Las Positas college in Autumn

Astronomy 20 Section V01 spring 2009

Instructor: Eric W. Harpell
Office: 1830 Science building
phone: 925-424-1379

The Palomar Telescope at Night

Instructor: Eric W. Harpell

spiral galaxy NGC 4945

NGC 4945 in Centaurus

last revised 1/12/09 at 4pm

Welcome! If you are new to Astronomy 20, take a a few minutes to read the course description and information below. The timeline for everything you need to do in the class is contained in the Weekly Schedule. You will see the link for this webpage at the top of this page. Please check it out as soon as you can! If you have questions about anything in this document, please ask in class on Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 - 10:45 in room 2490.

Course Information: contents

  • General Course Information
  • Participation and assessment
  • Required Materials
  • Quizzes
  • Mastering Astronomy
  • Exams
  • Grading
  • Getting Help

  • General Course Information


    Astro 20 is a one semester introduction to the sun and stars, galaxies, large scale structure of the Universe, and other mysterious objects that illuminate our night sky . Along the way, we will explore the motions of the Sun, Earth, and moon, and develop an appreciation for the tremendous scale of distances in cosmos. We will also study the earliest moments of of the Universe, and the relationship between those early times and and world we live in today. Another important component of Astronomy 20 is the study of how astronomers do their work, and how the tools of astronomy, such as telescopes and detectors allow us to peer into the darkest corners of the cosmos.

    Nuts and bolts

    Learning and processing the big picture presented in astronomy 20 will take a serious commitment of time and concentration. To provide a point a reference, students are advised to set aside nine hours per week for the class--three hours in class, and six studying and working through class materials. My best advice is to try to do something related to astronomy every day until you find a pace that works.

    In simplest terms, you will need to do six things to succeed in this class. In order of importance to your grade, they are

    • come to class regularly, take notes, and complete worksheets as handed out.
    • Study material from your textbook and websites listed in the class syllabus (working with classmates is highly recommended)
    • prepare for and take five quizzes.
    • complete Assignments from the Mastering Astronomy Website
    • take a final exam
    • ask questions and get help from your instructor

    Course Catalog Description:

    family portrait: NGC3603 from APOD


    Introduction to the study of stars, galaxies, and cosmology. Includes the nature of light, telescopes, spectroscopy, stellar formation and evolution, galaxies, quasars, and cosmology. Designed for non- majors in mathematics or a physical science. A companion science lab, Astronomy 30, is also available. 3 hours

    Course Materials

    Required text:

    The textbook for our course is The Cosmic Perspective: Stars, Galaxies, & Cosmology ,5th edition


    Astronomy, the Cosmic Perspective

    both texts by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit , 5th edition.

    you need one text or the other but not both. See below for more info!

    cosmic perspective-stars text

    Cosmic Perspective Text

    Mastering Astronomy Access Code

    If you purchase your text new in the bookstore, a code for accessing the Mastering Astronomy Website will be included in an insert in your text. If you purchase your book used, or elsewhere, you will need to purchase an access code once you log on the Mastering Astronomy. The cost is approximately $27. Note that you must enter the class id: MAHARPELL2009   when you register for the site using your access code.


    Other Course materials:

    • Computer access: Access to Computer with working Internet connection at home. If your connection goes down for a few days there are a large number of computers available on campus at Las Positas College (try the Learning Resource Center). Local Libraries, Internet cafes, and community colleges also have Internet access. You are responsible for keeping up with class work regardless of the status of your Internet connection!


    Analemma Over the Porch of Maidens

    Participation and Assessment .

    Grades in Astronomy 20 will be based on your performance on mastering astronomy assignments, 5 in-class quizzes, a final exam, and class attendance and participation. Each these graded items will be discussed in more detail below.

    Class Participation

    You are expected to come to class regularly. Although attendance will not be taken each week, worksheets will be passed out and collected weekly or by-weekly. Although these will not be rigorously graded for correctness, they will be checked for effort and of course, for attendance. Approximately 65% of the points for attendance and participation will come from these worksheets and class attendance records. The remaining points will come simply from your instructors determination of the level of effort you have made to come to class and understand class material.

    boomerang nebula


    There will be 5 quizzes on dates given in the schedule. Quizzes will be based on lectures, worksheets, textbook material, and Mastering Astronomy assignments. Three quizzes will be traditional in-class quizzes with essay, short answer, and multiple choice. Two of the quizzes with be on-line through blackboard. The producure for taking this quizzes will be explained in class.
    In class quiz questions will not be drawn from external websites (those linked to the class), although they may be of help from time to time. On-line qjuizzes are open notes, open book and open internet, so they may contain questions that require a bit of research. Students coming regularly to class will be prepared for the quizzes by participating on the worksheets and also studying from review sheets handed out or placed on line prior to the quizzes.

    Missed or late Quizzes:

    Your final exam can replace your lowest or missed quiz. In other words, if you do well on the final, it counts double and your lowest quiz score will disappear! . If you have missed one quiz, then the final exam percentage will automatically replace the missing quiz. If you miss a second quiz, you will be allowed to make it up with a 15 % late penalty within ten days of the original quiz.. If you know you are going to miss a quiz in advance, please see your instructor for alternative arrangements.

    Assignments from Mastering Astronomy

    Mastering Astronomy Website is portal to learning astronomy over the Internet. This site is found at Note that you must enter the class id:MAHARPELL2009 when you register for the site using your access code.

    Word of warning: DO NOT IGNORE THE Mastering astronomy website!

    Tutorials and Quizzes from this site are particularly useful and are a required part of the class! The Mastering Astronomy website is designed, created, and updated by the publishers of your textbook. A guide to getting started in the is included below. You are graded for completing assignments in the "assignment list" in mastering astronomy on a scale of 20 points. It is best to complete the assignments after you finish reading each chapter,.and before you take the appropriate quiz in blackboard. A schedule of assignments in mastering astronomy is found in the class schedule/syllabus. Note that Mastering Astronomy contains many more tutorials than the ones listed here. You can access the "extra" tutorials, as well as practice quizzes and interactive figures by clicking on the tabs beneath the "study area". . For full credit, you must get 80% or better.If you get less than 80% you grade will be computed by taking your percentage dived by 80%, and then multiplied by 100% or 20 points. So if you get 50%, for example, your score will be 50/80 x 100% = 63% or 12.5 points. You can easily get over 80% however, but practicing the tutorials and quizzes in the study area.

    Please be sure to Read the Guide to Mastering Astronomy

    When you register for the mastering Astronomy website, be sure to enter the class ID:MAHARPELL2009 

    If you purchase your text new in the bookstore, a code for accessing the Mastering Astronomy will be included in an insert in your text. If you purchase your book used, or elsewhere, you will need to purchase an access code once you log on the Mastering Astronomy. The cost is approximately $27.

    Grading:animated gif man pushing round boulder up a hill and the man slides backward down the hill
    Your grade will be based on total points as follows:
    • tutorials from Mastering Astronomy--100 points
    • 5 in class quizzes --250 points
    • a final exam 50 points
    • course participation 50 points

    total = 450 pts

    Grades (out of 450 possible points)

    A 88.5% = 398
    B 77.5% = 344
    C 65% = 292
    D 55% = 247

    Getting Help

    Ask questions during class, or after class...even better, come to your instructors office hours in room 1830 (I may also be next door to 1824).

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