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UMass Amherst ASTRON 100 - Syllabus

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Astronomy 100 – Exploring the UniverseAstronomy 100 – Exploring the Universe Hasbrouck Lab 20 Tu,Th – 10:00-11:15am (Section 1) Instructor Contact Information and Course Resources: Prof. Grant Wilson, 622 Lederle Tower, 545-0460 (email: [email protected]) Course website: see Moodle Textbook: Astronomy (available from openstax.org) COURSE OVERVIEW Course purpose/philosophy: According to the UMass General Education Council, "the purpose of the General Education requirement is to stretch students' minds, broaden their experiences, sharpen their critical thinking and evaluation skills, and make connections through shared experiences." In this course, we will examine the power and limitations of scientific investigation. We will consider some of the fundamental questions addressed by astronomy and learn how the physical sciences can address these questions. While most of the objects astronomers study are remote, many provide new perspectives on the Earth, and the methods we use can be applied to many "real world" problems. Finally, we will explore what we know and don't know about the Universe and its constituent parts, and how we have reached those conclusions. In this context, students will be required to think about and solve conceptual and quantitative problems of astronomy and physics, including some moderately challenging topics. This will involve some use of algebra and geometry. This course will lead you on the longest and farthest journey possible. You will travel through the known Universe - exploring its myriad of wonders - and back in time to only moments after the Big Bang. There are three principal course goals that will be addressed throughout the semester: • You will become familiar with (and conversant about) the fundamental constituents of the Universe (Galaxies, Stars, Gas, Dust, Particles, and Radiation) • You will acquire tools that will allow you to better understand the world (universe) around you. • You will develop an understanding (and, hopefully, an appreciation) of how science works and how we know what we know. Along the way, you'll learn about the Four Forces of Physics that describe virtually everything in the physical Universe, and you'll also come to appreciate the tremendous beauty of the natural world. The course is organized into four sections: Naked-Eye Astronomy: You probably know more than you think Tools of Astronomy: The Physics of Light; Spectra; Telescopes Stars: Their birth, life, and death Galaxies and Cosmology: The Origin and Fate of the Universe WORK EXPECTATIONS Since this is a science course for non-scientists, you can expect the workload for this course to be somewhat high. There will be readings from the textbook assigned for each lecture that will take anywhere between 0.5 and 1.5 hours to complete – adding up to 1-3 hours per week of reading. Homework and Quizzes on the readings will add up to approximately another 1-2 hours per week. Add to this the time required to study for exams and doing the creative project and the total comes to between 3 and 10 hours per week that you should expect to spend on this course.PREREQUISITES High-school Algebra is a prerequisite for this course. FORMAT In many courses you have had before, the professor’s responsibility was to lecture and your responsibility was to take notes and memorize the material. Not so with this course! In this course, my responsibility is to find ways to help you learn astronomy and your responsibility is to actively engage in your own learning of astronomy. This is not a course on the memorization of facts and recipes. We have Google for that. This course will be an interactive exploration of the concepts that govern our understanding of our home - the Universe. Through course readings, homework, projects, and two lively and active discussions each week (see Course Requirements below for more details) you will build, with the help of your classmates, a foundation of knowledge of astronomy and science as a discipline. This class will not be a passive experience. It is my belief that you can only learn so much from a lecture, no matter how clear or entertaining. Consequently, class time will be made up of a series of mini-lectures wrapped around active discussions where we explore the concepts and techniques from the pre-class readings. As a result, both participating in class and doing the readings are mandatory for this course. As an active student, I also expect you to ask questions both in class and during office hours; to visit the telescope on Orchard Hill and the planetarium at Amherst College; and in general to be limited only by your imagination and curiosity. COURSE REQUIREMENTS Attendance is required and is the single most important way to ensure success in this course. It will be difficult to do well in this course without attending the discussions. 5% of your course grade can be earned from in-class participation plus another 2% in extra-credit. Readings: Assignments in the text will be given at the end of the preceding class and are required. Reading the assigned materials before each discussion is critical for having productive class time. You are not expected to master the material before class. However, you are expected to know the vocabulary introduced in the reading and to come to class prepared to discuss the material. Daily quizzes on the readings, administered through the Moodle system, will be given throughout the semester. These quizzes will be worth a total of 15% of your final grade. Reading quizzes become available on the class web site very shortly after the preceding class. Quizzes must be completed thirty minutes before class to be accepted. Internet Access: You will need internet access and specifically Moodle access to have access to the homework assignments and the quizzes. Homework assignments will be administered via the Moodle system. Exams: There will be three one-hour exams and a final exam. The best three of the four exam scores will each be worth 20% of the course grade, for a total of 60%. Exam questions will be drawn from both class material and reading assignments. Be sure to bring your ID and a #2 pencil to all exams, since we will be using machine-graded forms. No calculators allowed. The exams will test concepts and some basic math ideas; they are designed to test your understanding, not your ability to push buttons. Makeup exam policy: Makeup exams


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