Instructor: Daniel Schroeder, Physics Department, Weber State University
Office: Science Lab (immediately south of Lind Lecture Hall), room 208
Office phone: 801-626-6048
Office hours: MWF 10:30-11:30 and TTh 1:30-2:30. I apologize that I cannot be available for any but the quickest questions immediately before our class. However, I can be available by appointment in the early morning or late afternoon on most days. My full schedule is posted next to my office door.
Course web page: http://physics.weber.edu/schroeder/astro/
Prerequisites: This course has no college-level prerequisites. However, if you have been placed into developmental English or math courses, it means that you are not yet prepared to get the most out of this course (or most other courses). In that case you may want to consider postponing this course until your developmental work is complete.
Textbooks: There is no required textbook for this course, but I do recommend that you purchase or borrow a textbook of your choice. Many used textbooks are perfectly acceptable and can save you a lot of money. Whether or not you purchase a book, you will also need to use a variety of online resources as described below.
Required materials: Everyone will need a ruler, protractor, and drawing compass. Even the most inexpensive versions, marketed to school children, are just fine. You will also need a pocket calculator. I recommend a scientific calculator (with an EE or EXP key for entering powers of 10), but if you know how to manipulate exponents using pencil and paper, you can get by with a simpler calculator. For some of the observational projects you will need additional equipment, as described in the instructions.
Other requirements: For this course you will need frequent access to an internet-connected computer. Much of the course reading material will be on our course web site and other web sites. You should also check your WSU email account frequently in case there are last-minute announcements.
This course is an introduction to astronomy, the study of the universe beyond earth. There's a lot out there, so we won't have time to learn every detail. But we will choose topics from the following:
Science is all about observing the universe, asking questions, and thinking critically about the answers. This class will therefore emphasize observation, questioning, and critical thinking. You must be prepared to participate in this class. Much of our class time will be spent on discussion and hands-on activities. Outside of class you will prepare notes on your reading, finish the weekly exercises, take three tests, and complete two major observational projects.
Grades will be based on a point system in which you can earn points from each of the following:
Daily reading assignments
For most of our class sessions I will provide you with written guidelines that ask you to read (before class!) about a certain topic in astronomy. The guidelines will also suggest some starting points for where you might find information on that topic. I'll frequently recommend:
Daily reading notes
To help focus your reading, and to show me what you've gotten out of it, you will prepare a page (or so) of notes on each reading assignment. Each day's reading notes should include each of the following:
On about a third of our class days (usually Fridays), instead of discussing new reading material, we will focus on an in-class activity or exercise. The exercises will emphasize the more quantitative aspects of astronomy, so you'll need to bring your ruler, protractor, compass, and calculator. The exercises will be due at 5:00 pm, so you may continue to work on them after class if necessary. I encourage you to discuss the exercises with your classmates and check your answers with them (or with me). The work you turn in, however, must be your own.
Late homework will not be accepted under any circumstances.
We will have three one-hour-long closed-book tests, given in the Science Testing Center (SL 228). The tests will include both short-answer and multiple-choice questions, based on material from the reading assignments and from class. Each test will cover approximately one-third of the course material; the third test will be similar to the others in this respect, rather than a comprehensive final exam. You may use your drawing tools (ruler, protractor, compass) on the tests, but you may not use a calculator.
You will have a time period of approximately four days to take each test, so you should be able to work around most illnesses and other emergencies. (Testing Center hours are MTWTh 7:30 am - 9:00 pm, Fri 7:30 am - 5:30 pm, and Sat 9:00 am - 5:30 pm. You must arrive at least one full hour before closing time.) If for some reason you cannot take a test during the scheduled time period, you must contact me in advance (or at the earliest possible opportunity) to make other arrangements. I will not give make-up tests to students who forget to take a test, or to students who contact me regarding an illness or emergency later than they could have. ("Contact" implies two-way communication and a full exchange of relevant information. You can start with a brief email or voicemail, but technology sometimes fails and it's your responsibility to keep trying to reach me until you succeed.)
A major portion of your grade will be based on two observational projects. This is your chance to actually look at the sky yourself, record your observations carefully, and describe what you did in the form of a short paper. A separate document gives full instructions and a list of possible projects from which you can choose. Due dates for the observational projects will be announced in class. Projects may be turned in early for full credit. Late projects will be marked down two points per day (counting every weekday except school holidays).
The policies outlined above are designed to be as fair as possible to the vast majority of students. Please do not ask me to make exceptions for athletic events, other extracurricular activities, or short-term illnesses or emergencies. However, if a truly unusual circumstance makes it impossible for you to attend school for a long period of time (more than two weeks), please contact me immediately to discuss whether a special accommodation might be possible. (The most common reason for such an accommodation is military service.)
Any student requiring accommodations or services due to a disability must contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in the Student Service Center. SSD can also arrange to provide course materials (including this syllabus) in alternative formats if necessary.
Unpleasant but necessary threat
Academic dishonesty of any sort will not be tolerated in this course. You are responsible for understanding what constitutes academic dishonesty, including cheating on tests, plagiarism, and fabrication of data. Penalties for academic dishonesty will range from a zero score on the assignment to failure in the course. In some cases, an incident may also be reported to the appropriate hearing committee for further sanctions.