Astronomy 10

Spring 2006

M,W,Fr 9:10-10:00

100 Lewis

Prof. Gibor Basri

651 Campbell Hall,


Office Hours: Friday 10-11

or by appt. (email me)

General bSpace Website

(for announcements, information, interaction, assignments, etc.)
You must be enrolled as a student to access bSpace.
Go to the General site for instructions on "enrolling" there.
NOTE: Discussion sections do NOT meet the first week!

Text: The Cosmic Perspective, Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, Voit


Section 1 : The Sky from the Earth
Section 2 : Our Solar System

Section 3 : Astrophysics of Stars
Section 4: The Universe of Galaxies

Course Syllabus

January | February| March| April | May
Grading Information

Section 1 - The Sky from the Earth

Jan. 17 Wed
1) Introduction: Our Place in the Cosmos
Chapter 1.1, 1.4
What is our Cosmic Context?
Our Place in the Universe, What Is Out There?, What Came Before?, Motions of the Earth

Jan. 19 Fri
2) The Scale of Things
Chapter 1.2,1.3
How do we talk about "Astronomical" Numbers? What are the Real Scales of Time and Space?
Exponentials, Units, The Scale of Things, Powers of Ten (Movie), Scaling Models: Size & Distance & Time

Jan. 23 Mon
3) As The World Turns...
Chapter 2.1, S1.2,1.3
What is in the Sky? How Does it Move, and Why? How do we Describe these things?
Sky Cycles, Constellations, Ecliptic/Zodiac, Celestial Sphere & Coordinates, Celestial Navigation

Jan. 25 Wed
4) Timekeeping and Seasons
Chapter 2.2, S1.1
How do we keep Time? Why do we have Seasons?
Timekeeping, Calendars, Solar and Sidereal Day, Tilt of the Earth's axis, Solstice/Equinox, The Reasons for Seasons, Precession of the Poles

Jan. 27 Fri
5) The Moon and Planets in the Sky
Chapter 2.3, 2.4
Why does the Moon have Phases and Eclipses? What is Special about the Planets?
Moon Phases (relation to Earth and Sun), Lunar and Solar Eclipses, Retrograde Motion, Heliocentric Cosmos

Jan. 30 Mon
6) Points of View - History of Astronomy
Chapter 3.1, 3.2
How did Ancient Peoples Explained what they See?
Archeoastronomy in Different Cultures, Size/Shape of Earth,  Geocentric/Heliocentric models,  Planetary Motions, Ptolemy

Feb. 1 Wed
7) Beginnings of Modern Astronomy
Chapter 3.3, 3.4, 3.5
How did our modern viewpoint evolve? Why is science an effective means of discovery?
Copernicus, Tycho, Kepler's Laws (ellipses), Galileo and Modern Science, Nonscience and Nonsense

Feb. 3 Fri
8) Motion and Gravity
Chapter 4.1, 4.2, 4.3
What makes celestial bodies move as they do? What is the role of Gravity?
Newton's Laws (inertia, acceleration, gravity), Conservation Principles, Gravity

Feb. 6 Mon
9) Orbits and Tides
Chapter 4.4, 4.5
How do things Stay in Orbit? How do we measure Masses in Astronomy?
Orbits, Determining Masses in Astronomy, Surface Gravity/Escape Velocity

Feb. 8 Wed
Chapters 1-4
Get ready for the first test!
Finish and Review First Section

Feb. 10 Fri
Section Test 1

Section 2- Our Solar System

Feb. 13 Mon
10) Overview of the Solar System
Chapter 7
What is our Planetary System like? How do we Explore it?
Contents of the Solar System, Types of Planets, System Regularities, Spacecraft Exploration

Feb. 15 Wed
11) Formation of the Solar System
Chapter 8
How did our Planetary System Form? How Old is it? How do we know?
Formation of the Planets, Solar System Debris, Radioactive Dating

Feb. 17 Fri
12) Planetary Geology
Chapter 9
What are the Rocky Planets like?
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars: Comparative Interiors, Comparative Surfaces

