Astronomy 2110.001 General Astronomy I (CN 55491) Syllabus: Spring 2024

Course Credits: 3

Course Description and Goals: Astronomy 2110 is a general astronomy survey course at a greater level of detail than is covered in Astronomy 101. During this spring semester (part 1 of the 2 part series of Astronomy 2110/2115) we will learn about the Solar System, starting with our own planet Earth, then working through the Solar System constituents: the inner and outer planets, their moons, ring systems, comets and meteors. We will also learn about planets in other solar systems and how these compare with our own. Just as important as learning about the objects with which we share our Universe, we will be investigating how we know what we know. We will therefore discuss some basic astronomy concepts like coordinate systems, gravity, properties of light, and telescopes - important concepts used to understand the objects we observe. Astronomy is unique among the physical sciences that we cannot run experiments on astronomical objects (with the exception of the few planetary bodies we, or our probes, have visited). Thus we must rely primarily on our telescopes to make sense of the Universe, but we will employ the entire electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to gamma-rays, and also neutrinos and gravitational waves.

Pre-Requisites: Math 1230 or 1250 or higher. Physics 1200 or higher. We will learn some physics concepts and make use of high-school level algebra and trigonometry, but will not use calculus.

Instructor: Prof. Greg Taylor;; web page

The Lab (A2110L): There is a night laboratory which accompanies this class, where you learn about the night sky, and get your hands on real telescopes. It meets at the Campus Observatory, and is open to everybody in this class. You certainly may take this lecture course without the lab if you wish, but if you are an Astrophysics major, the lab is required.

Course Text: Universe, Freedman, Geller and Kaufmann, 11th edition

Class Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 - 12:15pm Class Location: 114 Regener Hall. This is an in-person class.

Office Hours: Monday 10am-11am, Thursday 9am-10am. Room 3236 in PAIS, or by appointment. For quick questions catch me before or after class in Regener..

Homework: There will be regular reading assignments and homework. Reading assignments should be completed BEFORE the class time. Homework assignments will be handed out weekly.

Lectures: I will present lectures in powerpoint, with occasional demonstrations. These lectures and the syllabus can be found at the class web page that you are reading now. Some material drawn from my own research, or current events, may not be covered in the book. We will also practice problem-solving using worksheets. I will ask questions from time to time during lecture. Your participation in responding, and in asking questions of your own, is strongly encouraged.

Grades: There will be two midterms, each worth 25%, and a final project worth 20%. In addition the homework assignments will count for 25% of the grade and class participation will count for 5%. Please take note of the dates of the exams in the syllabus. Make-up exams will only be given if arrangements are made in advance of the exam date. On tests and homework please attempt every problem and show your work as I do give partial credit. Homeworks must be turned before the start of class on the day when due for full credit. Credit for late homeworks will drop by 15% for every day late within a week, and no credit thereafter. Note: If you take this class "Credit/No Credit", according to university policy, your final grade must be a "C" or better in order to receive credit.

Accommodation Statement: In accordance with University Policy 2310 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), academic accommodations may be made for any student who notifies the instructor of the need for an accommodation. It is imperative that you take the initiative to bring such needs to the instructor's attention, as he/she are not legally permitted to inquire. Students who may require assistance in emergency evacuations should contact the instructor as to the most appropriate procedures to follow. Contact Accessibility Resource Center at 277-3506 for additional information.

Help with Homework and Tutoring: The TAs for the class will hold office hours in the lobby of PAIS as follows: Mondays 4-5pm Evan David Wednesdays 1-2pm Dustin Edgeman Thursdays 9:30-10:30am Rachel Weller. These TAs will also be teaching one of the lab sections. You can also ask me for help in office hours or by appointment. I much prefer meeting in person to trying to answer questions on the homework by e-mail. Free tutoring for this class is available through CAPS. Go to

Schedule of Topics and Reading Assignments
Date Topic Reading Homework
16 Jan Introduction -- Quick Tour of the Universe
18 Jan Angles and Angular Measurement Chap. 1
23 Jan Positional Astronomy Chap. 2
25 Jan Phases of the Moon, Eclipses Chap. 3 HW#1 Due
30 Jan Galileo and Kepler Chap. 4
1 Feb Newton Chap. 4 HW#2 Due
6 Feb Orbits Chap. 4
8 Feb Tides Chap. 4 HW#3 Due
13 Feb Light - Blackbody Radiation Chap. 5
15 Feb Light - Spectral Lines Chap. 5 HW#4 Due
20 Feb Telescopes Chap. 6
22 Feb Solar System Overview Chap. 7 HW#5 Due
27 Feb Review Chap. 1-6
29 Feb Test #1
5 Mar Solar System Formation Chap. 8
7 Mar Extrasolar Planets Chap. 9
10-17 Mar Spring Break
19 Mar Earth Interior Chap. 9
21 Mar Earth Atmosphere Chap. 9HW#6 Due
26 Mar Moon & Mercury Chap. 10,11
28 Mar Venus Chap. 11 HW#7 Due
2 Apr Mars Chap. 12
4 Apr Jupiter & Saturn Chap. 13 HW#8 Due
9 Apr Moons and Rings Chap. 14
11 Apr Uranus & Neptune Chap. 15 HW#9 Due
16 Apr Pluto & Friends Chap. 15
18 Apr Meteorites, Comets, etc. HW#10 Due
23 Apr review
25 Apr Test #2
30 Apr Life in our Solar System and Others Chap. 28
2 May Light Polution and Radio Interference Final Proj Due

This page was last modified on December 21, 2023

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