Astro-12 Spring 1999 Course Guide (S.T. Myers)

Introduction to Astrophysics II

Version 14 Jan 1999

Instructor:Steven T. Myers
 Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
 Office: DRL 4N3
 Phone: 898-5942
Classroom:T Th 12 noon - 1:30pm, A7 DRL
Office Hours:Wed 2pm - 3:30pm, also by appointment
Textbook:Zeilik and Gregory,
 Introductory Astronomy and Astrophysics
 (Saunders College Publishing) Fourth Edition

The Astro-12 course is designed for students are majoring in the physical sciences or in engineering. It will fulfill the general requirement for Sector VI, The Physical World. This is the second semester of a two semester series (Astro 11 and 12). You need not have taken the first semester (Astro 11), though it is of course helpful to have taken Astro 11 as we will use the basic principles of celestial mechanics in this course also.

As noted in the Course Register, the prerequisites/corequisites for this course are Physics 151 and Math 151 or their equivalent. These may be taken concurrently with Astro 12. If you are unsure if your background in Physics and Math is sufficient for this course, then look at the lecture notes to judge the level of the homework and lectures against your background.

My goal in this course is to introduce the subject of astronomy and the physics of astrophysics. I plan to emphasize current results from new instruments and missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the COBE, ROSAT, and GRO space observatories. In this semester, we will focus on things outside our own solar system: the stars, the galaxies, and the Universe. We will cover the basics of stellar, galactic, and extragalactic astronomy, cosmology as well as the telescopic tools used.

There will be two midterms and a final exam. There will also be homework assignments (approximately weekly) which will mostly consist of problem sets. There is also the requirement of completing several observing and ``laboratory'' assignments during the semester (see below). The various exams and assignments will count toward the final grade in the course in the following proportions:

First midterm 15%
Second midterm 15%
Final exam 25%
Homework 20%
Observing and Labs 25%

In fairness to the other students, a missed exam will receive an automatic score of zero unless you are excused for a valid reason beyond your control (for example, illness). Please let me know well ahead of time of exam conflicts or other circumstances so that we can arrange a substitute exam time and avoid problems.

The observing and lab assignments consist of five projects throughout the semester: two computer and/or web-based labs, two nighttime observing projects, and an additional group project. Keep an eye on the course web page for more details as the semester progresses.

There will also be opportunities for extra-credit activities, such as extra observing, computer labs, and research reports. I will give you more information on these as the term progresses. These will have to be approved by and negotiated with me.

Grading will be based on fraction the total point score (before extra credit is added in):

A > 90%
B 75% - 90%
C 60% - 75%
D 45% - 60%
F < 45%

Note that this is not on a "curve" (though it is based on past course curves and is equivalent). You should make use of fellow class members as learning resources, and working together on homework and studying is encouraged (after all, your grade does not depend on others scores!). However, do not directly copy each others' homework - this is considered cheating. If you work together on a problem set, be sure to put down the solutions in your own words and equations. The idea of the homework is for it to teach you, not just regurgitate stuff from the lectures. Use it wisely.

You should keep on top of assignments and if you are worried about your grade, be sure to arrange extra credit or extra study well ahead of the final! Once the class is over and grades computed there is little room for help. Note that a benefit of the "absolute" grading scale is that you know how you stand in the course at all times. For instance, if you are taking the course pass-fail (as many engineering students do) and you have accrued more than 45% of the total score by the time of the final, then you need not take the final exam to pass! Its pretty simple, but I expect you to behave honorably and not abuse the system by copying others' homework, for example.

The Student Observatory on the roof of DRL houses two instruments: an 8-inch Clark refractor, and a 10-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector. The Meade is equipped with a CCD camera and computer control, and image processing software is available. The student observatory can be reached from the 4th floor of DRL, via the stairs near room 4W2 in the Math wing (sign marked "exit"). It is outside, so remember to dress accordingly. Be sure to look outside before coming to DRL --- if you see clouds, we will not be open! There will also be an observatory status indicator on the course web page.

Be sure to keep up on the reading assignments from the textbook. There is a large amount of material to cover, so the pace will be fast. It is important to use the texts, lectures and the assigned problems to build and reinforce what is learned. I will be assigning weekly problems. The goal of these assignments is to reinforce the ideas learned during the week, and to demonstrate the quantitative nature of astronomy. Besides contributing 20% of the final grade, these problems are very important tools for learning astronomy. Be sure to do these. Also, be aware that the homework assignments themselves will sometimes introduce new material that is not necessarily covered in the lectures, and that you will be responsibile for learning this material (as well as the material covered in the reading assignments).

Keep an eye on the World Wide Web page I have set up for this course:

or follow the link from my own home page). I will be posting course related information and links to astronomical resources and images on the internet. I will also try and maintain an up-to-date online set of course notes, built from my own lecture notes. Be warned, however, these are no subsititute for the textbook or your own notes taken during lectures. By necessity, I will heavily summarize the material when writing the WWW notes, and will focus on aspects of the material not in the textbook. However, there will be a complete set of copies of my full lecture notes kept on reserve in the Math-Physics library on the 3rd floor of DRL in case you need more detail than is given in the online notes.

Feel free to ask me any questions you may have about the course. I am here to help you learn! If you cannot come by during my office hours, you can call or e-mail me and make an appointment. You can also try and drop by my office, though I cannot guarantee that I will be in or available, so it is best to email first.

Enjoy the course!

  Astro 12 Resource Navigator:
  How to Contact Me:

Steven T. Myers

       National Radio Astronomy Observatory
       P.O. Box O
       1003 Lopezville Rd.
       Socorro, NM 87801
Phone: (505) 835-7294 or 835-7000
  FAX: (505) 835-7027