Instructor: Eric W. Harpell -Astro 10 Section DE1

The Palomar Telescope at Night

[Course Information] [Weekly Schedule] [Blackboard]

[Contacting the Instructor][Learning Resources][the astronomy place]

Last modified: 8/22/04 at 11PM

Mars as Seen from the Hubble Space Telescope
Mars as Seen from the HST--closest approach to Earth on August 27, 2003

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. However, there will be an orientation session on Tuesday, August 24, in Room 2204 on campus from 7:00- 7:50 p.m. Bring your questions, or simply come and meet your instructor and classmates in an informal setting! Students are strongly encouraged to attend. Information from the orientation is likely to save you a great deal of time and energy!


Getting started in Astro 10 DE

Course Information: general information about learning Astronomy via the Internet, as well as course requirements, grading standards, and necessary materials

Weekly Schedule: an interactive schedule containing information about all assignments, quizzes, and exams

Contacting the Instructor: office hours, mail, 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 course messages, , Class discussions area, Quizzes and Exams area, and Assignments area

Course Information: contents

Stonhenge at twilight

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 DE 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!

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

Course materials

Required text: The textbook for our course is Bennett's The Solar System, the Cosmic perspective 3rd edition (2005). It is available at the LPC bookstore. If you purchase it from the bookstore, you will also receive the PlanetTales 5 CD-ROM (also required) for no charge when it arrives early in the semester. If you purchase The Solar System, the Cosmic perspective 3rd edition on-line or elsewhere the PlanetTales CD will cost $12.50 (please contact the instructor). Astronomy 30 students will also need the Voyager "Sky Gazer" CD-ROM which also comes packaged with the book.


The Solar System by Bennett

Note: Benett's "The Solar System--The Cosmic Perspective" is a "split"-- approximately half of Bennett's Astronomy, the Cosmic Perspective (the 3rd edition, 2005). The other half is currently used in astronomy 20.

The Cosmic Perspective



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! If you purchase the book from the bookstore, the CD will be made available free of charge when it arrives (hopefully the first week of September). You will be notified via announcement and message in Blackboard and announcement when it is in and your options for getting in person of via mail.

Participation and Assessment .......... Telescopes from ESA in South America

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

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. If you try to post once a week following the guidelines in the Rubrics section above, you will undoubtedly earn the maximum grade for the discussion portion of this class.


Grades in Astronomy 10-Distance Education are based on your performance in four areas:

  1. tutorials and practice quizzes from The Astronomy Place website (optional--see below)
  2. 11 online quizzes,
  3. one midterm exam,
  4. four research assignments,
  5. a final exam,
  6. course participation in on-line discussions.

    These assignments are described in more detail below.

Before each lesson, you should read the appropriate sections described in the Weekly Schedule. 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 (although Quiz 0 is only a test that you have read and understood the course information (most of which is listed here!). 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.
To take the quizzes, you will need to be be in Blackboard, in the quizzes and exams area.

Tutorials and Pracetice Quizzes from The Astronomy Place

There are a second set of practice or "tutorial quizzes" provided by the textbook authors, and located in "The Astronomy Place". These quizzes will allow you to actively study the course material, and get insight into the regular quiz questions. Some of the questions from the 10 graded quizzes will even be identical to the practice quiz questions.

You can take the Tutorial Quizzes any two times--keep your best score! Be sure to save the quizzes and the feedback, either on your computer or as a hard copy. This will help you succeed with the quizzes above. The Tutorial Quizzes scores themselves are entered in a gradebook which will be used in determining your final grade in the class (see below). You can elect not to do them, or do only a few and it will not count against you, but I strongely advise you to keep up with the tutorial quizzes and let them help you percent in the class as well! The class schedule will provide information about when you need to take the tutorial quizzes--there are no formal due dates, but in order for them to count, you must complete approximately half before the midterm, and half before the final exam..

