ASTRONOMY 121, Section 2, Sched. No. 30012

Fall 1999

Introduction to the Sky and the Solar System

TIME AND LOCATION: Mon, Wed, Fri, 11:00-11:50 AM, Clark 140

INSTRUCTOR: Mark Whittle

OFFICE HOURS: Room 216, Astronomy Building, 530 McCormick Rd., Telephone 924-4900 Office hours Mon, Wed, Fri 2:00-3:30; (or by appointment); electronic mail:


Astronomy web page:

TEACHING ASSISTANTS: Teaching Assistants are available to provide assistance and answer questions about the general course material on M, W, F (3:30pm -- 6:30pm) and T, R (9:00am -- 12:00pm) in the Astronomy Lab, Room 267 of the Astronomy Building, from September 13 through December 10. TA help is also available during night lab (M,T,W,R 9--11pm) if it is cloudy.

TEXT: Fraknoi, Morrison & Wolff, Voyages through the Universe available at the University Bookstore or Follett's bookstore on the corner. This text comes with a CD ROM, which you are encouraged to use if you have access to the necessary computing facilities (but this is not required).

ATTENDANCE POLICY: While class attendance is at your option, it will be in your best interest to attend regularly. Some of the material to be on the exams will be discussed only in the lectures. You must attend the scheduled exams and the final. Makeup exams are given only at the discretion of the instructor. See me before the exam if you have a conflict.

EXAMS: There will be three midterm exams each worth 100 points and a final exam worth 200 points, scheduled for Tuesday, December 14th at 9:00 AM -- 12:00 PM in Clark 140. The questions on the exams will be multiple choice, true/talse, and short answer, and will be based on the lectures and the textbook. The exams are closed book, and calculators are allowed.


A) Constellation Quiz :
All students must take the constellation identification quiz, which is worth 25 points (see Student Information Sheet for details). The quizzes are held in the student observing area, M,T,W,R ( not F) at 9-11 pm starting Sept 6 and ending Dec 9. Try to avoid nights near full moon since fewer stars are visible. It is also in your best interest to do the night lab early in the semester. There will be fewer students, you can receive more individual attention, and your time spent will be less. In fact, to receive FULL CREDIT for this assignment you must completed it before November 11. NOTE: After November 11 and before the end of the semester, you can receive no more than half credit. Since you have all semester to meet this requirement, NO EXCUSES of any kind will be accepted for failure to complete the lab.

B) Telescope Observing Lab :
An optional lab for 25 points extra credit. The lab involves sketching three objects though our 6-inch or 10-inch telescopes and one object through our 26-inch McCormick telescope (Lab starts at 9pm, see Student Information Sheet for details). The lab runs Mondays and Thursdays starting Sept 20 ending Dec 9. Meet in the parking area next to Alderman Rd, south west of the Astronomy Building at 9pm.

ADDITIONAL OBSERVING OPPORTUNITIES: There are public nights at the McCormick Observatory, on the first and third Friday of every month, and one public night at the Fan Mountain Observatory on Friday October 15. Free tickets for the Fan Mountain open house are available from the astronomy department secretary.

GRADES: To allow for variable exam performance I will drop the worst midterm exam (or assign half weight to the final if it is the worst). Counting the midterms, final, constellation quiz and computer lab, there are 425 points possible. Viewing this as `out of a hundred', the grade boundaries will be approximately 85 (A/B), 75 (B/C) and 65 (C/D). There may be slight shift of these boundaries so that about 60% of the class would get a B or better. Only after these grade boundaries are defined will the Telescope Observing Extra Credit Lab be added. Your final grade will then reflect this score. Intermediate grades (+ or -) will be assigned. Pass/Fail students must get C- or better to `pass'.

While the constellation lab may seem to be a minor part of the total grade, consider that its essentially all or nothing so that failure to do the lab typically reduces your grade by a half grade level (eg from B- to C+).

HONOR CODE: I would like to remind you that ALL work for this class is subject to the Honor Code, that is, it must be yours and yours alone. You may, of course, consult with myself or TAs on course material, but the exams and lab work should be exclusively your own.