ASTR 405 — Planetary Systems
Syllabus for Spring 2018
134 Astronomy Building — MWF 11:00-11:50

Teaching Staff

Instructor Teaching Assistant
Name Prof. Tony Wong Mr. Ricky Chue
Office 227 Astronomy 130 Astronomy
E-mail wongt @ chue2 @
Office Hours Tue 2-3 or by appt Wed 10-11 or by appt

Class Schedule (subject to change)

Course Information

Credit: 3 credit hours.

Prerequisites: Credit in PHYS 212 (University Physics: E&M). Credit or concurrent registration in ASTR 210 (Introduction to Astrophysics) and PHYS 213 (Thermal Physics) is strongly recommended. Some prior knowledge of astronomy is assumed.

Course Web Page: Located on (College of LAS Moodle)

Course Goals

Astronomy 405 is an in-depth survey of the Solar System and exoplanets from an astronomical perspective. We will also cover our current understanding of star and planet formation. Topics include: solar system dynamics; planetary atmospheres, surfaces, and interiors; rings, moons, and interplanetary debris; detection and characterization of extrasolar planets; star and planet formation; searches for life in the solar system and beyond. ASTR 405 is intended for advanced undergraduates with an interest in astronomy and a strong background in physics; it is also suitable for beginning graduate students. The course is highly quantitative, and is intended to provide a flavor of where the current research frontiers in these subjects lie. Upon completion of this course, students should be ready to undertake graduate-level research and coursework in these subjects.


Recommended Texts (on reserve at Grainger Library):


Component Points
Homeworks (best 10 of 11) 400 (40 pts each)
Group Presentation 60
Clicker Score (best 33) 100
Midterm Hour Exams (2) 200
Final Exam 240
Total Points 1000

There will be at least 39 lectures for which clicker points will be recorded (starting at Lecture 2), and you must attend 33 of these to get full clicker points (unless otherwise announced). No makeups will be allowed for missed classes for any reason except for fully documented, prolonged illness. Each lecture has 3 course points allocated: 2 course points for responding to at least 75% of the questions and an additional 1 point for providing a correct response to at least one of the questions. The total clicker score will then be added to 1 to give a score out of 100.

The course point total will be converted to a percentage, with A's corresponding to 90-100%, B's corresponding to 80-89%, C's corresponding to 70-79%, and D's corresponding to 60-69%. Pluses and minuses will be used.


Regular assignments are an important part of the course, helping to reinforce concepts covered in the lectures and textbook.
  1. Homework assignments (accessed through the course web page). These will consist of about 4-5 problems each, and must be uploaded to the course website before the submission deadline on Wednesday. Handwritten solutions are acceptable, but should be legible after scanning for online submission. Occasionally exercises will need to be completed on a computer. Credit will only be given to well-explained answers, and all important steps in a calculation must be shown. If you are unsure of whether your assignment was properly submitted, please contact the TA.

  2. Late assignments. Assignments are due by 10 P.M. on Wednesdays. We typically allow a grace period of 15 minutes after the deadline. Assignments received after the deadline but by 5 P.M. on Friday will attract a fixed, 10 point penalty. For special circumstances the penalty may be waived at the instructor's discretion. After 5 P.M. Friday, further submissions are disabled and will NOT be accepted by any other means.

Rules of Etiquette

For the benefit of your fellow students and your instructor, you are expected to follow these basic rules of decorum.

Class Policies

This page last updated 15 Jan 2018