ASTRONOMY 301 - Introduction to Astronomy

Spring 2003

Unique number: 45905
Classes: TTh 12:30 PM - 2 PM Welch 3.502
TTh 2 PM - 3:30 PM Welch 3.502
Instructor: John Kormendy  John Kormendy 
Office: RLM 15.324 RLM 15.324
Office Hours: Wednesdays at 4 - 6 PM in RLM 15.326 Wednesdays at 4 - 6 PM in RLM 15.326
Office Telephone: 471-8191 471-8191
Teaching Assistant: Elizabeth Leass Kyungjin Ahn
Office: RLM 16.212 RLM 16.208
Office Hours: Mondays at 2 - 4 PM in RLM 16.212 Thursdays at 3 - 5 PM in RLM 16.208
Telephone: 471-8443 471-2785

Spring 2003 Syllabus

Powers of Ten Tutorial

This is a Java tutorial that is similar to the "Powers of Ten" video that I show in class.

Time zone map

There are small inconsistencies between the above map and the one that I show in class, e. g., in Australia, where the posted map does not show three, half-hour time zones meeting at one place. Countries frequently make changes in their time zones; the posted map (from 1996) is slightly out of date. During the 2000 Millennium celebration, the time zones were as I show them in class.

Applet: Doppler effect

Applet: spectroscopic binaries

Astronomical Picture of the Day

Mars: A selection of Mars Global Surveyor images

Mars: Evidence for recent liquid water


Horizons: Exploring the Universe by Michael A. Seeds, published by Brooks/Cole and available at the Co-Op. I will use the 7th Edition. Older editions cover the material entirely well enough. I would never discourage you from saving money by buying the 6th Edition. If you do so, you will have to be a bit careful: the pages and section numbers mentioned in reading assignments (which will be correct for the 7th Edition) may not correspond to those in the 6th Edition.


I strongly recommend that you attend classes. Astronomy is not intrinsically difficult, but it is probably unfamiliar to you, and it is much harder to understand the material if you only read about it. Also, I will omit some subjects that are in the book, and I will lecture on other subjects that are not in the book. You will be responsible for the content of the lectures. I will distribute handouts on the most important things that are not in the book. Don't let the convenience of handouts fool you into thinking that you won't miss much by skipping class. Reading the handouts is supposed to help you to remember what I said, not to substitute for coming to class. If you skip classes and study only from the handouts, chances are that you will pass the course but that your grade will be substantially lower than it could have been (e. g., C or even D instead of B). This is not because I'm nasty to people who skip classes (I'm not) but because you won't know the material very well.


Note that I am teaching two sections of AST 301 back-to-back. This presents you with some opportunities and with one constraint. The opportunity is to listen to a lecture twice if you have trouble understanding it. If you have the time and the need, I do not mind if you come to both lectures on any given class day, as long as we don't run out of seats. If seating gets tight, please give priority to the people who are registered in a given section. The constraint is this: During exams, I will have to ask those of you who are in the earlier section (Unique number 45905) to stay in the room until the end of the test, even if you are finished. Please bring something to read and try not to disturb the people who are still working on the test. The reason is that I will combine the grade lists for both sections before "curving" the final marks. I want to be fair and give everybody the same exams.


There will be 5 in-class exams (see the syllabus). Four of these will follow and cover the 4 major sections of the course. The fifth will in essence be a makeup exam following Section 2. Your lowest exam score will be dropped and the average of your other exam scores will make up 80 % of your final grade. The remaining 20 % will be the average grade on the 4 homework assignments. There will be no final exam. There is no penalty for missing any one exam as long as you take at least 4 of the 5 exams. For this reason, there will be no makeup exams.

Numerical grades will be converted to letter grades approximately as follows:

 A = 85 % or more
 B = 84 - 75 %
 C = 74 - 60 %
 D = 59 - 45 %
 F = less than 45 %

I may make small adjustments to the above, but I will not make the scale more difficult. If you are taking this course on a pass/fail basis, University rules say that a passing grade is equivalent to a D or higher.


