ASTR 120
Introduction to Astrophysics
Solar System
Fall 2005

Mars rover Opportunity at Eagle Crater

Prof: Stacy McGaugh
Office: CSS 1251
Phone: (301) 405-7897
e-mail: ssm
Office Hours: Tu 12:15pm-2pm, or by appointment
Textbook: Universe (7th edition) ISBN 0-7167-6995-6
Course web page:

Course Description

This course presents a broad introduction to the science of astronomy. It is designed to be a two-semester sequence with the first semester (ASTR120) concentrating on our Solar System and the second semester (ASTR121) concentrating on our Galaxy and the Universe. The intent of the course is to give the student a solid background in the primary physical concepts relevant to astronomy, and a broad exposure to the astronomical universe. This course is for science majors, or those with a strong interest in science.

In addition to learning about our Universe, a primary goal of this class is to develop your scientific thinking and problem-solving abilities. Equations and numerical calculations will be a component of this class. A working knowledge of algebra and geometry (but not calculus) is essential for this class.

Course Structure

Lectures Tu-Th at 11 AM in CSS 2428
Discussion Fri at 1 PM in CSS 1113

This course consists of two lectures and one discussion period each week. The lectures will contain the bulk of the course material and provide a forum for general questions. It is intended that the lectures parallel the text. Thus, for a better understanding of the lecture material, it is important you READ THE TEXT (preferably BEFORE the lecture). However, some material in the lectures may not be in the text. You are responsible for all material presented in class, discussion periods, and the homework, even if it is not in the text.

The discussion periods serve a variety of roles. Primarily, they provide an opportunity to think about and apply the lecture material. They also are a forum for question-and-answer sessions, problem-solving practice sessions, and group discussions of issues brought up in the lectures. You are expected to attend discussion section. Most of the time there will be graded work to be done in the discussion period, which will count towards your overall grade in this course. You will need a valid excuse to make up any work missed in discussion section (see below).

Night Lab

We will be going to the Campus Observatory to look at the night sky and to use optical telescopes. This night session will require your presence on campus one night during the semester. Since we cannot predict the weather, we may have several unsuccessful attempts at night observing. Realistically, it often takes 2-3 scheduling attempts before we get a clear night. It is important to keep appraised of the Night Lab schedule, as Night Lab is a one-off event: once we do get a clear night, we will do it and it will be done. Given the size of the class, there will be two night labs, with roughly one half of the class assigned to attend one or the other night lab. We will announce the available dates, and you will be given an opportunity to select your preference. You must have a valid written excuse if you miss your chosen night lab in order to make up the work.


Your final grade will be based on class work (including discussion section worksheets), homework, the night lab, quiz, mid-term exam, and the final exam. These factors will be combined in the following scale to determine your class grade:

Homeworks 20 points each
Quiz50 points
Midterm50 points
Final100 points
Discussion70 points
Night Lab10 points

The following grading scale will be used for final grades:

A 90-100%
B 80-89%
C 65-79%
D 50-64%
F < 50%

Note that the optional +/- grading scale will NOT be used in this course.

There will be no curve on the final grades. There may need to be some adjustment to scores depending on the class average; however, any adjustment will be favorable, not negative.

The mid-term exams are scheduled for the dates given on the accompanying class schedule. The first quiz cover all material presented in lecture and discussion up to that point. The midterm exam will also cover all material to that point, but with emphasis on material not covered in the quiz. These tests will occur during the regular class lecture hour in the same room.

The final exam will be a cumulative exam drawing on all material. The final will be given at the time and location listed in the University Schedule of Classes (see accompanying class schedule).

Regular Homework will be assigned. It is to be turned in at the beginning of class on the designated day. Homework turned in after the beginning of class on the due date will be considered late. Late homework may be turned in up to 1 week after the due date, at a penalty of 20% reduction in score. After one week, we will return graded homework and hand out solution sets; no homework is accepted after that. Homework must be neat, readable, and stapled if necessary, with all work shown, justification given for answers as required, and with the units in all quantitative questions clearly indicated. Marks will be deducted for failing to adhere to these requirements. At times, written work will be given to be completed during class, which will be graded, and should also be neat, etc. Some of these exercises may involve the use of equipment; others may involve problem solving in groups.

Finally, please note the grading structure of this class makes it mathematically impossible to get an `A' grade for the course without doing reasonably well on the homework and class work. Typically students who do not do homework seldom get better than a `C' course grade and often get a `D' grade or worse; don't count on being the exception.

Missed Exams

The first rule of missing exams is: DON'T.
The University recognizes only a few excuses for missing exams, including religious holidays, University-approved travel, and illness. None of the exams are scheduled on major recognized religious holidays. Except in the case of emergencies, you will know beforehand if you will miss a scheduled exam or lab. If you provide a valid written excuse BEFORE the exam, a make-up exam will be given at a mutually agreed upon time. In the case of emergencies, you must contact me promptly following the missed exam with a valid written excuse in order to be able to take a make-up exam. Make-up exams may be written or oral, at my discretion. If you do not have a valid written excuse, you will NOT be allowed to make up the exam.

If you miss the final exam, a valid written excuse must be provided within TWO DAYS after the missed final exam. In addition, you must arrange with me a time for a make-up exam within two days after the exam date listed in the University course schedule. This is fixed because course grades are due 48 hours after the final exam has been held.

For the night labs, it may not be possible for everyone to attend on their assigned night. If that is the case for you, please be sure that we are aware in advance that you will be unable to attend. We will make arrangements for you to make up the work.

Core Requirements

This course sequence qualifies as part of your CORE Liberal Arts and Sciences Studies Program, the general education portion of your degree program.
ASTR 120 counts for non-lab science CORE credit.
ASTR 121 counts for lab science CORE credit.

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 such as 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. If we suspect that an 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' which denotes failure due to academic dishonesty. This grade 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. Please refer to this Code if you have further questions about what is construed as academic dishonesty.
This is serious.

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