ASTR101: General Astronomy
Sections 0101-0110, Fall 2015

Class Meetings:

Lectures meet in PHYS 1412 on TuTh from 11:00am to 12:15pm. Lectures are led by the professor and will include demonstrations, slides, videos etc.

Discussion Sections and Labs meet in times listed below starting the week of Sep. 7. Discussion sections and Labs are led by graduate student and exceptional undergraduate Teaching Assistants (TAs). Both weekly meetings 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. More details on Section and Lab Policies will be provided during the first meetings.

Course Description:

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 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, 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 continued survival.

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 offers!

Course Expectations:

Attendance: In order to succeed in this course, I expect you to attend ALL lectures, discussion sections, and labs. This is very important! The material on the homeworks and exams are based upon the material covered in the lectures, the text, discussion sections, and labs. If you have to miss a scheduled class meeting, 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. There will be times during the semester, in both lectures and sections, when we will 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 sometime before the next lecture to make sure that everything is clear. I encourage you to ask questions in class, in discussion, in lab, during office hours, and over email.

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.


I grade on a point scale with different assignments weighted as shown in the table. A description of each of these components is contained in this syllabus.

Syllabus Cover
Exam I
Exam II

Letter grades will be assigned based upon your curved cumulative score. Grades for some discussion 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.

Letter Grade
Points Needed

The point scale makes it possible for everyone in the class to do well. For example, if everyone scores above 80% in the course, you would all receive either a B- or better letter grade. I do use +/- modifiers - you will get a "+" if you are in roughly the upper 1/3 of students with the same letter grade and a "-" if you are in the lower 1/3. 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. You can monitor my current estimate of your grade from the class webpage as the semester progresses.

To improve your learning in ASTR101, it is important to go over your returned assignments and any solution sets carefully within a day or two of when they are returned to you. 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.

Midterm Exams

There will be two in-class 75-minute examinations which will be held in PHYS 1412 on Thursday, October 8 and Thursday, November 19. These exams are closed book with no notes, no calculators, and no other electronic devices allowed. You will only be allowed to leave the classroom at a few specified times. Each exam will consist of 25-40 multiple choice questions and three or four essay or problem solving questions. These exams are incremental (i.e., non-cumulative) checkups on how well you have learned the material. The schedule of lectures included in this syllabus shows what material will be covered on each exam. Please bring only a pencil and your ID card to both midterms and the final.

If for whatever reason, the University is officially closed on the exam date, the exam date shifts to the next lecture date.

Final Exam

According to University rules, the final exam for this course will be held on Monday Dec. 14 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 chapters 10-15, HW 5-6, and labs 10-11 will not be covered by the midterm exams (see Lecture Schedule), this material will be more heavily weighted. The final will include multiple choice, essay and problem solving questions with the exact combination to be determined.

This exam is also closed book with no notes and no calculators allowed. Please bring a pencil and your ID card to the final.

Missed Exams

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
Exams are Major Scheduled Grading Events and, accordingly, proper documentation will be required if you wish to make up a missed exam. Make-up exams will typically be given within one week after you submit the valid written excuse. The make-up exams will consist entirely of essays, problems, and short answer questions, and may also include oral questions asked by the professor.

If you miss the final exam and have a valid written excuse, you must arrange for a make-up final within 48 hours after the scheduled exam. The make-up final, like the make-up midterms, will have no multiple choice questions.

Discussion Sections and Labs

Your weekly hour-long discussion section is an integral part of this course. The sections are run by the TAs, with just general guidelines from me; they will normally include preparing you for lab, 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 by your TA. Please attend all your discussion sections and labs. If for some reason you have to miss one of these meetings, talk to your TA for options for making up the work.

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 ASTR101 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. 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.