Feb. 20 Mon
President's Day Holiday

Feb. 22 Wed
13) Planetary Atmospheres
Chapter 10
What are Terrestrial Planetary Atmospheres like?
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars: Comparative Compositions, Temperatures, Processes

Feb. 24 Fri
14) Focus on Mars
Chapter 9,10
Why is Mars so Interesting? What have we learned there?
Orbiters, Rovers, The Search for Water, The Search for Life

Feb. 27  Mon
15) Gas Giant Planets
Chapter 11.1, 11.2
What are the large Outer Planets like? What are Jupiter's Moons Like?
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune:  Comparative Interiors and Atmospheres, The Galilean Moons

Mar. 1 Wed
16) Outer Moons and Rings
Chapter 11.3
What are the Outer Moons like? What makes those Cool Rings?
Moons of Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Saturn's Rings, Other Rings, Roche Limit

Mar. 3 Fri
17) Solar System Debris and the Kuiper Belt
Chapter 12
What about Shooting Stars, Asteroids, and Comets?
Is Pluto a Planet?
Asteroids, Kuiper Belt, Comets, Oort Cloud, Meteors, Giant Impacts

Mar. 6 Mon
Chapters 7-12
Get ready for the second test!
Finish and Review Second Section

Mar. 8 Wed
Section Test 2

Section 3- Astrophysics of Stars

Mar. 10  Fri
19) Electromagnetic Radiation
Chapter 5.1-5.4
What is Light and how is it Made? What is the Nature of Matter? What is a Spectrum?
Wavelength/Frequency/Color/Energy, E-M Spectrum, Temperature & Black-body Radiation, Atoms and Spectra

Mar. 13  Mon
20) Observations and Telescopes (1)
Chapter 5.5, 6.1-6.3
What Instruments do we use to Make Observations?
Doppler Shift, Telescopes, Aperture and Resolution, Observing and Observatories: Ground-based

Mar. 15  Wed
21) Observations and Telescopes (2)
Chapter 6.3-6.4
How do we make observations?
Observing and Observatories: Space-based, "Invisible" Astronomy, Interferometry and Adaptive Optics

Mar. 17 Fri
22) Our Sun
Chapter 14
What is our Sun like? Why does it look like that?

Basic Properties, Magnetic Fields, Solar-Terrestrial Relations

Mar. 20 Mon
23) Measuring the Stars (Single and Binary)
Chapter 15.1
How do we know about the stars?
Parallax, Luminosity/Temperature, Visual/Spectroscopic/Eclipsing Binaries

Mar. 22  Wed
24) The HR Diagram and Star Clusters
Chapter 15.2, 15.3
What are stars really like? What are Clusters?
HR Diagram (L,T), Stellar Parameters, Types of Star Clusters

Mar. 24  Fri
25) Stellar Energy
Chapter 16
How are Stars Made? Why are they as they are?
Disks and Jets, Brown Dwarfs, Production of Elements and Energy, Stellar Structure

Mar.  27-31  (all week)
Spring Break!

Apr. 3   Mon
26) Principles of Stellar Evolution
Chapter 17.1, 17.2
How do Low Mass Stars Live and Die? How do they Make Elements?
Evolution in the HR Diagram, Ages of Clusters, Death of Ordinary Stars

Apr. 5   Wed
27) Life and Death for High Mass Stars
Chapter 17.3, 17.4
How do High Mass Stars Live and Die and Make Elements? What Happens in Binary Systems?
Evolution of High Mass Stars, Binary Evolution, Novae

Apr. 7  Fri
28) Supernovae and Neutron Stars
Chapter 18.1, 18.2
What are those cool pulsars and white dwarfs like? Stellar Explosions!
White Dwarfs, Supernovae (Type I) , Supernovae (Type II), Neutron Stars

Apr. 10 Mon
29) Black Holes and Extreme Gravity
Chapter 18.3, 18.4 [S2 and S3 optional]
What is a Black Hole? Do they really Exist? How do we know?
Gravity and Spacetime Curvature, Black Holes, Accretion and High Energy Output

Apr. 12  Wed
Section Test 3

Section 4- The Universe of Galaxies

Apr. 14 Fri
30) Discovery of the Milky Way
Chapter 19.1, 19.2
What is  Between the Stars? How did we figure out our Galaxy?
The Interstellar Medium and Nebulae, Basic Structure of the Galaxy

