Astronomy 121 Course Information


The Solar System                                                             CRN 31727                                       April 1, 2013

                     This first term of introductory astronomy covers the early history of astronomy, the origin of the solar system, and what is known about the Earth, other planets, and their moons.  This course requires minimal mathematics some arithmetic and a little algebra.

Classes:      Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 10:00 to 10:50 in Room 100 Willamette 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.

Text:            Astronomy Today by E. Chaisson and S. McMillan, (Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2002) Seventh edition.  A copy of the 6th edition is on two-hour reserve in the Science Library

Alternative:  Instead of buying the text, students may choose to attend all classes and take thorough notes.  Approval from the Instructor is required for this option.

Homework:  Prepare for each class by reading the assigned material in the text and answering the appropriate questions from the self-tests.  After class reread the material and write out the answers to the Homework questions on that material, which are linked to the Course Plan below on the on-line version of this Course Information.  Be sure to use complete sentences as well as diagrams and formulas in answering the homework questions.  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:    Friday, April 19, and Friday, May 10 there will be midterms in class.  Each midterm will consist of ten questions similar to the homework questions.  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: Tuesday, June 11, at 10:15 in Room 100 Willamette Hall. is required for a pass or a grade.  This examination will consist of twenty questions similar to Review and Discussion questions or the simpler Problems from 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 inclination of the orbits 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 also 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 description of how the observations were made, the data obtained, and a discussion of whether or not the results agree with accepted values of the quantity being determined.

                     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 coherent report reflecting 30 hours of 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


1                                        Introduction to the Solar System                                 Chapter 1

3                                        Basic Astronomy

5                                        Ancient Astronomy                                                      Chapter 2

8                                        Modern Astronomy

10                                      Origin of the Solar System                                          Chapter 15

12                                      Formation of the Planets

15                                      Planetology                                                                 Chapter 6

17                                      Exploration of the Solar System

19                 First Midterm covering Chapters 1, 2, 15 and 6

22                                      The Outer Earth                                                          Chapter 7

24                                      The Inner Earth

26                                      The Moon                                                                   Chapter 8

29                                      Mercury


1                                        The Planet Venus                                                       Chapter 9

3                                        The Atmosphere and Surface of Venus

6                                        The Planet Mars                                                         Chapter 10

8                                        The Atmosphere and Surface of Mars

10                 Second Midterm covering Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10

13                                      Jupiter                                                                        Chapter 11

15                                      The Moons of Jupiter

17                                      Saturn                                                                         Chapter 12

20                                      The Rings and Moons of Saturn

22                                      Uranus                                                                        Chapter 13

24                                      Neptune and Plutinos

27                                      Memorial Day Holiday - no class

29                                      Asteroids                                                                    Chapter 14

31                                      Comets


3                                        Review I

5                                        Review II

7                                        Review III


11                 Final Exam at 10:15 in Room 100 Willamette Hall covering Chapters 1, 2, 6-15.