Las Positas College in Autumn

Harpell/Section DE1(summer 2004)

The Palomar Telescope at Night with Link to LPC astronomy

[Course Information] [Weekly Schedule] [Blackboard]

[Contacting the Instructor] [Learning Resources]

Last modified:6/04/04 at 3:00 pm

Saturn as Seen from Cassini spacecraft

Saturn as seen from the Cassini Space craft. Where is Cassini Now?

Welcome! If you are new to Astronomy 10, take a a few minutes to read the course description and information below. When you are done, be sure to check on the Weekly Schedule, Contacting Instructor, Learning Resources, and Blackboard links listed above and below. Blackboard is the course "template" where you log in to complete assignments, take quizzes, and communicate with your classmates and instructor. Since this is a distance education course, there are no official class meetings.


Getting started in Astro 10 DE1

Since this is a summer class, there isn't much time to waste! Make sure you read this information over carefully so you can best direct your time and energy to get the most out of this class. To start with, there are a few pages you should become familiar with as soon as possible:

Course Information: You are here! This includes general information about learning Astronomy via the Internet, as well as course requirements, grading standards, and necessary materials

Weekly Schedule: an interactive schedule containing dates for all assignments, quizzes, and exams. This tells you what you should be reading in your text and on-line, and what sections from the PlanetTales CD you should be familiar with. Hyperlinks in the schedule often take you to just the right place!

Contacting the Instructor: office hours, email, telephone number, a complete schedule, and a relatively recent photo!

Learning Resources: a list of sites on the web that are frequently used for assignments and quizzes in this course, as well some that might be of help on your research project(s)

Blackboard: a set of linked applications for students enrolled in the course, including email, Class discussions area, Quizzes and Exams area, and Assignments area. You can also get to this page, and all the above pages from the Left hand menu in Blackboard.

Picture of planets

Course Information: contents

  • Course Description

    Astro 10 is a one-semester introduction to the solar system. Along the way, we will explore the motions of the stars, planets, and moons. We will also study the Earth, inside and out (literally!), and some of the environmental problems that we six billion humans are facing here at home.

    Using the Earth as a model, we can also learn about other worlds, starting with the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and the outer planets. As part of our exploration, we will discuss theories on the formation of the solar system and study evidence for these theories contained in the debris--comets and asteroids--still in orbit about the sun. Finally, we will apply what what have learned about our own solar system to the search for planets outside the solar system and the possibility of finding intelligent life on these new worlds.

    Since Astronomy 10 DE1 is an Internet based, distance education course, you will need to use the Internet to access assignments, take quizzes, and communicate with the instructor. To facilitate this process, we will be using a distance education template called "Blackboard". In practice, you will log onto the Blackboard site for this course to begin each study session.

    To log onto Blackboard, please view these log-in instructions from the Las Positas College Distance Ed department. If you follow the instructions, you can't miss! If you have already logged in, then read on!

    For more information about Blackboard, go to the LPC Distance Education home page.

    Course materials

    Required text: Fraknoi,Andrew, Voyages to the Planets, 3rd edition (2004), available at the LPC bookstore, or online. Note: 2003 and 2002 editions are similar and can be used if you are willing to make extensive use of material on the internet.

    Other required materials: "PlanetTales " CD-ROM. Available in the campus bookstore, or online. This CD-ROM is an essential part of the course. Many quiz and exam questions draw direction from Material on the CD-ROM!

    Participation and Assessment .......... rotating purple star animated gif

    Grades in Astronomy 10 will be based on your performance on quizzes, exams, assignments, a final project, and participation in class discussions. Each these graded items will be discussed in more detail below.

    Class Discussion

    in case you were wondering: Yes, you do need to visit and participate in the discussion board for this class! People who do participate do better and enjoy the class more than people who don't. Plus, they earn necessary points.

    You are expected to make frequent use of the discussion area in Blackboard to post questions, provide feedback to your classmates, read announcements from the instructor, and simply discuss topics of interest to you. This area constitutes your "attendance" in Astronomy 10. More importantly, however, it will be a primary learning tool, allowing you to explore astronomy by interacting with others. You will find that as your knowledge of astronomy grows, your ability and desire to write about it will grow as well. In some cases, assignments will require you to post items in the discussion area. For these posts, you will receive a set number of points toward your final grade. A larger number of points, however, will be given at the instructor's discretion for your participation ....i.e., the frequency and quality of your responses to the posted items from your classmates. To give you some idea of the requirements for a particular grade on your discussion posts, check out Rubrics for the Discussion Area

    The idea of the discussion board is simple. Check in frequently, and post items of interest to you, and respond when you can. It is hoped and expected that all students will receive full credit for this portion of the class. Your feedback will help the instructor make this area more interesting and useful for everyone. Note that 25 points in the "grading" section below are for using the discussion area (other than the required assignments) to post questions and answers, and bring information to your classmates attention.


    Grades in Astronomy 10-DE1 are based on your performance on 11 online quizzes, one midterm exam, a final exam, three assignments which require you to post material to the discussion board, and of course participation in on-line discussions. These assignments are described in more detail below.

    In general, you should begin your studies by consulting the weekly schedule and reading the appropriate sections described there. These assignments will include sections from the textbook, a CD-ROM entitled "PlanetTales" that was created especially for this course, and selected external web sites.


