Last modified: 8/12/10

astronomy 20 course info
: Eric W. Harpell
    phone: 925-424-1379
Office hours:
no official hours in Fall —email works best!
Please read this entire document carefully!
 Spiral Galaxy NGC 4911 in the Coma Cluster
Spiral Galaxy NGC 4911 in the Coma Cluster

Welcome! If you are new to Astronomy 10, take 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 at the end of this document.

Succeeding in Astronomy 20

In a nutshell, you need to do six things to succeed in this class.

5 Blackboard quizzes (from quizzes and exams area in blackboard) 25 pts each x 5 = 125 pts

5 homework assignments from “smartwork” website   20 pts each x 5 = 125  pts = 100 pts

One astro survey assignment  = 20 pts

Discussion Board postings in Blackboard = 105 pts

one final Exam = 50 pts

total = 400 pts

 Grades (out of 400 possible points)

A 88.5%

= 354

B 77.5%


C 65%


D 55%


***Schedule of Exams and Assignments***** Click here or See “Class Schedule ” in the Blackboard Course menu. This is your lifeline to the class, so don't ingore it! Print it up and post it where you will see it often!

Course materials

Required text: available at the LPC bookstore
21st Century Astronomy: Stars and Galaxies + E-book Folder
Author: Hester
**make sure you get the book says "stars and galaxies" *** and is listed for Astro 20 DE1 and instructor Harpell.
there are a few packages available on cyberspace, but the recomended ISBN 978-0-393-93285-0

You can also purchase the recommended package through the publisher
21st Century Astronomy: Stars and Galaxies + E-book Folder:

Important notes:
You can also purchase the “complete” book simply called
21st Century Astronomy 3e.  Note that you absolutely do need to purchase access to the Smartwork course assistant website.  This comes free with new books, so please check if you wish to purchase a used book online, or try to make due with another astronomy textbook.

cover of course textbook


Also check out the Study Space—an online Student Study Guide for 21st Century Astronomy:

The "Study Space" is not required for the class, but may help you on blackboard quizzes.

In addition to Blackboard, The Smartwork Website is another portal to learning astronomy over the Internet. This site includes animated tutorials, ranking tasks, diagnostic questions, and other learning activities. In effect, this is your homework for the course, and worth 1/4 of the possible points, so please don't ingnore it.


You will need to create a SmartWork account and self-enroll into the proper 

class by following the "First Time User" instructions at


You  will need:

1. a valid email address

2. The enrollment key for your course: BLUMEN893 (case-sensitive)!

3. a registration code from W.W. Norton.  This proof-of-purchase allows

students to access your course after their free two-week trial period.  This Key comes free with your text, or can be purchased by following the instructions at


Blackboard Unit Quizzes There will be 5 Unit quizzes in the quizzes and exams area of Blackboard.  The dates and content of the quizzes can be found in the course schedule below.  These are open book, open notes, and open internet quizzes.  You are encouraged to collaborate with fellow students in completing these quizzes—however, not all questions will be the same!  These quizzes are not timed, but they must be submitted prior to the due date, or a 10% late penalty will be applied.   These quizzes are generally 25 multiple choice questions drawing on all content listed in the class schedule (look for all the information in the same row as the Quiz).

Final Exam:
There is one final exam. It will be a mixture of essay and multiple choice, which will be based on Blackboard quizzes, and Smart Work Assignments.  In general, the goal of the final exam is to ensure that you have understood and mastered material you have already seen on quizzes and homework assignments.  Note that you will be provided with a set of 6 - 10 essay Questions a few weeks before the final.
Three of these will be selected at random and placed on the final exam.

Astro Survey Assignment :
This assignment will require you to take a basic knowledge survey quiz, and then administer a similar but more detailed quiz to three or four other people.  You will then be asked to summarize the results of this survey and put the results into perspective.  You will receive 5 points simply for taking the survey quiz yourself, and up to 15 points for doing a through job on the survey.  More details on this survey will be found in Blackboard in the " Astro Survey ” link. 

Blackboard Discussion
There will be four questions of the month for you to answer this summer in the blackboard discussion area, well as current interest , Quiz tips and tricks, and class help forums .   The four questions of the month will require you to do some research on or off line, and present the results of your research in a the form of a "mini paper". Each of these questions of the Month will be graded on a scale of 0 - 20 points each. Specific directions for completing these Questions will be found in Question itself in the Blackboard discussion area.
In addition to the Question of the Month, there will also be a section for you to post general questions realted to the five quizzes in blackboard, or even better, to help your classmates by replying to a post. There will also be a current itnerest section where you can post information, websites, and comments related to material you have found online, on TV, in print, at a Planetarium, Observatory, or simply in the sky while taking this course. Finally, there will be a "general class help" section where you can post questions, or respond to classmates post regarding smartwork, test taking strageies, deadlines, or anything else that comes up. Points for disucssion board items will be awarded as follows:

Questions of the Month -- 4 x 20 points each = 80 points
blackboard Quizzes, current interest, Genral help = 20 points

Note that you do not have to post in all three areas (Quizzes, current interest, General Help) to receive all of the 20 points possible. The 20 points available here are awarded at at the instructors discression. More specifically, if you post quite a bit in one forum, it can compensate for lack of posts in other forum. This will not be the case for the questions of the month, however!

Class conduct and Academic Dishonesty:
You are encouraged to collaborate on quizzes and assignments. You may not collaborate on the final exam.  Also, it is absolutely considered cheating if you get feedback from a student who has already taken a quiz.   Any students caught cheating on a quiz or exam will be given an F for the assessment and referred to the Dean of Student services for disciplinary action, which may include expulsion from Las Positas college.  Such incidents are rare, but do occur yearly. Students are also expected to use common courtesy in their discussion board posts and replies. Profane, or high negative comments may result in expulsion from the class.

Click Here for the Class Schedule