ASTR 1050: Survey of Astronomy, Fall 2019


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Teaching Assistant: Evan Cook
Office: 105 Physical Sciences
Office Hours: Thursday, 1:30-3:30PM
Location for Office Hours: 227 Physical Sciences
Instructor: Adam Myers
Office: 328 Physical Sciences
Office Hours: Tuesday, 11AM-noon; Thursday, 3:30-4:30PM; or by appointment
Location for Office Hours: 328 Physical Sciences

Teaching Assistant: Lucas Napolitano
Office: 105 Physical Sciences
Office Hours: Monday, 2-3PM; Wednesday, 2-3PM
Location for Office Hours: 227 Physical Sciences

Course Information

  • Lecture Times: MWF, 9-9:50AM

  • Lecture Room: 310 Classroom Building (west side of campus)

  • Lecture, Lab and Homework Schedule: There is a schedule of lectures, labs, homeworks and other information here. It is essential for you to be able to regularly access that link. Homeworks and lecture outlines will be posted to that link, and the labs are already available there. The lecture outlines are, indeed, outlines, and are not meant to completely replace a set of notes.

  • Lab times and locations: Most of the labs take place in the Enzi STEM Laboratories building, Room 180. The location of the few labs that do not occur in the Enzi building are listed below under Laboratories in the Specific Course Requirements & Grading portion of this syllabus. The lab times are:
  • Credit: 4 credit hours, satisfies the USP15-PN (Physical & Natural World) requirement

  • Prerequisites: Math 1000 or Math 1400 or Math 1405 or Math 1450 or Math 2200 or an SAT Math score of 600 or a Math Section Score of 560 or a 2 on the Math Placement Exam.

  • Textbook: No textbook is officially required for the course, as I believe that internet sources should be sufficient for most students. If you feel that you absolutely have to purchase a textbook, then I recommend Discovering the Universe by Neil F. Comins and William J. Kaufmann. Publisher: W. H. Freeman; 8th edition (January 11, 2008; 7th and 9th editions should also be OK). ISBN-10: 1429205199

  • A Phone or A Laptop (or other web-enabled device): The ASTR1050 lectures require the use of a laptop (or other web-enabled device), or a phone with a texting plan, for class participation via poll everywhere. About 10% of your grade is based on this, so think carefully about joining this course if you don't have a laptop (or other web-enabled device) or a phone with fairly cheap texting. Note that I am using poll everywhere to replace traditional clicker units, which cost students about $40. Even at 10¢ per text, you'll only spend about $10 over the semester. This is how you register for poll everywhere and you should register as soon as possible. If you choose to use a laptop (or other web-enabled device) instead of texting, the course response site is http://www.pollev.com/ASTR1050.

  • Access to UW's WyoCourses Site: Homeworks will be issued and completed, and answers will be posted, via UW's WyoCourses site. Note that WyoCourses seems to work well in Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, but not so well in Google Chrome or Safari.

  • A University of Wyoming email Account: This class has almost 100 participants. The only way that I can reasonably contact you is via your uwyo email address or, as a group, via announcements on WyoCourses. Please check your uwyo email regularly, or have it forwarded to an account that you check regularly, and look for announcements on Wyocourses.

    Learning Requirements

    This is a course aimed at a basic mathematical understanding of astronomy. You will be expected to be able to apply simple math to concepts about our Universe. While studying, it may be helpful to ask if you can picture the concept being presented such that if it was changed in straightforward ways, you would know what would result. For instance, do you understand the concept of eclipses enough to understand what would happen if the Moon was twice as large, or twice as far away? Do you understand enough about stars to work out what would happen if the Sun was twice as hot?

    At the same time, I expect very high standards in this course. You should know from the outset that my intention is to make the course relatively difficult, giving students that work hard to understand the material the opportunity to excel. If you have high standards for yourself in this course, you will have the opportunity to excel.

    I am passionate about astronomy, and I hope you will be too. There is a lot of really amazing stuff out there, from planets orbiting other stars, to black holes that weigh more than a million Suns, and that we can directly observe. In my experience, this stuff is mind-blowing enough that some people you meet will just be interested to hear that you know some astronomy. And, if you can explain even simple astronomy well then you may be smarter than a Harvard graduate.

    Specific Course Requirements & Grading

    Your course grade will be based on the following work:

  • Online Homeworks: I will be giving weekly homeworks (as outlined in the schedule). These will be posted on UW's WyoCourses site. Starting from the second week of the class, there will be 12 weekly homeworks consisting of 10 multiple choice questions each. I will drop your worst two scores so that you will be assessed only on your best 10 homework scores. Note how generous this is and therefore how hard it will be for me to be sympathetic if you fail to submit several homeworks. Some homework questions (or closely related questions) may reappear on the exams, so I definitely recommend making sure you understand all of the homeworks. WyoCourses seems to work well in Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, but not so well in Google Chrome or Safari.

  • Laboratories: There is a required two-hour lab session each week (beginning the second week of class). It is assumed that you have registered for a lab section and it is expected that you attend the section for which you have registered. The labs are conducted by Teaching Assistants (TAs) in the Enzi STEM Laboratories building, room 180, except for the Planetarium lab, which is conducted in the Planetarium in the basement of the Physical Sciences building and Observing on the Roof which is conducted on the roof of the Physical Sciences Building. You may only attend the lab section for which you are registered, although the TAs may allow you to reschedule occasionally if you have an excused absence. There are no scheduled makeup labs, so lab attendance is important. You will need to print out the relevant lab for each week and bring it along to the session. The labs will be posted here. I will generously drop your worst lab score...although there are 11 graded labs you will only be assessed on your best 10 scores.

