102 - The Astronomical Universe
Prof. Merav Opher - Fall
Catalog Summary: The birth and death of
stars. Red giants, white dwarfs, black holes. Our
galaxy, the Milky Way, and other galaxies. The Big
Bang and other cosmological theories of our
Professor Merav Opher
(Office: CAS 514B); 617.358.6385; email@example.com
Mr. Michael Valdez:
Wednesday 11:00AM-12:00PM, Thursday 11:00pm-12:00pm
Times: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,
from 1-2pm, in CAS 522.
Section Times: (all take place
in CAS B4)
A2 - Wednesdays 3:30-5:00
(TA - Ms. Rachel Paterno-Mahler)
A3 - Mondays 2:00-3:30 (TA - Ms. Rachel Paterno-Mahler)
A4 - Wednesdays, 11:00-12:30 (TA - Ms. Rachel Paterno-Mahler)
A5 - Tuesdays 12:30-2:00 (TA - Mr. Michael Valdez)
A6 - Thursdays 3:30 - 5:00 (TA - Mr. Michael Valdez)
A7 - Thursdays 2:00-3:30 (TA - Mr. Michael Valdez)
Every clear Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday beginning September 13th, on the roof of the CAS building, starting at 8:30pm.
"21st Century Astronomy:
Stars and Galaxies" - Third Edition - by Hester,
Smith, Blumenthal, Kay, & Voss
It is important to get
the 3rd Edition, as
problem numbers and other content will differ from
Exercises: Written instructions and
worksheets for the labs in this course are to be
downloaded, printed, and brought to lab. A link to
the lab download page is here. Note that all
written materials are in PDF format.
The course grade will be computed by
weighting your performance in the following areas by
the percentages listed:
day labs and 2 night labs)
of Course: This course is intended to be an
introduction to Astronomy, and the physical
sciences in general, for the non-major (Astronomy
and Astronomy-and-Physics majors should be
enrolled in AS202). We will show that from a few
simple physical laws and principles many of the
seemingly complex phenomena in stars, the galaxy,
and the universe can be understood by almost
everyone. This course has no prerequisites and we
assume no prior knowledge of physics, astronomy,
chemistry, or math. We will present all of the
basic foundation needed to understand why star
shine, how galaxies age, and how old and how big
the universe is today. The realm of this course is
space beyond our solar system. We will spend only
a little time discussing the planets or Earth
(these are covered in detail in AS101, which is
NOT a prerequisite for this class). Through the
lectures and labs in this course, we hope that you
will come to appreciate that the finest telescope
is really the human mind, where imagination and
understanding triumph over mathematical ability.
This course is composed of lectures, daytime laboratory work, nighttime laboratory work, in-class midterms exams, laboratory reports, homework, and a final exam. The lab work is a very important element of this course. It consists of daytime laboratory section meetings with the TAs, and two visits to the rooftop observatory during the semester. In the labs, you will gain experience in using the physical tools of astronomy and a practical knowledge of the night sky. Although the lab only makes up 20% of your course grade, there is a caveat to that percentage: I will not pass anyone who fails the lab portion of this class. That is, if your midterm exams and final exams are solid "A" work, but you decided you had better things to do than go to the lab sections, I will give you an "F" grade! But the opposite is also true - if your exam grades are suffering, doing well in the lab could bring your course grade up.
In addition to the regular daytime laboratory section meetings, you are expected to complete two nighttime laboratory exercises based on observations conducted from the roof of the CAS building. The night labs will take place on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays when the weather is clear at 8:30pm. You are free to attend any of the three nights each week. You do need to complete the first night lab exercise during the first half of the semester (September 12 - October 27) and the second night lab exercise during the second half of the semester (October 31-December 12). We will not be doing the first lab exercise after October 27, nor the second lab exercise before that date.
Boston has terrible weather, so be sure you complete your night lab exercises EARLY in the given half-semester. If you wait until the last available night and it turns out to be cloudy, you will receive a zero for that lab exercise!
There is an answering machine with a recorded message telling whether for a given night the rooftop labs will be held or not. The phone number is 617.353.2630, and the message is finalized at around 8pm. Finally, rooftop observatories are cold, windy places - DRESS WARMLY!
