ASTR 121
Introduction to Astrophysics
Stars and Beyond
Spring 2006

Galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field

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 2428
Laboratory Mon at 11 AM or 2 PM in CSS 1109

This s a four credit course consisting of two lectures, one discussion, and one two hour lab 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).

The laboratory period provides the opportunity to get honds-on experience with some methods important to astornomy. This is NOT an observing session, but rather focuses on necessary basics. Labs will range from in-lab experiments to computer exercises. Given the remote and image intensive nature of astronomy, the science has grown in conjenction with, and often at the forefront of, computational techniques. You are expected to attend your assigned lab session, which will include grade work important to your final grade. 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, lab, and exams. These factors will be combined in the following scale to determine your class grade:

Homeworks 20 points each
Exam I50 points
Exam II50 points
Final100 points
Discussion70 points
Lab100 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.

Final grades may be adjusted slightly from the above scale depending on on the class average.

The mid-term exams are scheduled for the dates given on the accompanying class schedule. The first exam cover all material presented in lecture and discussion up to that point. The second exam focus on material after the first exam. 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. In cases where a homework falls due close to an exam date, every effort will be made to publish the solutions prior to the exam. In such instances, it may be necessary to truncate the customary 1 week grace period. This will be announced in class. Once the solutions are posted, no further homeworks will be accepted.

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 all the 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. In extreme cases where the final

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 University of Maryland, College Park has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council. This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please visit

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