  • Poll Everywhere Questions: In order to provide a lecture environment more conducive to participation and interaction, I will be asking questions that students respond to via poll everywhere. There will be a trial run during the second lecture and official assessment will start during the third lecture, so register for poll everywhere as soon as you can. This is how you register for poll everywhere. If you choose to use a laptop (or other web-enabled device) instead of texting, the course response site is http://www.pollev.com/ASTR1050.

    One half of the credit is assigned for answering questions, regardless of your answer. Questions are not distributed evenly through the semester, and some lectures will carry double or higher the normal points. There will be more than 70 assessed questions but 50 questions will be the minimum necessary to potentially achieve full credit. So if you are absent or forget your phone or laptop a couple of days during the semester, it will not negatively affect your grade.

    As an incentive to attend as many lectures as possible and to try to answer questions correctly, the students with the best 10 total poll everywhere scores through the semester will be awarded 2 to 20 additional "bonus" points towards their grade. In other words, the student with the best total score in class will receive 20 bonus points, the student with the next best score 18 bonus points, etc. The student with the 10th best score will receive 2 bonus points. If two or more students are tied, they will receive the average of the appropriate bonus points. For instance, if the two best scores are both 146, then the students with these scores will both receive 19 bonus points towards their grade.

  • In-class Exams: There will be two in-class exams, which are listed as EXAM 1 and EXAM 2 on the schedule. Exams 1 and 2 will consist of around 40 multiple-choice questions and will test the material from the first third and second third of the course, respectively. The form of the exams will be similar to the homeworks (multiple choice). A calculator should not be necessary, so calculators won't be allowed in exams. Bring a pencil and eraser and a blue scantron sheet to all exams. In addition, you must bring your official university identification card to show upon request. Conflict or makeup exams will be scheduled for those with a legitimate university excuse.

  • Final Exam: Exam 3 will also consist of around 40 questions, and will test the material from only the final third of the course. All rules that apply to the in-class exams (above) also apply to Exam 3. Exam 3 will be at the time scheduled for the Final Exam by the university, which is currently Wednesday, December 18th at 8AM to 10AM.

  • Course Grade Components: Your class grade will be computed as follows:

    12x10pts weekly homeworks, with the worst two homework scores dropped (100 pts)
    11x20pts graded weekly labs, with the worst single lab score dropped (200 pts)
    poll everywhere questions (100 pts total) as:
    1pt for (each different) question attempted + 1pt for (each different) correct answer (up to a 100pt maximum total)
    (you can make, e.g., 60 attempts, get 40 correct and still achieve 100pts)
    3x200pts for the 3 exams (600 pts)
    Total: 1000 points
    + the 10 students with the best poll everywhere scores totaled over the entire semester
    will be awarded additional points at the level of 2 to 20 points
    Letter Grades:

    A more than 899 points
    B 800-899 points
    C 700-799 points
    D 600-699 points
    F fewer than 600 points

    If necessary, all or any exam results will be curved. The curve will only ever be upwards (i.e., only ever in your favor). Average numerical grades will be rounded to the nearest whole number (that is, 799.5 becomes 800 and a B, 799.4 becomes 799 and a C). I may relax these grade boundaries but only ever in you favor (i.e., it might be possible that the A grade boundary ends up being 880 instead of 900, etc...).

    A summary of your itemized grades will be posted on UW's WyoCourses site within one week after each of the first two exams, and in the final week of class. Please review your scores and report any discrepancies to me.

    Class Policies

  • General: In addition to the policies listed here, note that the University of Wyoming has some standard information that applies to all syllabi. This information can be viewed in the Syllabus section of WyoCourses under Classroom Climate & Conduct and Learning Tools.

  • Office Hours: Some students are intimidated by professors. You should know that I enjoy it when you show up to office hours to discuss the course material, or even to discuss random astronomy questions for which you've always wanted to know the answer. My whole purpose for having office hours is so that you know more about astronomy. I actively encourage you to come to my office hours. In my experience, if you get some tuition in a setting with only yourself or a few other students, then your grade will improve. I will never judge you negatively for not knowing something during office hours (in fact I'll be impressed that you showed up). But, not knowing something during exams is clearly a problem.

  • There Will be No Extra Credit: This syllabus sets up the rules of the game for ASTR1050. Read it, and carefully note how you will be assessed. I will not be changing the rules halfway through the course by offering extra credit. It would be unfair to the majority of the class who expect to be assessed as laid out in this syllabus if I offer an individual student extra credit after the course has started. I will not be offering extra credit.

  • Absences: The opportunity to make-up missed work or exams will be offered if the student has a genuine university conflict. Advance notice and documentation are required for approved school events (e.g., on an athletic team), religious observances, and other planned absences; the Dean's office must also be contacted in the case of unforeseen circumstances (e.g., death in the family) and an Official Absence requested. If you are ill and you need to miss a couple of lectures, it is perfectly acceptable to stay home and not infect other students. Missing a few lectures should not adversely affect your grade, particularly if you come to see me during office hours to go over the missed material.

  • Additional Help: In addition to my Office Hours and the TAs' Office Hours, tutoring is also available for this class at the STEP Tutor Center beginning Sunday, September 8th. STEP is typically open Sunday-Thursday from 5-9pm and is located in Coe Library. Sessions are drop in (no appointments) and are 30 minutes in length. STEP has also opened a Satellite Tutor Center in the basement of Washakie, and has online tutoring available as well. Please watch your email for details about all of these services. Students who use academic resources (like tutoring, Supplemental Instruction, office hours, etc.) for at least 3 hours/semester often see significant improvements in their grades. Please visit the STEP Tutor Schedule for days and times.

    Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Wyoming,
    1000 E. University, Dept. 3905, 
    Laramie, WY 82071, USA

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