    There will be 11 quizzes on dates given in the schedule. In practice, these online quizzes function as both homework assignments and study aids since you may work on them over a period of several days. Quizzes will be based on text, Internet, and materials from "PlanetTales." Quiz due dates are listed in the syllabus, while the quiz itself can be found in the "Quizzes and Exams" section of the course. Each quiz must be completed (i.e. submitted) by the due date for full credit. Solutions to the quizzes will be provided immediately after submission.
    For summer session, quiz zero is open for one week, while quizzes 1 - 5 are open until the midterm. Quizzes 6 - 10 are open between the midterm and final exam. If you haven't taken quizzes 1-5 by the midterm, you can still take them late. See the section below on missed quizzes. When you visit the Class schedule, you will see the exact dates.

    Missed quizzes:

    If you miss a deadline for submitting a quiz, you can still turn it in late! The price you pay for lateness, however, is an automatic 10% deduction for submission after a deadline.

    Unless the instructor fails to post a quiz on time, there will be no exceptions made to this policy ...i.e., If you had to work, or were ill, or had a relative in need of care, or if your Internet service provider went off line, you will still miss at least 10% on that quiz if its late. I apologize for this strict policy, but 10% on a single quiz is very unlikely to harm your overall grade (see the grading policy below). On the other hand, please feel free to let me know if there are legitimate problems going on. At the very least, I will know that you are still involved in the class and perhaps I can help in some small way!

    Cheating vs. fair use policy

    In my opinion (as both an instructor and as a long time student), there are three important components to learning a subject: learning on your own, learning by interacting with others, and getting feedback to see whether you really understand something. In Astronomy 10, I wish to strongly encourage all three methods. Most of your assignments will be designed to do just that ...getting you to do some research to answer questions that will pique your interest and help you learn, and then discuss the responses with others, either in person or through the class discussions area.

    The quizzes, however, represent a bit of a gray area. On the quizzes, you will be asked a series of questions (mostly multiple choice) that test your understanding of a topic, or at least your familiarity with the learning resources (i.e. where to find the answer in the text, or on the web). So here is the dilemma: Can you ask a classmate or someone else about quiz questions? The answer is "sometimes."

    To make this a bit less cryptic, here is how you cheat on a quiz:

    Student Albert takes the quiz and submits his answers. Feedback is automatically output for each question. Albert's friend, Sabrina, then gets the feedback (i.e. the correct answers)
    from Albert and uses those answers to get a higher score on the quiz. In this case, both Albert and Sabrina are clearly cheating.

    On the other hand, here is what is fair in taking a quiz:

    1. Take it yourself without asking anyone else.
    2. Send an email to, or phone, the instructor, asking specific questions.
    3. Ask a classmate where to look for information leading to the answer.

    While it is difficult for the instructor to be positive if a student is or is not taking a quiz fairly, it is usually easy enough to tell by comparing the times that a quiz is submitted with the score and by comparing performance on the exams with performance on quizzes. Such problems are rare at Las Positas, but they have occurred. Please don't be overly worried; I am not expecting to find any evidence of cheating!

    Doing well on quizzes:

    There are three things you can do to improve your quiz score:

    1) Review the appropriate text, CD-ROM, and Web sites as listed in the syllabus before starting the quiz!

    2) take the on-line practice quizzes provided by the published of your textbook. There is a hyperlink the weekly schedule that will get you to the right place. About 25% of these questions will be found on our quizzes, and other questions are quite similar

    3) Use the discussion are to post questions and helpful information.


    There is one midterm, and one final exam . The midterm is composed of four to six essay questions, while the final is a mixture of multiple choice and essays. Exams are open for a period of a few days, but they are also timed. In other words, you can begin the exam anytime during a three day period, for example, but once you begin you have 3 hours for the midterm, and 4.5 hours for the final exam to finish. The material on both exams should be quite familiar from your experience with prior quizzes--The content for both exams will rely heavily on quizzes, as well as some important text, Internet, and "PlanetTales" topics not covered on quizzes. If you miss the midterm exam without arranging for a make-up exam, you may still take a make-up at the discretion of the instructor (i.e. if missing the exam was unavoidable). However, 10% will be deducted from your point total.

    There will be no "after the fact" make-up for the final exam Prior arrangements must be made well ahead of time.

    Assignments and Research.

    Recent Astro 10 student projects on the web (not required for summer session, but interesting nonetheless).

    There will be three assignments for you to complete this summer. The first is simply a matter of "paperwork", getting your email setup, using the discussion area for the first time, and creating a home page for yourself. The second assignment is a survey of your friends and family regarding "astro-literacy", and the third is a current event update, where you do a bit of research on the web and from print sources and post a one or two page "review article" in the discussion area. Much more information on these assignments are found in both the weekly syllabus and the Assignments area of Blackboard.

    To see some examples of previous student work (web pages only), check out the "Student Projects" featured in the Learning Resources Page, linked to the top of this page. These projects are from Fall and Spring courses and are not required in the summer course.

    Note that your topic for assignment 3 must not focus on material generally discussed in the other astronomy course taught at Las Positas College, namely astronomy 20. These "forbidden" topics include Black Holes, Stars, Galaxies, Cosmology, and Dark Matter.


    Graphic of person pushing ball uphill
    Your grade will be based on total points as follows:

    Quizzes:1x 10 + 10 x 25 pts each = 260 pts

    Midterm Exam: 50 pts

    Blackboard assignments: 50 points

    Participation in On-line discussion: 25 points

    Final exam 75 pts

    Total 460pts

    Grades (out of 500 possible points)

    A 88.5% = 407.1
    B 76.5% = 351.9
    C 65% = 299
    D 55% = 253

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