Apr. 17  Mon
31) Understanding the Milky Way
Chapter 19.3, 19.4
How is our Galaxy Built? What is at the Center?
Probing the Galaxy, Spiral Arms, Galactic Center

Apr. 19 Wed
32) Other Galaxies  
Chapter 20.1, 21.1
What are the other galaxies like? How are they arranged?
Stellar Populations, Types and Properties of Galaxies, Cepheids, Extragalactic Distance Scale

Apr. 21  Fri
33) The Cosmic Distance Scale; Active Galaxies
Chapter 20.2, 20.3, 21.2,21.3
Where are the Galaxies? What are Active Galaxies and Quasars?
Local Galaxies, Hubble Law, Clusters and Superclusters, Galaxy Collisions, Central Black Holes

Apr. 24  Mon
34) Cosmology and the Universe
Chapter 20.3, 22.2, 22.3
What is the Overall Universe like? Are Telescopes Time Machines? What is Dark Matter?
Age of the Universe, Horizons and Lookback Time, Dark Matter, Structure Formation

Apr. 26 Wed
35) The Birth of the Universe
Chapter 23.1, 23.2, 23.4
What is the Scientific Story of Creation? What is the Evidence for it?
First Moments of Creation, Formation of Mass/Energy, The Cosmic Fireball

Apr. 28 Fri
36) Cosmic View of the Universe
Chapter 22.4, 23.3
What stumps Modern Cosmology? What is our eventual Fate?
Dark Energy, Inflation, The End of Time

May 1  Mon
37) Extrasolar Planetary Systems
Chapter 13, 24.3
Are there Planets around Other Stars? How do we Find them?
Search Methods, Extrasolar Giant Planets, Extrasolar Terrestrial Planets

May 3  Wed
38) The Origin of Life on Earth
Chapter 24.1, 24.2
How did life appear on Earth? How did it Evolve?
Origin of Life, Evolution, Astrobiology and Astrochemistry

May 5  Fri
39) The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Chapter 24.4, 24.5
Are Other Planets Habitable? Inhabited? How Could We Tell?
Search for Life, SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence)

May 8 Mon
Chapters 13, 19-24
Get ready for the fourth test and final review test!
Finish and Review Fourth Section; Class Review will be later in the week.

Final Exam: Group 4, Saturday May 13, 8-11am
(Your lucky day! You should not take this class if you know you can't make this final.)


3 Midterms: 13% each (Fri. Feb. 10, Wed. Mar. 8, Wed. Apr. 12)
Final: 25% (1/2 review) (May 13)
Section: 36% (5% attendance, 5% participation, 6% labs and projects, 20% homeworks)

Exams are objective (T/F, multiple choice). You are allowed to use a "cheat sheet" (this course is about comprehension, not memory). We will also tell you the subject of all exam questions ahead of time (but not the exact questions, of course). Most of the minimal math in this course will be on the homeworks and labs, very little on the exams. Simple algebra is all you need to know. Labs require you to actually look at the sky at night, and to take reasonably careful observations and notes. There will be several options for these. You can also show us what your talent is with other projects. Some homework/exam score replacement will be allowed for writing, research, art, or other projects that are germaine and have effort in them. GSI approval for these must be obtained before starting.

If you are taking the course only because you have to, we strongly encourage you to consider taking it P/NP.  Students taking it P/NP will not have to do all the homeworks or exams. That is, a section of each will be set forth so that if you score 80% on it, you don't have to do more. It may well be in your interest to do more, of course. These sections will be more about "book learning" and less about "stretch thinking". Those taking it for a grade must do all the material, and will have to understand the material on a somewhat deeper level.

This course is not one in which cramming is very useful if you haven't kept up. We will offer a special homework session each time one is due (most weeks). "The Astronomy Learning Center" (TALC) is a good place to do homework with friends, and GSI's will be around to help. We don't want you to struggle, and we promise you will be amazed by what you learn about!

Extra credit projects will be offered, but not lots (this is only useful for moving grades if you are close anyway).