Astronomy 2110 - Fall 2013 - Course Details

- Office: 204 Astronomy Building; Lab: 166 Astronomy Building
- Office hours: Mon 1:30-2:30; Thu 10:30-12:00
- Phone: 243-4329
- Email: mfs4n

**General Philosophy:** This course represents an introduction
to astronomical application of physical law. Incoming students are
expected to have some adeptness with basic physics (at the level of
Physics 1610/20) and Calculus (at the level of Math 1210/20 or
1310/20). Deriving equations and cranking through results is an
important foundation of this course, but it is *not the ultimate
objective*. I'm hoping you will leave this classroom thinking like
an astronomer (not like a student trying to master and manipulate
equations). This sort of thinking involves intuitive comfort with the
application of concepts and equations
- choosing the right strategy for solution
based on physical principles - as well as a capability for quick
assessment of solutions based on order of magnitude calculations.

**Textbook:**The course will follow fairly closely the content
of **Foundations of Astrophysics** by Ryden and Peterson.
Astronomy 2110 will deal primarily with the first 12 chapters of this
book as well has the relevant parts of Chapters 16 and 17 that support
the understanding of the formation of the Solar System. The same
textbook will be used for Astronomy 2120 which will emphasize the
remaining chapters - Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology. Relevant readings
in the text will be posted with each lecture summary, although it
should be easy for you to recognize the supporting text for each
lecture on your own. The lectures will emphasize a fraction of the
material in the text. For exams I will be very clear about any
portions of the text that need to be studied independently of the
topics covered in the lecture presentations (with the expectation that
this independent reading will be a small fraction of the course
material). There will also be assigned web-based and other readings to
supplement the material in the textbook.

**Problem Sets:** A number of problems reinforcing the lecture
topics will be distributed on Friday each week. The problems will
reflect material to be covered in class in the coming week. The
problems will be due in class one week from the Monday following the
distribution of the problem set. Late problem sets will be assessed a
20% penalty and will not be accepted after the end of the week in which
it was due. The discussion session on the Friday
preceding the Monday on which the problem set is due will provide an
opportunity to ask specific questions about the problem sets while
providing time to complete them over the weekend. Don't be surprised if there are open ended, fuzzy questions on the problem sets sometimes without a clear answer. That's the nature of real astronomy.

**Exams:** There are two in-class prelims during the semester which
constitute 40% of the course grade. These exams will be based on the
lecture content and reading. The exam content will reflect primarly the
material covered in lecture (that is, I won't fish up obscure problems
from the book). The exam may include short answer questions, one
or two longer essays, and problems at a slightly less challenging level
than the problem sets.
The final exam will count 25% toward the final grade and be of similar format
but with about 1.5 times the content of the in-class exams. The final exam will be drawn primarily from the last portion of the course but will have a small
component reflecting the earlier material.
Missed exams may only be made up upon the presentation of a reasonable
written excuse. I will be the final arbiter of "reasonableness."
If possible, please make arrangements for a make-up in advance
of the examination. It is "unreasonable" to know in advance that you will be missing a test but only inform me afterward.

**Teaching Assistant:** We have a TA dedicated to the course (Sandy Liss, sel7pa@virginia.edu). Sandy will direct Friday discussion
sections with a focus on clarifying course material from the previous
week and providing guidance toward completing the problem sets.
Sandy is available for individual consulting. She may set fixed
office hours or may make herself available by appointment.

**Course Grade Breakdown:**

- 40% -- Two in-class prelim exams (20% each)
- 25% -- Final Exam as scheduled by the University
- 25% -- Problem Sets
- 10% -- Telescope Observing + Freeform observing assignments

**Fridays:**I am trying to schedule about 2.5 lecture's worth of
material for each week of 3 lectures. Doing so provides a safety
valve when covering material that runs longer than expected, but it
also provides an opportunity for devotion a portion of the course to
the latest developments in the field (for 2110 that means Planetary Science in
particular). My hope is that some of this time will be spent in at
the interface between popular articles (i.e. the Web) and journal
papers. The goal in these discussions will be to expand your breadth
in the field and thus your astronomical vocabularly, knowledge, and insight.
Ideally you'll get to see some of the basic physical principles
discussed in class in application at the cutting edge of the field.

**Observing Activities:**It is important to me that this course
connect to the actual night sky. During the semester everyone must
spend an evening at McCormick Observatory either by signing up for and
execuiting the standard Telescope Observing laboratory
or by attending a public night and providing your own brief freelance
report of the the event (some of you may already be night assistants
for public night at McCormick or spending a lot of time at McCormick
with Astr 3130, so can creatively adapt you experience there). In
addition, there will be several do-it-yourself observational
challenges during the semester. All combined completing these
activities will account for 10% of your final grade. You will turn in
an "observing portfolio" at the end of the semester that covers these
assignments - all meant to be fun and easy (as long as you keep up).

**Course Notes:** I will try to post notes for each lecture the
afternoon of the lecture. A draft version of the notes will be posted before the lecture, but may not quite match what I show in class (which I will do my best to post as an update at the last minute before entering the classroom - recommendation, then, is to reload when class starts...).

**Lecture Attendance:** Attendance at lectures is not mandatory, however
there is a clear positive correlation between student attendance
and course grades. If you must miss a lecture the readings and lecture notes
will largely help fill in the missing details, but you are also
encouraged to stop by office hours or inquire after class to
review the missing material.

**Final Grading:** Exams and problem set results, if they fall below a mean of 80% will be scaled so that their mean is close to 80%.
I will similarly scale the final problem set totals. As a result your computed final course grade will correspond fairly closely to a 90-100=A range, 80-90=B range, etc grading system. Please don't regard these ranges as absolute as I will make some small adjustment in scaling to account for intangibles and to try to coordinate grading with previous semesters.

**Extra credit:**
Extra credit is *not* available for this course.

**Honor policy:** Close collaboration on submitted work in this course is
expressly forbidden (except were explicitly stated in
the assignment). All work must be pledged, and your pledge will be
taken to signify an independent effort. The primary help you
should seek in completing an assignment should be from the professor
or the TA's. Writing the word "pledged" on an assignment or exam will be
interpreted as shorthand for the complete statement of responsibility.
Despite this admonition, you are strongly encouraged to discuss the course material and basic problem set question strategies with other
students and collaborate in the preparation for exams.

**Recordings:** Under no circumstances may material recorded from
class be posted online or distibuted by the recorder. Nor should
class materials be re-posted elsewhere. You are welcome to make
recordings (and print-outs of course material) for personal use, but I
ask that you inform me that you are doing so.

**Alternative Meeting Site:** Should the classroom or building
be unexpectedly closed the class will meet/reconvene in the
area in mall area between the dorms directly across McCormick Road
from the Chemistry Building.