The laboratory component will be computed based on the six daytime lab exercises and the two nighttime lab exercises. Passing the laboratory component consists of scoring at least 68% of the total points available. Failing the laboratory component, and hence failing the course, requires scoring less than 68% of the total lab points.
Bring the manual for each lab printed. The TAs wont have extra copies and you will miss the lab!
will be five homework assignments, due on the dates
listed in the schedule/calendar page.
As for the lab component, homework is a required
component for passing this course. Students failing
the homework component (ie., scoring under 40%) will
also fail the course. News: I will drop the lowest score of
The class will be grouped into teams as
assigned bellow. I grouped them based on students as
in each laboratory section-see bellow. There will be
time then to prepare in lab for the debate. The
groups will be: (G1) dust; (G2) light elements (H,
He); (G3) heavy elements; (G4) gravity; (G5)
fusion/dark matter; (G6) visible light; (G7) x-ray
light; (G8) infra-red light; (G9) magnetic fields
and (G10) neutrinos. We will have 6 debates between
the groups (check the calender) where each group
will have to present and defend their importance to
each phenomena discussed. Each debate will last 25
minutes (2.5 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes
of debate). You will be asked to come with a same
color representing your group at the date of the
debate. Representative of each group will be chosen
randomly by me at the beginning of each debate.
The winners of the debate will recieve 12 points; Second place will recieve 10 points; The rest will recieve 8 points. The group that was not prepared at all will recieve 5 points. All group members will receive the same grade for their project, which will carry 8% of their total course grade.
Section A2: G1 and G2
Section A3: G3 and G4
Section A4: G5 and G6
Section A5: G9 and G10
Section A6: G8
Section A7: G7
There will be two in-class, closed book,
Midterm exams. The first will be on Friday, October 7th and the
second on Friday, November
4th. Exams will be of 50 minutes duration
and consist of multiple choice and true-false
questions. There will be no short essay questions
and no long mathematical proofs or detailed
equations. Because each of the exams is a closed
book exam, you will be asked to leave your books and
backpacks, purses and hats at the front of the
lecture hall during the exams.
Make-up exams will not normally be given to people with ordinary excuses (illness, family conflicts, plane tickets, etc.). Extraordinary excuses will be handled by oral exams. Oral exams will be of one hour duration, taken by appointment only, and must be completed within one week of the missed exam. Grading for oral exams is A, B, C, D, and F - there are no plus or minus grades for oral exams.
Exam: The final exam will be from 12:30-2:30pm on Wednesday,
December 21th. It will be closed book and
cover all the material in the course. Note that the
final exam is not at the usual class meeting time or
day of the week. The final exam time and date cannot
be changed for anyone. If you have a known schedule
conflict, change it now or see me to withdraw from
Late Policy, Ethics: Attendance at all
lectures, exams, and daytime laboratory section
meetings is mandatory. The Late Policy is simple: if
you turn in an assignment late, it receives no
credit. This applies to homework and laboratory
exercises. It is important that students submit for
evaluation work that is properly executed and
attributed. I encourage you to study together, but
to independently write up and submit your homework
assignments. You may help each other to find how to
solve a problem, but you must present your own
discussion of the steps needed to achieve the
solution. Do not copy from another student or from
another student's work (including students not in
this class).Students are reminded that their
behavior is governed by the CAS Academic Conduct
Code. Copies of the Code are available in CAS 105. I
am required to state that cases of suspected
academic misconduct will be referred to the Dean's
The lecture and lab schedule/calendar will follow
the development in the textbook, though the emphasis
will be somewhat different. The lecture material may
be adjusted to different dates to accommodate a
varying lecture rate. Exam dates will not be
changed, though exam coverage may change slightly.
Please take some time to become familiar with the
schedule, and/or copy it into your own calendar. [A
condensed, PDF version of the schedule can be
downloaded by clicking here.]
There will be as well a Planetarium
visit-most likely in the week of Oct 17
and W-Grade Dates: The last day to drop
AS102 without a "W" grade is Tuesday, October 11th.
The last day to drop AS102 (but receive a "W" grade)
is Friday, November 11th.