PHYS 1051 Planetary Astronomy   Fall 2013

Class Home page:  (this page!)
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Class time and place:  MWF, 9:00-9:50 am, Meyer 113
Section: 1 (CRN=20764)
Instructor: Dr. Jason Pinkney 
Office hours  in 111 Science Annex at  these times
Email or call 419-772-2740. 
Instructor's Home page:
Credit hours: 3
Observatory Phone: 772-4028
Mars - Valles Marineris
NEW STUFF      (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.)
All 4 Sky Maps. (PDF)
Sky Map N Horiz. Dec 20, 9pm (png)
Sky Map S Horiz. Dec 20, 9pm (png)
Sky Map N Horiz. Sept 20, 9pm (png)
Sky Map S Horiz. Sept 20, 9pm (png)


Course Description:

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"). Stars, galaxies and cosmology are covered in PHYS 1061. We begin historically with man's interpretation of the nighttime sky; the "naked eye universe" is that which we can see without a telescope.   We then look in detail at the Sun and planets. Space missions, like Cassini and Messenger, continue to make discoveries about planets and their myriad moons. Finally the comets, and asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects are small but important for understanding the early formation of the solar system. We now have data on over 1000 extrasolar planets (planets around other stars) which challenge our theories of solar system formation and evolution. 

I have many goals for you in Planetary Astronomy. I want you to appreciate that facts about the planets (their weather systems, geology, etc.) can clarify our understanding of our own Earth and planetary processes in general. This is called "comparitive planetology". Math has played a big role in the development of astronomy, so I would like to challenge you with a few problems every week. However, your math skills (or lack thereof) will not have much effect on your grade. I will make sure that you get a chance to study the sky directly, using the unaided eye and telescopes, at the ONU Observatory.   Try to ``keep an eye on the sky" during this course and bring your questions and news items to class for discussion. A final goal is for you to see science as distinct from pseudo-sciences, like astrology, which are rejected by the scientific method.

PHYS 1051 is 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.  Students entering ONU on or after Fall 2011 should archive this artifact with Taskstream .

Pre-requisites:  None.

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.

Lab: The lab for this class, PHYS 1081 (1 hr), is only taken by astronomy minors. (You might consider being a minor if your major requires you to take a lot of physics.) Minors should sign up for this lab and speak with me during the first week to set up meeting times.

Observatory: Your attendance at the ONU Observatory will weigh into the "Observing" portion of your grade (see below). There will be one class period which meets at the Observatory to observe the Sun. In addition, you should try to visit at least 3 more times, for "A" work. There is a legal pad in the control room that you must sign to get credit. Only about 40% of the nights are clear enough to observe, and the time of sunset gets progressively earlier. This is why there is no fixed time to visit. Moreover, I do not open the Observatory every night or even every clear night. Your strategy must be to watch the weather and call the Observatory on clear nights to see if it is open. The times I am most likely to be there are: 1) during Friday evenings 8-10 pm or 9-11 pm for Public Events (every 2-3 weeks), 2) during Wednesday evenings around 9:30-10:30 pm for ONU Astronomy Club (meets every other Wednesday) and 3) during astronomy lab nights (to be determined). When you visit, bring along your constellation sheets (see below), and try to get some views through our telescopes and binoculars. I should be able to get you started on your constellations, even though my main focus may be on others. You should bring a friend or two (not necessarily signed up in the class) for the long, dark walk to and from the Observatory.

Week of Topic Chapter(s) Tests
Observatory opportunities
Syllabus. Survey of Universe. 1 Survey
PE1* (Comet Jacques)

Naked Eye Universe - the celestial sphere, seasons, etc
1 quiz1
9/8,10,12 Moon and eclipses, Copernican Revolution

Copern. Rev., Solar System Physics
quiz3 PE2 (Andromeda Glxy)
Radiation and our Sun
Exam I
The Sun
Solar System Overview, Earth 6
10/6,8,10 Earth 7


10/15,17 Moon, Mercury, Venus 8,9
quiz6 PE3 (Uranus)
10/20,22,24 Venus, Mars 9,10

Jupiter 11
Exam II
PE4 (the Moon)
11/3,5,7 Saturn 12

11/10,12,14§ Uranus and Neptune 13
PE5 (Leonids)
Pluto and Solar System Debris 14

Formation of Planetary Systems 6,15 quiz9
Exoplanets / Extraterrestrial Life 15,28 quiz10, Constel.Sheets PE6 (Geminids)
12/17 (Wed)
Comprehensive Final at 9:15-11:15 AM, usual classroom. _ Final exam.

* PE = Public Event (run 8-10 pm on Fridays)
Last day to withdraw "W" from a class.


Constellation sheet, 3+ visits to Observatory
In-class Homework, in-class worksheets, participation 20%
Quizzes Quizzes (drop lowest grade) 25%
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 75, I usually grade more leniently.

Other 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.
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 during week 1 to arrange meeting time and place.
Observing consists of filling out constellation sheets and visiting the ONU Observatory. " SkyMaps like this will be provided under "NEW STUFF" (4 maps total). You will have to label the constellations and put a check only in the constellations that you spotted in the sky. For full credit, you must visit the observatory at least 3 times. Additional visits give you extra credit, but only in the "Observing" portion of your grade. Visiting the Observatory and signing the log will get you credit.
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, so please put away your phones and laptops at the beginning of class. Talking during a lecture is disruptive. Don't arrive too late or leave too early (without an urgent personal reason).
Academic Misconduct Here is the Code of Academic Student Conduct from the College of A&S:
The University expects its students to conduct themselves in a dignified and honorable manner as mature members of the academic community and assumes that individually and collectively they will discourage acts of academic dishonesty.  The University also expects cooperation among administrators, faculty, staff, and students in preventing acts of academic dishonesty, in detecting such acts, reporting them, and identifying those who commit them, and in providing appropriate punishment for offenders. The University Code of Academic Student Conduct is found in Appendix C of the Student Handbook:
In PHYS 1051 (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