Astronomy 121 Course Information


Planetary Systems                                        CRN 36601                                       March 30, 2015

This first term of introductory astronomy covers the early history of astronomy, the origin of the solar system, and what is known about the Sun, Earth, Moon, and other Solar as well as extra-Solar planets.  This course requires minimal mathematics some arithmetic and a little algebra.

In this course students learn the basic facts and theories about planetary systems, and how to solve simple, related arithmetic problems.   The homework teaches students to extract answers to simple questions from technical material, and the project teaches how to take data, extract information from it, and evaluate the significance of that information.

Classes:      Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 11:00 to 11:50 in Room 207 Chapman Hall.

Instructor:   Roger Haydock(, 172 Willamette Hall, 346-5221, Office hours Tuesdays 08:00 to 09:00, Thursdays 08:00 to 9:00, or by appointment.

Assistants.  Eryn Cook(, 250 Willamette Hall, 346-5863, Office hours - Tuesdays 14:00-15:00; and Dash Vitullo(, 262 Willamette Hall, 346-5528, Office hours - Mondays 12:30 - 13:30.

Required TextThe Essential Cosmic Perspective by J. Bennett, M. Donahue, N. Schneider, and M. Voit, (Addison-Wesley) 7th edition.

Homework:  Prepare for each class by reading the assigned material in the text and trying some of the homework questions.  After class reread the material and write out the answers to all the Exercises and Problems assigned in the Course Plan on the back of this page.  You should be spending about 6 hours per week, outside of class, studying the text, answering questions, and solving problems.  This homework will not be collected, but the examinations will consist of questions from the homework.

Midterms:    Monday, April 20, and Monday, May 11 there will be midterms in class.  Each midterm will consist of ten questions similar to the homework.  The purpose of the midterms is to tell you how you are progressing with the course.  Only your midterms which are better than your final examination will be averaged into your final grade.

Final Exam: Monday, June 8, at 10:15 in Room 207 Chapman is required for a pass or a grade.  This examination will consist of twenty questions similar to the homework.

Project:        Because this is a four credit course meeting three hours per week, each student is required to plan, conduct and report on a quantitative determination of some astronomical quantity relevant to the course.  Examples of the kind of observations appropriate for this project are measurement of positions at various times for the sun, moon, satellites, or planets.  Other kinds of observations are possible, but should be discussed in advance with the Instructor.  Examples of quantities to be determined in these projects are rotational tilt, orbital periods, or orbital inclination of the Earth, Moon, other planets, satellites, and so forth.  Again, other ideas are encouraged but should be discussed in advance with the Instructor.  Data obtained other than by direct observation, for example data downloaded from the internet, is not acceptable.

The grade for each project will be based on a written report which is due at the final exam.  The report is limited to 1,000 words, but may contain sketches, graphs, photographs, equations, and so forth.  Reports should be written so as to be understandable to other members of the class and should include an introduction to the project, a thorough description of how the observations were made, the data obtained, analysis of the data, and a discussion of whether or not the results agree with accepted values.

The total effort on the project should be about 3 hours per week, or a total of 30 hours for the course.


Grading:      The Final grade is 75% Exams + 25% Project. The exam grade is the average (weighting individual questions equally) of the Final Exam and any Midterms which were better than the Final.  The principle for grading exams is that demonstration of understanding of 2/3 or more of the material is at least an A-, or more at least a B-, and 1/3 or more at least a C-.  The project is graded on the principle that a report reflecting 30 hours of coherent effort earns a B (A if the project is outstanding in some respect).

Reading:      If you have time, visit the Science Library and read about what is new in science and astronomy.  Some interesting magazines are The New Scientist, Science, Science News, The Scientific American, Astronomy, and Sky and Telescope.  Also there are many great websites about observing and astronomical news.

Course Plan                    


Date                                  Class Topic                            Assigned Chapter, Exercises, and Problems*


30 March                           Introduction to the Solar System            Chapter 1:  2, 3, 9, 42


1 April                                The Universe

3                                        Basic Astronomy I                                  Chapter 2:  4-16, 47-8

6                                        Basic Astronomy II                                

8                                        Project Clinic                                         

10                                      Ancient and Greek Astronomy               Chapter 3:  1-10

13                                      Renaissance Astronomy

15                                      Modern Astronomy                                Chapter 4:  1-14, 43, 45

17                                      Conservation Laws                                

20                 First Midterm covering Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4

22                                      Formation of the Solar System               Chapter 6:  1-14

24                                      The Solar System Now                          

27                                      Exoplanets                                             Chapter 10:  1, 2, 7, 15

29                                      Earth I                                                    Chapter 7:  1-18


1 May                                Earth II                                                  

4                                        Moon and Mercury

6                                        Mars

8                                        Venus

11                 Second Midterm covering Chapters 6, 7 and 10

13                                      Formation of Jovian Planets                   Chapter 8:  1-13

15                                      Jovian Planets                                       

18                                      Jovian Moons

20                                      Ring Systems

22                                      Asteroids and Meteorites                       Chapter 9:  1-12

25                                      Memorial Day - no class

27                                      Comets and the Kuiper Belt

29                                      Collisions


1 June                               Review I

3                                        Review II

5                                        Review III

8                   Final Exam at 10:15 in Room 207 Chapman covering Chapters 1-4 and 6-10.



*  6th Edition Assignments