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Detailed Course Description

The course will consist of both lecture (with lots of discussion - I'd like to run a summer course very nearly ``seminar style'' as we can because of the small class size - and required viewing sessions. Viewing, unfortunately, will have to depend on the weather - some nights will be crisp, cool, clear, and moonless (ideal for telescope viewing, in other words) and others will be hazy, or raining, or the moon will be out and washing out all of the stars.

The disadvantage of summer courses is that we have no control over the moon and the weather, and so we'll have to take our viewing as we can get it in the six week stretch of the course. For that reason we will have ``come as you are'' observation sessions whenever the conditions are particularly good, and may even try to schedule a "field trip" to e.g. the Blue Ridge Parkway for an overnight viewing session far from the city lights and up relatively high, where the Milky Way can be better appreciated. I will try to give you adequate notice of nights that conditions will (probably) be good when I can, but sometimes the weather forecast will become favorable only on the day of viewing. We have only one stretch where the moon will be completely absent over the six week stretch (the next dark of the moon is June 12) so try to keep the stretch from last quarter through the new moon free in the evenings.

Observing is part of the fun of the course, so hopefully this will be no real burden. As noted above, you are also welcome to invite your friends to come along and view with us as long as we have room and time on the scopes to share (and as long as you let me know that you are bringing them so I can keep track of this).

After every observation session you will need to prepare a short report on what you viewed, including a hand-drawn star map of the night sky as you observed it on the night in question at some particular time. By comparing these maps at different times on the same night and at the same time on different nights over the course of the session, you can see first hand the apparent motion of the stars that leads us to understand the motion of the earth!

In this course we will cover the following basic topics (and answer some of the following basic questions):

In order to learn something as interesting (but complex!) as astronomy, you have to invest time in study outside of class, especially on a summer schedule where there is less time for reflection. To help facilitate this, there will be a mixed bag of homework: both readings and some problems (although I expect to assign fewer problems than the regular course assigns given the time constraints).

I expect all students to come to class, to do the assigned problems and to keep up with the reading. I won't take attendance per se in class, but if you are routinely absent in a seminar style class it will be pretty obvious and I'll eventually start knocking down your grade.

The grading of the course will be (approximately!):

25% Homework
25% Observation and participation
25% Quizzes and exams
25% Final
As a starting point, you should assume something like:
$<50$% F
$<60$% D
$<75$% C
$<90$% B
$\ge 90$% A

This scheme should make it pretty easy to pass the course - do your homework, come to class and participate in the discussion in a way that shows that you've done the reading, participate in the viewing sessions and you will get at least a D even if you get a zero on all of the quizzes, exams, and final (which of course will never happen). To do well, of course, you'll have to do at least decently on the quizzes, exams, and final - but that should be easy enough if you've done your homework and reading and so on.

Note well that I reserve the right to tweak this scheme as needed to your advantage if the averages are unusually low, and that while most of your grade is objective, things like participation are at least partly subjective. I will try to provide feedback in a timely way if you are irritating me by not coming to class or coming to class but not having done any reading before it affects your grade, but ultimately showing up is your responsibility.

next up previous contents
Next: The Rules Up: Physics 55 Course Description/Syllabus Previous: Wikilinks   Contents
Robert G. Brown 2010-06-26