ASTRO 250: Astronomy Bizarre, Spring 2014

Class Vitals:


The Astro 250 website can be found at:
This site contains some course notes, the course outline, and links to various Web sites of relevance to the course material. Plan on visiting it very often. Your suggestions (and help!) on how to best use the Web to enhance this course are most welcome.

Readings: Assigned readings will be made using magazine articles, journal articles, and WWW--based sources, links to which will be posted on the course website. The print articles are almost excluslively available in electronic form through the Library - I will provide links through the Blackboard site for this class.

Media: In addition to readings above, another source of background material will come from listening to astronomy-based radio broadcasts and podcasts, and web-based video programs. Links or other information needed to access these online sources will be provided in class and on the website.

*** You are responsible for completing the assigned readings (or listening/viewing) in a timely manner - i.e. before the material is discussed in class. ***

Other reading: There is no single book that is designed for a course such as Astro 250. As a result, you are not required to buy any! If you still have the textbook from Astro 120 or 150 that could be a very helpful background resource.

Still, here is a list of several books that you may find helpful as study guides; they are genuinely good books that deserve a permanent place on your bookshelf. Some of them may be available at local bookstores. Most of them (those that are still in print) are easily available through online sources.


In-class performance: Astro 250 is, intentionally, a "small-enrollment" class. This is to allow a more interactive learning experience than is possible in Astro 120 or 150. This means that the success of the class depends in no small part on your efforts to learn, evaluate, and discuss the material. To that end, we will have a number of demonstrations, computer exercises, brief quizzes, and homework assignments. In addition to grading of materials handed in, this 30% component of your grade will also be affected by participation in class discussions.

Zooniverse: Some classwork will require you to participate in "citizen science" work, so you'll need to register for an account with Zooniverse

Term project: A term project is a component of Astro 250. Since it only accounts for 5% of your final grade, this term project is not designed to be a time-consuming affair. We will have more to say about the project later in the semester, but you should think about how to tie your own interests in with the subject matter of the course within the context of a term project.

Observing sessions (a.k.a. star parties):

We will have one or two evening observing opportunities in this course, allowing us to meet informally and enjoy the simple pleasures of looking at the night sky. Specific dates will be discussed in class.


Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss your specific needs. Please contact the Disability Resources Office at 294-6624 in room 1076, Student Services Building to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.

Academic Integrity:

The University has strict rules regarding academic integrity (a.k.a. cheating). See pages 45-46 of your ISU Catalog (available online here). While we encourage collaborative learing in Astro 250, we also expect each student to accurately present his or her own work on assignments and exams. Copying, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated.


Astro 250 homepage