Ast 109 -introductory astronomy: planetary astronomy fall 2015

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Tu – Th, 4:00 – 5:15 PM @ Jack C. Davis Observatory
Textbook: Cosmic Perspective: The Solar System, 7th Edition

by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit

Course Description:

Offers a descriptive introduction to current concepts of the solar system, modern observational techniques, and their results. Utilizes telescopes and observatory facilities. Includes four laboratory experiences.

Course Objective:

Upon completion of this course, the student will acquire and assimilate knowledge of current topics in astronomy. Objectives are:

  • Perform fundamental calculations related to astronomy.

  • Apply specialized vocabularies related to astronomy

  • Develop an appreciation and understanding of the historical evolution of the ancient science of astronomy as well as the importance for on-going space exploration.

  • Describe and characterize the physical properties and features of planets, moons, asteroids, comets and other material found in our Solar System including the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud region.

  • Understand first principals of observing the night sky using a telescope

  • Understand the motions of the earth and its impact on the daily and seasonal position of celestial objects.

Credit: 3 credits
Grading: Tests and quizzes 25%

Homework, Lab Exercises, Extra Credit 50%

Final Exam 25%

Grading Scale:




























Test and quizzes will be a mix of multiple choice, true and false, complete the sentence, short answer questions and questions about diagrams and tables discussed in class.


Short unannounced quizzes are sometimes given at the beginning of a class; these cannot be made-up if the student is absent at the beginning of class.


There will be at least 3 tests during the semester. Tests are announced ahead of time. Only one make-up test will be given each semester (time and location TBD). This test will only be given to a student who has a valid excuse and who calls or emails the instructor BEFORE THE EXAM IS GIVEN to the class. It is the student’s responsibility to inform the instructor of any intended absences for religious observances in advance. The make-up exam may consist of only essay questions. If you miss two tests, you can only recover (by taking the make-up test) the value of one test.

Homework assignments are due at the beginning of class on the date given. Assignments handed in late are assessed a 25% reduction in points. Assignments after being one week late will not be graded.
Academic Integrity:

Although students are encouraged to work in groups and help each other, students must be honest, turn in all work on an individual basis, and must not copy another student’s work. Plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated and those that practice any form of plagiarism will be given a zero for their work. Any infraction(s) of this policy could result in an automatic dismissal from this class.


Roll is taken at every class.

Please set a goal to attend all classes and be prepared for every class session.

More than 3 unexcused absences will constitute Automatic Dismissal from this class.

Required Supplies: text book, calculator is sometimes helpful.

I can be contacted on my cell phone at 240-460-2362 (please no calls after 9 PM). You can also contact the Science Administrative Assistant at 775-445-4253.

My email is: or
Class Rules:

ALL CELL PHONES must be placed in back pack, purse or pocket and set to vibrate only or turned off before class begins. No texting or any cell phone traffic in class will be tolerated. The class requires your full attention at all times to be successful.
Although the class will be conducted informally, all conversations in class must be directed to the teacher. All questions will be answered by raising your hand. Questions are always encouraged.
Disability Statement:

If you have a disability for which you will need to request accommodations, please contact the Disability Support Services in the Cedar Building, Rooms 209-212 (phone number 775-445-4459).  as soon as possible to arrange for appropriate accommodations.


  • There will be a copy of the text book on hold at the Joe Dini Library for you to access. It can be checked out for several hours at a time. Please use the library on a regular basis. Reading parallel of the course materials will be an educational enhancement to your knowledge base and an opportunity to broaden your understanding of astronomy. Check the “QB” section for most astronomy books. There are journals and magazines, e.g. “Sky and Telescope” and “Astronomy” and online access to journals such as “Science News”. I have requested a DVD copy of the new “COSMOS A Space Time Odyssey” series.

  • There is free tutoring in science at the Learning Skills Center on campus.

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