Astro 120, an introductory course in modern astronomy for non-scientists, folliows
the growth of our understanding of our solar system (and the Universe) from ancient
times through modern times. The development
of astronomy over the millenia will serve as an illustration of the history of science
We begin with a study of the sky (night and day): we will learn the
constellations, study the motions of the Sun, moon, and planets, and review
the reasons for the seasons, eclipses, and tides, and the genesis of the modern calendar.
We then begin exploring the
bodies of our solar system -- the sun, the planets and their satellites, and
comets, asteroids, and meteorites. We then address the bigger questions
about the origin and evolution of our solar system, and discuss the hundreds
of recently-discovered other solar systems in our Galaxy. We conclude with a
discussion of the possibility of life beyond the Earth.
Throughout the course, we will be looking at the many exciting results from NASA probes,
as well using the ISU planetarium.
Grades were posted for Exam 3 and for the course on Thursday,
Note: The your multiple choice total includes question 20
(the 'version' question) which does not count towards the total. So the number
under Exam3MC needs to be decreased by 1 to see how many questions you got right.
In other words, your Exam3 grade is 2.5x(Exam3MC-1) + Exam3SA
A terrific computer planetarium program, Stellarium is
a free download - it is the same program we use to run the planetarium projector, so you might
find it a useful program to run on your own computer.
Homework 10 was due in recitation on December 5/8. It
will be returned to you the last week of class. Please see your TA if you
don't get to pick it up there.
I note with sadness the passing of
Prof. Edwin Salpeter. Ed was one of the great physicists of the 20th century,
whose work in astrophysics included the discovery of the way that stars burn
helium, crystallization of white dwarf matter, and the rate of star formation
as a function of mass (among many other singular accomplishments).
He was a brilliant but
gentle soul who I only knew briefly as an undergrad at Cornell - but his
impact has been much stronger on my professional career. One of his grad
students was Hugh Van Horn, who was my thesis advisor's thesis advisor. This
made Ed my great grand-prof (as he put it).
Please note: the Course Outline has been
modified for the dates November 6, 11, and 18.
Homework 9 was a bit different than the other homeworks - click on the
link to see what is up. It counts as two homeworks. It was due in recitation
on 11/7,10 and your participation in recitation was strongly advised...
was due in recitation on October 31/November 3.
Midterm grade estimates are available on WebCT. This is an estimate
of the grade you would get if Astro 120 ended just after Exam 1.
It is based on your exam grade (75%) and your recitation work (25%).
Homework 7 was due in recitation on October 24/27.
was due in recitation on September 19/22.
Possible "Bad Science" Moment: ABC-TV aired a Primetime special:
UFOs: Seeing is Believing on Tuesday evening, September 16. If you have
90 minutes to waste, you might want to watch the show and see if it qualifies for the "bad science TV of the month" award...
Homework 2 was due in recitation on September 12/15.
Homework 1 was due in
recitation on September 5/8.
A word about the textbook for this class: it can be one of several
versions of The Cosmic Perspective, Fifth Edition, by Bennett et al:
If you are taking only Astro 120
then buy just
The Solar System, which is Volume 1 of
The Cosmic Perspective.
click for a bigger version
Or if you have an interest in other astronomical topics, you might want to buy the complete The Cosmic Perspective, as the
complete version includes the contents of Volume 2 - Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology
click for a bigger version
Note: the "Media Update" version is okay, too.
If you have a new version of the text, you will have access to the Mastering Astronomy companion
website to the book. To access the tutorials and other demos, you will need
the course name within that site. It is Astro120Fall08