Astronomy 270.001 General Astronomy (Call No. 14271) Syllabus: Fall 2014

Course Description and Goals: Astronomy 270 is a general astronomy survey course at a greater level of detail than is covered in Astronomy 101. During this fall semester (part 1 of the 2 part series of Astronomy 270/271) 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. 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.

Pre-Requisites: Math 150 or 162. Physics 151 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;; 277-5238; web page

The Lab (A270L): 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, 9th edition

Class Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 - 12:15pm Class Location: 114 Regener Hall

Office Hours: Monday 10am-noon Room 180, Physics and Astronomy Bldg. (NE corner of Lomas & Yale), or by appointment. For quick questions catch me before or after class.

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. 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 exam worth 30%. In addition the homework assignments will count for 20% of the grade. 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 in at class on the day when due for full credit. Late homeworks will be given half credit if turned in 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.

Help with Homework and Tutoring: If you have trouble with the homework feel free to 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
19 Aug Introduction -- Quick Tour of the Universe
21 Aug Angles and Angular Measurement Chap. 1
26 Aug Positional Astronomy Chap. 2
28 Aug Phases of the Moon, Eclipses Chap. 3 HW#1 Due
2 Sep Galileo and Kepler Chap. 4
4 Sep Newton Chap. 4 HW#2 Due
9 Sep Orbits Chap. 4
11 Sep Tides Chap. 4 HW#3 Due
16 Sep Light - Blackbody Radiation Chap. 5
18 Sep Light - Spectral Lines Chap. 5 HW#4 Due
23 Sep Review Chap. 1-5
25 Sep Test #1
30 Sep Telescopes Chap. 6
2 Oct Solar System Overview Chap. 7
7 Oct Solar System Formation Chap. 8 HW#5 Due
9 Oct Fall Break, no class
14 Oct Extrasolar Planets Chap. 9
16 Oct Earth Interior Chap. 9HW#6 Due
21 Oct Earth Atmosphere Chap. 9
23 Oct Moon & Mercury Chap. 10,11 HW#7 Due
28 Oct Venus Chap. 11
30 Oct Mars Chap. 11 HW#8 Due
4 Nov Review Chap. 6-11
6 Nov Test #2
11 Nov Jupiter & Saturn Chap. 12
13 Nov Moons and Rings Chap. 13
18 Nov Uranus & Neptune Chap. 14HW#9 Due
20 Nov Pluto & Friends Chap. 15
25 Nov Meteorites, Comets, etc. Chap. 15 HW#10 Due
27 Nov Thanksgiving break - No class
2 Dec Life in our Solar System and Others Chap. 15
4 Dec Review Chap. 1-15
9 Dec 12:30pm Final Exam

VLA/LWA Tour on October 5, 2014. See the pictures. This page was last modified on February 26, 2014

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