ASTR220: Collisions in Space

Room: CSS 2400 Time: MWF 11:00am to 11:50am, Spring 1999

Course Description:

Astronomy 220 is an introductory course in astronomy for non-science majors. This course satisfies the CORE distributive studies requirement for a non-laboratory physical science. As specified by the CORE guidelines, this course will focus on active learning techniques, emphasize critical thinking, and concentrate on written expression. In this class you will explore collisions on various levels in the Universe. The course is built around three themes: collisions in the Solar System, collisions between stars, and collisions between galaxies. As you scan the syllabus, you should be able to recognize these three areas of concentration. This theme approach will expose you to most of the objects that would be covered in a survey of astronomy, but will allow us to probe more deeply into some of the problems astronomers are currently researching. I will also try to keep you informed of new discoveries made.

Course Philosophy:

Most of you are probably taking ASTR220 to fulfill your general education science requirement. I hope you chose this class because it sounded more interesting to you than your other options. Maybe it was all that would fit into your schedule! An educated individual should appreciate science and what scientists do, so let's make the most of this experience. I'm excited about astronomy, and I hope that you will be too! During this semester you will learn about amazing objects and spectacular events in our universe. You will consider answers to some fundamental questions that people have argued about over the years. How frequently do comets and asteroids collide with Earth? What happened to the dinosaurs? Do stars or galaxies ever collide? What would collisions between bodies in space be like? What will happen when the Sun explodes?

Course Expectations:

Attendance: In order to successfully complete this course I expect you to attend class 3 times a week. This is very important! If you have to miss a lecture, be sure to look at another student's notes and make sure that you understand what was covered. See me or the teaching assistant if you have questions. In lecture, there will be times when I ask for small groups or individuals to discuss a question and turn in a written response (participation points). The syllabus cover sheet to be turned in at the beginning of next class will be worth 2 pts. toward participation. There are also times (see Lecture Schedule) when students will complete an in-class assignment.
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 sometime before the next lecture to make sure that everything is clear. I encourage you to ask questions in class, using email, or 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 the TA. We are here to help you learn.


I grade on a point scale with different assignments weighted as shown below.

Exam I
Exam II

Exams & Final: Exams will consist of multiple choice questions and questions that require a written response. University regulations will apply regarding academic dishonesty and excused absences. See the Schedule of Classes, page 36 for these policies. 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 contact me on or before the day of the exam. Arrangements for make up exams must be completed no more than one week after the scheduled exam time.
Quizzes & Homeworks: There are three quizzes and four homework assignments worth 12 points each. There are no make-up quizzes and homeworks. Instead, I will count everyone's fourth homework assignment as extra credit.
Participation: To be excused without penalty from any other scheduled activity requires a valid excuse and notification on or before the day you are absent. You can always leave me a voice mail message at (301) 405-0282.
Extra Credit: Any extra credit will be posted on the ASTR220 homepage so that all students may participate. There will be no extra credit term papers, and no assignments will be accepted after the last day of class.

Here is how your grade will be determined from your point total in the class.

Letter Grade
Course Total

The point scale makes it possible for everyone in the class to do well. For example, if everyone scores above 75% in the course, you would all receive either an A or a B letter grade. I may adjust the number of points required to get a given grade depending on the class averages; however, any adjustment will make it easier to get a given grade, never more difficult. Students with a documented disability who wish to discuss academic accommodations should contact me as soon as possible.

Textbooks and Handouts


The homepage for this course ( will contain links to course information, supplementary readings, and interactive programs.
Back to the ASTR220 Homepage

Last modified: Mon Jan 19 15:44:54 1999