ASTR 210 — Introduction to Astrophysics
Syllabus for Spring 2017
103 Transportation Bldg — MWF 1:00-1:50
||Prof. Tony Wong
||Wed 3-4, Thu 2-3
||Mon, Wed 12-1
||Mon 3:30-4:30, Thu 11-12
3 credit hours. This course satisfies the General Education Criteria
for a Physical Sciences (Natural Sciences and Technology) course.
Prerequisites: Credit in
PHYS 211 (University Physics: Mechanics).
Course Web Page: Located on https://learn.illinois.edu/
(College of LAS Moodle)
Astronomy 210 is a one-semester introduction to astronomy and
astrophysics. We will learn about the development of astronomy, the
quest for understanding the universe in terms of physical laws, and
where the limits of our knowledge currently are. We will begin by
studying the basic components of our galaxy—planets, stars, and
interstellar gas—then move on to talk about the galaxies
themselves, and then the Universe as a whole. We will learn about such
diverse phenomena as neutron stars, black holes, and dark energy, and
try to develop some intuitive understanding of them.
Unlike “Astronomy 101,” this is a class which emphasizes
quantitative calculation. We will frequently use mathematics to describe
what we're seeing. This enables us to make detailed predictions, essential
for the practice of science. Our goal is not just to observe and learn
about what scientists do; it is place ourselves squarely in their shoes.
Much of the required physics will be reviewed, but students are expected to
have completed the first semester of university physics (Mechanics). We
also recommend that you be taking or have completed the second semester of
physics (Electricity & Magnetism). If you plan to take higher level
(400 series) astronomy courses, this should be your first course in
astronomy. Regardless of whether or not you pursue a career in science, you
should come away with an appreciation of how science, though never immune to
the human failings of its practitioners, can be a self-correcting
Textbook (required) Foundations of Astrophysics by
Barbara Ryden & Bradley M. Peterson (2010). Publisher:
Addison-Wesley. ISBN: 0-321-59558-0.
The textbook, and a selection of similar textbooks, are available on reserve
at Grainger Library.
Each student should bring their own iClicker personal response device
to lecture. This can be purchased from campus bookstores (either the
original iclicker or the 2nd generation version are fine). You will use
the iClicker to answer multiple-choice questions posed by the
instructor. Some questions will test familiarity with the reading or
understanding of concepts, and full credit will be given for correct
answers, with half credit for incorrect answers. Other questions will be
of a survey nature, and full credit will be given for any answer. If
you occasionally forget to bring your iClicker, don't worry; only the
top 33 daily scores (starting at Lecture 3), as determined by percentage
score, are averaged into the course grade.
|Online quizzes (best 10 of 12)
||100 (10 pts each)
|Homeworks (best 10 of 12)
||300 (30 pts each)
|Sun Observing Project
|In-class Exams (2)
||200 (100 pts each)
The 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.
- Online quizzes (accessed through the course web page).
These consist of multiple-choice questions and must be taken on a
computer with web access. You may take the quiz up to 2 times BEFORE its
due date (usually Wednesdays at 1 P.M.), and you will be credited with your
higher score. We recommend taking quizzes by yourself, without referring
to the textbook or lecture notes (it's a good way to prepare for exams).
Quizzes will be available online (on Moodle) a week before the due
- Homework assignments (accessed through the course web page).
These will consist of problems and short-answer questions, and must be
submitted online before class on Friday. Handwritten solutions are
acceptable, but should written in dark ink and be scanned into PDF format.
If you don't have easy access to a scanner, consider a smartphone app like
CamScanner. Credit will only be
given to well-explained answers, and all important steps in a calculation
must be shown. Homework submitted before 11:55 P.M. on the due date but
after the start of class will attract a 20% penalty. Any later homework
will NOT be accepted.
- Computational Project. Computers are essential tools for
modern astrophysics, and you will undertake a project that requires data
analysis on a computer. The project will explore class topics in
greater depth and make use of the same data that astronomers typically
obtain. The exercise can be completed using Microsoft Excel (available
from the campus webstore) or
- Sun Observing Project. The observing project involves
recording the Sun's position near the western horizon on two
different days, spaced about two weeks apart, and completing a short exercise on
comparing your observations with predictions. Because the observations must be
made at different dates, some advanced planning is required.
- Keep a copy of your work. You are expected to keep a copy of any file
you submit electronically.
This is to protect you in case a situation arises in which there is
disagreement about whether or not an assignment has been submitted.
Rules of Etiquette
For the benefit of your fellow students and your instructor, you are
expected to follow these basic rules of decorum.
- Show up for class on time. If you must be late on a regular
basis, please inform the instructor.
- Turn off your cell phone before class begins.
- You may use a laptop or tablet only to take notes. You should not be checking your
email, messaging your friends, or browsing the internet.
- Do not leave class early, and do not rustle papers or pack up bags in
preparation for leaving before class is dismissed.
- Be attentive in class. Do not use headphones, read newspapers,
or prop your feet up on other chairs or desks.
- Be respectful in your interactions with your fellow students and
your teachers, whether in person or in cyberspace.
- General: This course will follow all policies in the
- Class Participation: Participation is 5% of your total grade. You
can earn the full 50 points by obtaining perfect i-clicker scores (based on
attendance as well as correct responses) in at least 33 of the 39 lectures
starting with Lecture 3. You can also make up for some missed points by,
for example, avtively participating in the Piazza discussion forums and
regularly attending office hours. The quality as well as quantity of
contributions is important.
- Working With Others: Discussing course material with your
classmates is encouraged, but each student is expected to do his or her own
work. This is to ensure a level playing field for all students. You are
allowed to work together on homework problems, but each student should write
up an individual description of the solution. Some activities may allow you
to work together in gathering data. Each student who participated in a
joint measurement may make use of that jointly acquired data, but each
student must prepare an individual report in their own words. If you are in
any doubt about whether something is allowed or not, ask the instructor or
- Late Assignments: Assignments have due dates as posted on Moodle.
All work must be submitted online before the start of class on the due date.
Homework submitted on the due date but after the start of class will
attract a 20% penalty. Any later homework will NOT be accepted. Most
unforeseen situations that lead students to request an extension will be
covered by dropping the lowest 2 homework scores. Do NOT request the
opportunity to make up homework unless your reason is serious enough (i.e. a
prolonged illness) to warrant receiving a grade of incomplete in the course.
- Make-up exams will be offered only in well-justified
circumstances, in accordance with sections 1-501, 1-502, and 3-201 of the
Student Code. Advance notice is required for approved school
events (e.g., athletic events), religious observances, and other planned
absences. Sudden illness requires documentation from McKinley Health Center
or the Emergency Dean. The Office of the Dean of Students must be contacted
in other cases of unforeseen circumstances (e.g., death in the family). The
format of the make-up may differ from the standard exam. In all cases, the
make-up will be scheduled after the main exam.
- Special accommodations: To insure that concerns are properly
addressed from the beginning, students who require reasonable
accommodations to participate in this class are asked to see the instructor
as soon as possible. All accomodations will follow the procedures as
stated in sections 1-107 and 1-110 of the Student Code.
- Academic Integrity: Any instance of academic dishonesty
(including cheating and plagiarism) will result in a grade of 0 for that
component and be documented in the student's college file. This includes
copying written material from the Internet without proper attribution.
Penalties will be imposed on both the student who copies and the student who
is copied from. Please refer to sections 1-401 to 1-406 of the Student
This page last updated 14 Mar 2017