If you have trouble understanding something in the course, please ask questions in class or come and see me. I will be happy to discuss the problem with you. The TAs are also available for consultation. Review sessions will be scheduled prior to exams and otherwise as needed.


Astronomy is an observational science. My research depends in part on visits to various observatories, including the University's McDonald Observatory in west Texas. If I have to miss a class for this or any other reason, the class will meet as usual.

You may be interested to visit our Student Observatory on the roof of Painter Hall. This houses a 9 inch refracting telescope. The general student night is Fridays at 9:30 - 10:30 PM, clear nights only. This is a simple telescope to use and students (you!) can be checked out to observe with it. Please see me for further information. You may also look at the Painter Hall Telescope Handbook, which explains the check-out procedure and the use of the telescope. You can also consult the Educational Services Office, RLM 13.122, 471-1307.


The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-4641 TTY. Also, please notify me of any modification/adaptation that you may require to accommodate a disability-related need. Specialized services are available on campus through Services for Students with Disabilities.


Homework assignments will have a due date that is 1 to 2 weeks from when the homework is distributed. Late homework will not be accepted for grading unless you have given and we have accepted your reasons for requesting an extension prior to the due date. No homework will be accepted after the graded homeworks have been returned and the answers have been distributed.

Exam dates: The syllabus lists the dates of the exams. I promise not to change these dates. If I get behind in my intended syllabus, you will be responsible, during the following exam, only for the content of the lectures that were finished before the exam. Please note now the dates of the exams, since it is impractical to schedule makeups. Substituting exam 3 for one of the other exams gives you some flexibility in case you have to miss a test.

There will be no final examination.

Copying during exams is a crime for which the punishment will be at least an F for that exam and very possibly an F for the course. I will not hesitate to report cheating to the Dean of Students.

All work handed in for grading must be your own work. It is perfectly OK to discuss homework with a friend, but it is important to use your own thoughts and words in writing your answers. If you are puzzled by a question, do not copy out a friend's answer. Instead, please discuss the problem with me or with a TA. Don't be shy! We are here to help!


The University's deadlines and rules regarding "dropping" the course will be strictly enforced. I will assume that you know the deadlines and the rules. Deadlines are listed in the University's Calendar for Fall 2002 - Spring 2003 .

 1. Adds/Drops before the 12th class day: During the first four class days, students may add or drop courses either online or by using TEX, the Telephone Enrollment eXchange. During days five through twelve, students may drop courses by phone but must go to the department offering the course to seek permission to add a course. Be advised that some departments do not allow adds/drops after the fourth class day. For those departments that do allow adds/drops, the add-transactions before the twelfth class day will be processed by terminal in the respective department. Students who wish to add a class after the twelfth class day will be required to see a counselor in the Student Division of the Dean's Office and provide justification for the proposed change.

 2. Dropping a course during the open Q-drop period: After the end of the fourth week of class, and until the deadline for dropping courses, a student wishing to drop a course will ask the instructor to complete a drop form that assigns a Q or an F. The symbol Q indicates an average of C or better at the time of the drop, or that no grade has yet been assigned, or that due to the student's performance and the nature of the course, no academic penalty is in order, or that for documented non-academic reasons, no academic penalty is in order.

 3. The deadline for dropping a course without academic penalty is February 10, 2003 for the Spring semester.

 4. The deadline for dropping a course or withdrawing from the University for urgent nonacademic reasons is March 24, 2003. Prior to the deadline but after February 10th, dropping or withdrawing requires a written appeal presented to the Student Division of the respective Dean's Office.

 5. Courses taken on a pass/fail basis:  The University defines a D as a passing grade for undergraduate students. The instructor is obliged to assign a grade of CR (Credit) for a student registered on a pass/fail basis who has a D or better in the course. It is important that the roster indicate the student is registered for the course on a pass/fail basis. Otherwise, a letter grade must be assigned. There is a time limit for students to change courses from a grade basis to pass/fail basis and vice versa. It is the same as the final deadline for drop/withdrawal for academic reasons. After that deadline, students should see a Counselor in the Student Division of the Dean's Office. Students are allowed to change the status of any given course only one time during the pass/fail time period.

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