PHYS 2931 Independent Study:  Planetary Astronomy  Fall 2013

Class Home page:  (this page!)

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Class time and place:  M 2:00-2:50 am, SA 111.  Tests & Quizzes on: 2:00 Wed (tentative)

Section: 1 (CRN=) 3 credits.

Instructor: Dr. Jason Pinkney 

Office hours  in 111 Science Annex at  these times

Email or call 419-772-2740. 

Instructor's Home page:

Mars - Valles Marineris

     (Watch this spot for new links, solutions, etc.)

This is a link about solving word problems in general.
Week 1 outline (PDF) (Requires ONU Username & passwd.)
See the main class web page here for the rest of the "New Stuff".


Text: Astronomy Today, 7/E,  (7th Edition)  by Chaisson and McMillan. This text can be rented new or used for big $ savings. You can write in used rentals without a penalty. New textbooks are recommended for astronomy minors and others that will save the book or take all sections of astronomy.

How the Independent Study works:  The student must study the same material covered in the class PHYS 1051, but nearly completely independently.   However, the grades will be based on the same categories (e.g., homework) as in the class.  There is a weekly meeting  with the instructor to answer questions, discuss new material, and assign new material.

The student must register for PHYS 2931 instead of PHYS 1051.  Note that "Planetary Astronomy" will still appear on the transcript.

Course Description:
This course is an introductory astronomy course. Astronomy has so many subfields that it is impossible to cover them all in one semester. This course deals mainly with the solar system (hence "Planetary Astronomy") and leaves out most of the material on the stars, galaxies and cosmology. We begin with historical and modern understanding of the naked eye universe: that which we can see without a telescope.  We then look in detail at the solar system:  planets, their myriad moons, comets, and  asteroids.  We now have data on numerous extrasolar planets (planets around other stars) which challenge our theories of solar system evolution. 

A major theme of this class is learning by comparison. The term "comparitive planetology" is often used to describe how we can verify some hypotheses about the Earth by comparing it to the other planets (especially Venus and Mars). Similarly, we are now refining our overall view of the formation of our solar system by comparing to extrasolar systems.  I plan on taking you to the new ONU Observatory to use telescopes and look at the sky.  Try to ``keep an eye on the sky" during this course and bring your questions and news items to class for discussion.

The course is also tagged to fulfill a general education outcome (#3) called 'scientific and quantitative literacy'. One assignment will also be an 'artifact' showing how this outcome was met. Only students entering ONU on or after Fall 2011 have to be concerned with actually archiving the artifact.

Week of Topic Chapter(s) Tests
Observatory opportunities
Syllabus. Survey of Universe. 1 Survey
Welcomefest (8/25)

Naked Eye Universe - the celestial sphere, seasons, etc
1 quiz1 PE* (Venus by Spica)
9/9,11,13 Moon and eclipses, Copernican Revolution

Copern. Rev., Solar System Physics
Radiation and our Sun
Exam I
The Sun, PE (Apogee)
Solar System Overview, Earth 6
quiz4 PE (Uranus)
10/7,9,11 Earth 7


10/16,18 Moon, Mercury, Venus 8,9
quiz6 PE (Lunar Eclipse)
10/21,23,25 Venus, Mars 9,10

10/28,30; 11/1 Jupiter 11
Exam II
PE (Venus)
11/4,6,8 Saturn 12

11/11,13,15 Uranus and Neptune 13

Pluto and Solar System Debris 14
PE (Jupiter)

Formation of Planetary Systems 6,15 quiz9
Exoplanets / Extraterrestrial Life 15,28 quiz10, Constel.Sheets Geminids
12/16 (Mon)
Comprehensive Final at 9:15-11:15 AM, usual classroom. _ Final exam.

* PE = Public Event (run 8-10 pm on Fridays)

Constellation wksht, Observatory
In-class Homework, worksheets.
Quizzes Quizzes (drop lowest grade) 20%
Exams There will be two exams and a final. 50%

Your final letter grade is assigned roughly as follows:


I will not grade any "harder" than the above. However, if the class mean drops below about 73, I may grade more leniently.

Course Policies

Attendance is important for doing well in this course.  Absenteeism can directly lower your grade if you miss a quiz or in-class activity.  Your attendance record can also help boost your grade if you fall on a grade boundary. Let me know in advance (e-mail is good) if you plan to miss for a valid reason (e.g. your team is on the road, you are sick, you have a family emergency).  If you miss a quiz or exam because of an emergency, let me know as soon as possible, and provide proof of the emergency. "Proof" may consist of the name and phone number of some parent or authority figure who knows your situation. If you miss an in-class worksheet activity, you should get a copy of the worksheet but you won't receive credit for that work.

Homework will consist mainly of reading the textbook and writing answers to review questions from the textbook. A lack of Math ability will not have a great influence on graded material, but you should try to improve your problem solving skills during this course.   Homework will receive 50% credit if turned in late. It will be scored on completeness and correctness, but not every problem will be checked. You should discuss homework with your classmates, but don't copy their work verbatim.

Quizzes will be given on non-exam weeks.  They will consist of about 10 multiple choice/short answer questions.  They cover the assigned reading and especially the material discussed in class.  You can only make up a quiz that was missed because of a valid conflict or emergency.  Also, you can only make up the quiz before the answers are revealed (usually the next period). For this reason, I will drop your lowest quiz score.

Exams will be given roughly every 4-5 weeks. These will weigh most heavily towards your class grade. The final exam will be comprehensive, but will emphasize the last 5-6 weeks of material.

Lab (astro minors only)
The lab for this class is Physics 1081. Please sign up for this lab during the first week only if you are an astronomy minor.  (Astronomy minors have to take PHYS 2311, 2321, 3471, etc.)  Otherwise, you do not need the lab. See the instructor to arrange meeting time and place.

Disruptions If you are interfering with the learning of the class, or you are distracting the teacher, you need to stop. Texting and surfing the web are considered disruptive. Talking during a lecture is disruptive. Don't arrive too late or leave too early (without an urgent personal reason).

Academic Misconduct The College of A&S has a Code for Academic Student Conduct and forms for reporting students. Academic integrity is one of the basic principles of a university community. Ohio Northern University encourages and expects the highest standards of academic honesty from all students. The A&S code states that cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary action. In PHYS 1061 (this class), the biggest temptation will be to look at another person's work during tests. Do not wear caps during quizzes or exams or store information on electronic devices. The penalty for cheating is a zero score for the quiz or exam.

Calculators  I encourage you to use a calculator in this class. A simple calculator will suffice.

Tutoring is available. You are welcome to drop by during my office hours, or you can make an appointment. I will look for a previous astronomy student to provide tutoring.   The physics department usually has tutors on Thursday evenings (TBA) in Science Annex 116.


  Exploratorium's Astro Links Pinkney's Homepage The ONU Physics Homepage