Discussion: CSS 2400
Lab: CSS 1109
TA Name
Tu ...... 3:30pm-4:20pm
Tu ...... 5:30pm-7:30pm
Zeeve Rogoszinski
Tu ...... 3:30pm-4:20pm
W ....... 8:30am-10:30am
Zeeve Rogoszinski
W ....... 10:00am-10:50am
W ....... 11:00am-1:00pm
Ginny Cunningham
W ....... 10:00am-10:50am
Th ...... 3:30pm-5:30pm
Ginny Cunningham
W ....... 11:00am-11:50am
W ....... 1:00pm-3:00pm
Scott Lawrence
W ....... 11:00am-11:50am
Th ...... 8:30am-10:30am
Scott Lawrence
W ....... 12:00pm-12:50pm
W ....... 6:00pm-8:00pm
Nimarta Chowdhary
Marie Bernard
W ....... 12:00pm-12:50pm
Th ...... 6:00pm-8:00pm
Nimarta Chowdhary
Marie Bernard
W ....... 1:00pm-1:50pm
F ....... 10:00am-12:00pm
Robyn Smith
W ....... 1:00pm-1:50pm
F ....... 1:00pm-3:00pm
Robyn Smith

Copying from another student's lab - from our class or another - is academic dishonesty and will not be tolerated in this class (see
Academic Integrity below).

Contact Information and Office Hours

The Prof. and the Teaching Assistants all hold office hours that are open to everyone. There is someone available for several hours each day of the week - we are here to help! When contacting us by email, always be sure to put "ASTR101" in the subject line to ensure that your email is not overlooked.

Office Hours
Prof. Doug Hamilton
PSC 1153
Tu 12:30pm-2:00pm
Th 12:30pm-2:00pm
Marie Bernard
CSS 1109
W 5:30pm-6:00pm
Th 5:30pm-6:00pm
Nimarta Chowdhary
CSS 0255
M 12:00pm-1:00pm
F 11:00am - 12:00pm
Ginny Cunningham
PSC 1248
F 12:00pm-2:00pm
Scott Lawrence
PSC 1238
W 12:00pm - 1:00pm
W 3:00pm-4:00pm
Robyn Smith
PSC 1238
M 10:00am-12:00pm
Zeeve Rogoszinski
PSC 1248
M 3:30pm-4:00pm
M 4:30pm-6:00pm


There are a total of six homeworks in this course. All homeworks are included with this syllabus and can also be obtained from the Assignments link from the class website. The syllabus cover sheet is treated like homework, except that it is turned in during you discussion section and we grade it very generously! Homework solution sets will be posted online.

All homeworks must be typed, converted to PDF format, and submitted on the class webpage by the start of class at 11:00 am on the due date. Homeworks turned in after this will be considered late and docked at least 20%. Homeworks may not be turned in by email. If you experience a valid emergency, you must write me an email or leave me a voice mail message before the assignment is due, telling me why you will be late. Computer problems are not a valid excuse; ask a friend or your TA for help if you need it.

Although you may discuss the homework problems with your friends, the final writeup must be in your own words. Copying from anyone else's homework, copying from the book, copying from another printed or online source, or allowing anyone to copy your homework is academic dishonesty (see Academic Integrity below) and is unacceptable in this class. If you consult a reference other than the course text, please acknowledge it in your homework - this includes websites!

Open House

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. Each open house consists of a speaker talking about some aspect of astronomy. Following this short talk, there will be public viewing of the heavens with the observatory's telescopes (weather permitting). Dress warmly as you will be outside when using the telescopes! A list of scheduled speakers and topics is available online at While not required for this course, I highly encourage you to take advantage of a unique opportunity to see the universe with your own eyes.

Extra Credit

There are many ways to earn extra credit in this class: Please do not ask for other extra credit opportunities.

Special Circumstances

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.

Academic Integrity

The academic community at the University abides by a Code of Academic Integrity. Acts of academic dishonesty include cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism. Activities including, but not limited to, cheating on exams or quizzes, copying homework from a friend or book, allowing your homework or paper to be copied, and submitting forged excuses for absences from exams are violations of this code. Academic Dishonesty hurts the whole University of Maryland community - if you are aware of an incident in ASTR101, please report it to one of the TAs or me, anonymously if you wish. If we suspect that a serious incident of academic dishonesty has occurred, we will 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' on the student's academic transcript which denotes failure due to academic dishonesty. This is far worse than an F. More information can be found on the web at; pay particular attention to the links for students. We are very serious about this.

GENED Requirements

ASTR101 is intended for non-science majors and requires no more than a modest, high-school level science and math background. This course satisfies U. 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 ASTR100. Note that you cannot get credit for both ASTR100 and ASTR101. Please be sure that you have chosen the correct course.

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