When you go to this site,

  1. Look for a picture of your textbook (The Cosmic Perspective 3rd Ed: Stars, Galaxies, & Cosmology by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit.) and click on it.
  2. Register for the site using the long ID number contained in your textbook. If you don't have such an ID number you can obtain one from the publisher for a small fee--look for links directing you to purchase an ID number.
  3. Once you have logged in you will need to join the class so that your scores are recorded in the proper gradebook. Your class ID number is: cm998017 .
  4. Once you have joined the class, check out the options avaialble. For credit, you will need to view the tutorials and take the practice quizzes.
  5. Take the Tutorial Quizzes two times and save your highest score. Be sure to save the quizzes and the feedback, either on your computer or as a hard copy. Your score should be automatically recorded in the gradebook, but just in case, keep good records of your feedback and score..this will help you study as well as provide a record of your work.
  6. As you view the tutorials, keep a "log" of of your progress. In one sentence of more, describe What the tutorial was about, what you learned, what questions you still have, and what date you did it. When you turn in your final project, this journal should be attached to the end. Although you can work together with another person, your journal must be your own work and must be unique!

Missed quizzes:

If you miss a deadline for submitting a quiz, you can still submit quizzes 1 - 9 late! The price you pay for lateness, however, is an automatic 10% deduction for submission after a deadline. Quiz 0, and quiz 10 must be submitted by the due date listed in the course schedule.

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 message 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!


There is one midterm, and one final exam . Exams will be multiple choice, short answer, and short essay. 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 unless prior arrangements have been made well ahead of time.

Research Assignments:

There will be three research assignments in Blackboard. The first assignment will be for you to take, and then administer a survey of basic astronomical knowledge. The results will be reported in the discussion area of Blackboard. The second assignment will be an current event summary, basically a report on a print article of current interest in solar system astronomy backed up by information that you find on the web. The third assignment is a mini research project, which can be a paper or web site. More of this will be discussed below. For some "above and beyond" examples, see:

Recent Astro 10 student projects on the web

Since Astronomy 10 is a brief introduction to the Solar system, you are encouraged to study a topic of interest in more detail than covered in the course. The only criteria for choosing a topic is that it be directly related to course material and that you have access to three recent references on the subject, both electronic and print (two of one, one of the other), and that your material is current (for example, a report of Mars should include the results of the most recent spacecraft missions). In particular, you are encouraged to explore areas of current debate such as:

  • the discovery and search for extra-solar planets
  • the possibility of life on Mars
  • Current Satellite/Robotic missions to Mars
  • the internal structure of Europa
  • the possibility of finding life on Europa or other Jovian moon
  • the geology of Mars or Venus
  • the evolution of the Earth's atmosphere
  • the possibilities for colonizing the moon or other world.
  • The Cassini mission to Saturn
  • 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.

    Note that your topic 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.

    Of course, there a large number of good choices, too numerous to list here. Once you have selected a topic, the requirements are:

    1. You must send a proposal to your instructor via Blackboard message or email on or before the due date. After receiving feedback from your instructor, you can then post your proposal in the discussion area and coments on proposals from other students, providing helpful feedback. Your grade in the discussion portion of the class will include your participation in this project.

    2. Write a minimum of 4 pages (typed, double-spaced) and submit it on or before the due date listed in the syllabus. In lieu of a formal paper, you may create a web site with illustrations, links, etc., so long as the text content is still equivalent to four double-spaced and typed pages. While this type of presentation is strongly encouraged, it is by no means mandatory! Whether you create a web presentation or type a formal paper, you must bring, or send or email, a printed copy to the instructor (see "Contacting the Instructor" for the address) on or before the due date.


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

    Option one

    • tutorials and practice quizzes from The Astronomy Place --75 points
    • 11 online quizzes 210 points
    • one midterm exam 50 points
    • three research assignments 50 points
    • a final exam 75 points
    • course participation in on-line discussions. 40 points

    total = 500 pts

    Option two

    • 11 online quizzes 260 points
    • one midterm exam 50 points
    • three research assignments 50 points
    • a final exam 100 points
    • course participation in on-line discussions. 40 points


    total = 500 pts

    You don't need to choose now..I'll pick whatever option gives you the higher grade. Make sure to keep track of your work in the astronomy place.You can take each practice quiz two times and keep your highest score. They will be automatically recorded in a gradebook for the instructors use, but just in case, keep a record of your work! Your participation in the tutorials will also be recorded. Use an electronic Journal (i.e. document file) to keep track of when you did each tutorial and what comments you had about it (one or two sentences at least on what you learned, what you liked or didn't like, and what questions you might have). I will send out messages and announcements to all of your to give more details on how this section will work.

    Grades (out of 500 possible points)

    A 88.5% = 442.5
    B 77.5% = 387.5
    C 65% = 325
    D 55% = 275

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