Astro 342 - Fall 2006
Introduction to Solar System Astronomy
This course is designed for those who have had little or no previous
experience in astronomy and astrophysics, but who do have a good foundation
in basic physics and mathematics, and who are already accustomed to scientific
thinking and problem solving. The course can appropriately serve as part of
a professional program in astronomy, or as valuable supplementary experience
for those in related scientific fields, or simply as an excursion into
astronomy for those equipped to explore it more deeply than can be done in
the 100-level courses. Hopefully, it will be an adventure of discovery for
everyone, since recent developments in solar system astronomy are
revolutionizing our picture of the universe.
Prof. Curt Struck
Prof. Steven Kawaler
- Office: A319 Zaffarano
- Phone: 4-3666
- e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Office: A323 Zaffarano
- Phone: 4-9728
- e-mail: email@example.com
Moons & Planets, 5th edition (2005), by William K. Hartmann
- Planetary Sciences (2001), by Imke de Pater & Jack Lissauer
- Physics and Chemistry of the Solar System, Revised Edition, by John S. Lewis
- Worlds Apart: A Textbook in Planetary Sciences by Consolmagno & Schaefer
- The Planetary Scientis's Companion by Lodders & Fegley
First of all, we want to encourage discussion and participation in this class.
Some material, especially background physics, is most efficiently reviewed
in traditional lecture style. However, as we advance out into the solar
system (and beyond) there are as many unknowns as knowns. Hopefully, this
situation will generate many vigorous discussions.
Of course, the lectures will make more sense, and the discussions will be more
informed and interesting, if you can keep up with the recommended readings.
We realize life is intermittent chaos and that you won't always be able to
come to class with the relevant text thoroughly read and digested!
Nonetheless, even if sometimes you don't have time to do more than skim
section headings and figure captions, you will find that helpful.
Regular homework sets will be assigned at intervals of about 2-3 weeks.
Late homework will not ordinarily be accepted for full credit. Assignments may
include problems from the textbook or exercises which we have written (or
taken from other sources). We will try to emphasize those points which are
genuinely important and as instructive as possible; the problems are not
trivial busywork. They should not prove to be unreasonably difficult, but
some may take considerable time to complete. Don't put off working on an
assignment until the last night!
Note: because most people learn by doing, we regard the homework as a very
important part of this class, and it will be an important part of your grade.
We encourage you to work together, or in study groups, to figure out
homework problems. However, the work you turn in must be your own.
This means that after discussing it with others, we expect you to rework it,
and write it up on your own. Please be sure to indicate by name those
fellow students who you may have worked with on your homework. Although it
may seem to be a time-consuming process, this is actually a very efficient
way to learn complex, new material.
Material presented in class makes up the primary core of the course, but
we also have an outstanding text. (Recently, several other good texts such as
those listed as secondary texts above ave appeared on this subject, and you
are encouraged to seek them out for additional background material.)
The assigned readings from text will be
an essential tool in preparing for class, and for homework and tests.
The order in which we study various topics will sometimes differ from that
of the text. Please note that planetary astronomy is a rapidly changing
field, and we will make every effort to stay up-to-date. As a result, when
material presented by the instructors differs from what you read in the text,
you should consider what you learn in class as superceding what is in the text.
Notes and the website
Copies of the instructors notes will be posted on the course website.
We will be making extensive use of the website for additional material as well
as class notes, images, animations, etc. The WebCT pages for Astro 342 will
be used primarily for course administration.
Another important part of the course is the term project.
For this project you
can either work in a team of up to 3-4 people, or on your own.
This year we will all work, on common, on-going project based on the theme
of "designing your own solar system."
More information will be provided later.
Course grades will be determined on the basis of class participation,
and on your performance on tests, homework, and the term project. There will
be 3 in-class hour exams. The bulk of each exam will be devoted to the
material covered since the previous exam, but a portion will be "cumulative".
Each test will be worth 10% of your grade.
In summary, grades will be determined as follows:
|Exams, 10% each||30%
Letter grades in terms of percentage of possible points:
These levels are partly based on absolute standards, but also on our
experience with what are reasonable expectations for students in this
type of course. Depending on how things go, we might lower this "curve"
a little, but we will not raise the levels.
|90-100%||A- to A
|75-89%||B- to B+
|55-74%||C- to C+
|40-54%||D- to D+
| < 40% ||F