
a friend to copy your homework is academic dishonesty (see Academic Integrity below) and will not be tolerated in
this class. Moreover, it is remarkably easy to spot this form of
cheating, so expect to be caught if you try it. The penalty is quite
severe (again, see Academic Integrity). If you
consult a reference other than the course text, please acknowledge it
in your homework - this includes websites!
There will be two in-class one-hour examinations which will be held in
PHYS 1412 on the dates noted in the
lecture schedule. These exams are closed
book with no notes, calculators, cell phones, ipods, or implants
allowed. Each exam will consist of multiple choice questions, essay
questions, and problem solving questions.
The schedule of lectures included in this
syllabus shows what material will be covered on each exam. Please
bring a pencil and your ID card to each exam (including the final).
If, for whatever reason, the University is officially closed
on the exam date, the exam date shifts to the next lecture date. If
official closures (e.g., due to snow) before an exam affect the
material covered, either the affected material will be omitted,
or the exam date may be altered, as deemed appropriate.
As per University rules, the final exam for this course will
be held on Wednesday, December 13 from 8:00 am to 10:00 am in PHYS
1412. This final exam is cumulative, that is, it will
cover all material discussed in this course. However, since
the material which comes after the second midterm will not have been
covered by the midterm exams (see Lecture
the weight on these units will be higher than on earlier
units. The final will include multiple choice, essay and problem
solving questions, greatly resembling a longer version of the
midterms. This exam is also closed book with no notes, no computers,
no calculators allowed. Please bring a pencil and your ID card to the
Missed Single Lectures, Discussion Sections or Labs
We will follow University policy: we will accept as an excused absence
a self-signed note from a student who has missed a single lecture or
discussion section that is not an exam day or a day when
homework is due, attesting to the date of the illness. The
note must also contain an acknowledgement by the student that the
information is true and correct and that providing false information
is prohibited under the Code of Student Conduct. The student is also
obligated to make a reasonable attempt to inform us of his/her illness
in advance. Per university policy, students may only provide
one self-signed medical excuse per semester. For multiple
medically necessitated absences we will require documented evidence in
the form of a doctor's note. For the policies on exams and homeworks,
The first rule of missing exams is:
DON'T DO IT!
If you are not able to take an exam due to illness or other legitimate
reasons (as outlined in the Academic Info section of the schedule of
classes) and you wish to take a make-up exam, you must
Make-up exams must be taken promptly. In the case of the final exam,
you must arrange for a make-up final within 48 hours after the
scheduled exam, and preferably much sooner as final grades must be
submitted shortly after the date of the final.
- contact me (by e-mail) before you miss the
regularly-scheduled exam and
- submit a valid written excuse for your absence within one
week after the regularly-scheduled exam.
The astronomy department hosts
an open house on the
5th and 20th of each month at the university observatory which is
located just off campus on Metzerott Road. The open house includes a
speaker talking about some aspect of astronomy. Following this short
talk, there is public viewing of the heavens with the observatory's
telescopes (weather permitting). This is your best
opportunity to look through a real telescope. It's fun, so I
highly encourage you to do it!
The following are the only ways to earn extra credit in this
Because there will be points of extra credit available throughout the
semester, there will not be any extra assignments / papers if, e.g.,
you miss a homework.
- Do the Extra Credit questions on each homework assignment.
- Your TAs may give some extra credit in their discussion sections.
The World Wide Web is a very useful resource that we will make use of
in this class. All students should obtain a computer account, which
will include email and internet access. If you do not already have
one, get a WAM account (this can be done in ATL 1400, one floor down
from your section class room). The webpage for this course is
It contains links to course information (including the contents of
this syllabus), supplementary readings, and interactive programs to
make ASTR 101 fun and to help you learn. In addition, this site is
also a gateway to many other astronomy links, including sites with
up-to-date astronomical images that are made available to the public
from telescopes in space and on the ground.
It is very important to get your feedback about the course. This
allows us to improve the course for future students. Moreover, if you
supply evaluations, it grants you access to the evaluations provided
by other students - a very useful resource in planning your future
schedule. An announcement will be made in class when courses are open
for evaluation late in the semester.
Students with a documented disability should let me know as soon as
possible (preferably on the first day of class) so that appropriate
academic accommodations can be made.
The academic community at the University abides by a Code of Academic
Integrity, and this section uses parts of that code. Acts of academic
dishonesty include cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic
dishonesty, and plagiarism*. Activities such as cheating on exams or
quizzes, copying homework from a friend, a book, or websites, allowing
your homework or paper to be copied, and submitting forged excuses for
absences from exams are violations of this code. If we suspect that an
incident of academic dishonesty has occurred, we will typically turn
the case over to the Student Honor Council to investigate and
resolve. If the suspected party is judged `responsible' for the act(s)
of academic dishonesty, the normal sanction is a course grade of `XF'
which denotes failure due to academic dishonesty. This grade is far
worse than an F and is recorded onto the student's academic
transcript. The Code of Academic Integrity can be found in the
Academic Info section of the Schedule of Classes and is printed in
full in the Undergraduate Catalog;
see this site if
you have any questions about academic integrity or what is construed
as academic dishonesty. We are very serious about
The basic principle is simple: everything you submit should be in
your own words. Note that changing just a small number of
words in a sentence is not sufficient; we want your thoughts,
not those of others.
* A surprising number of people do not seem to know what
A common example is cutting & pasting material from the internet into your
homework. It is wrong to submit the work of others as if it were your own.
Safe Learning Environment
The campus is meant to be a safe place to learn, free from harassment and
intimidation of any kind. If you have experienced any form of
harassment as a member of the university community, you should contact
the Office of Civil Rights & Sexual Misconduct on campus. See the
university policies and procedures on
for more information. Please be aware that faculty (professors and
TAs) are required by university policy to report any instance of
misconduct observed or brought to their attention. For confidential
assistance with a harassment matter, contact CARE (see
Other University Policies for Undergraduate Students
For more information on course-related university policies, please refer to