Astronomy & Cosmology: Ph 110 Spring 2012

The rooms and times of both the final and the make-up exams are now arranged. Go to Examinations.

Main page

In this page: Overview, Logistics, Textbook, iClickers, Syllabus, Reading, Homework, Examinations, Grades, Learning Centers, Students with Disabilities, Observing, Astronomy on the Web.


The course covers the structure and evolution of stars, the properties of galaxies, and the past, present, and future of the Universe. The huge quantity of information now available is expanding all the time, so the emphasis of the course is on how astronomers know what they claim to know, and how confident they are of their claims.
The companion course, PH 109, describes the historical foundations of astronomy, and modern knowledge of our solar system and planets around other stars, and how they might have originated. The two courses are independent; if you wish to take both, they can be taken in either order or concurrently.
The 109/110 sequence is intended for non-science majors. There are no college-level prerequisites, but minimal high school math and science preparation are assumed. Students with college-level science & math credits should consider taking Ph 341/342 instead, which covers much of the same material as 109/110, but at a more advanced level.


Lecturer The author of this page is the course lecturer, Dr. Jerry Sellwood.
Office Hour My office hour is Monday 3:20-4:40. I can be found in room 308 in the Physics & Astronomy Building, Busch Campus, telephone (732) 445-5500 xtn 5287. I am also available to offer help and answer questions for a few minutes just before or just after every class.
e-mail I prefer not to provide individual help with course material by e-mail - please ask in class or in my office hour. Questions on logistics not already on this web page etc. can be sent to me at
Classes Classes are held on Wednesdays, period 3 (11:30 am - 12:50 pm) and on Fridays, period 4 (1:10 - 2:30 pm) in room 123 of Scott Hall on College Avenue Campus.
Sakai I have created a course page in the Sakai system. Go to and log in using your RUId and password. Click on the "Astronomy 110 Sp12 Sellwood" tab to enter the course site. If you have trouble logging in, please send e-mail to All homework assignments, lecture notes, practice exams, scores, and important information about the course will be posted there, so check it regularly.

Back to top


The book for both 109 & 110 is

The Cosmic Perspective: Fundamentals (2010) by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider & Voit,(ISBN 0-321-56704-8) published by Addison-Wesley. This excellent book is comprehensive, right up-to-date and very well illustrated. It contains a lot of material, some of which you will have to read yourself. Not all the material is relevant to the course, but those with a strong interest should be able to enjoy the whole book.

Back to top


We will also be doing in-class quizzes using the iClicker classroom response system. You will need to buy either the original iClicker or the second generation iClicker 2; we will not use any of the new features. Once you acquire your iClicker, you should register it through Sakai, using the "i>clicker" option of the course page.

Responses with iClickers will be recorded in 25 classes, and your 20 best iClicker scores will count towards your grade. Any answer to a question will get 1 point, the right answer gets 2.

Back to top


The lectures will not follow the book very closely. I will omit some parts and provide additional material over and above that provided in the book in other areas. A preliminary outline of the topics of each lecture is available through the course Sakai website, together with an indication of the most relevant chapter.

Back to top

Reading Assignments

The reading assignments given in the syllabus are incomplete as I will frequently draw material from many different chapters. However, by the end of the course, I will expect all students to have read the entirety of Chapters 7 thru 15.

Back to top


Weekly homework will be assigned and collected on-line using Sakai. You can use the browswer on your own computer, or any of the Rutgers student computing center machines (see
Deadlines Assignments are due on Monday night (the actual deadline is 5am Tuesday) every week beginning Jan/17 and ending on May/30 (except for Mar/12), except in weeks when there is an exam. Assignment scores and answers will be available immediately the submission deadline is passed. No late homework submissions will be accepted.
Copied Homework It can be beneficial to discuss homework questions with your fellow students, but your submitted answers must be your own. Representing someone else's work as your own is a serious infringement of academic integrity that is reportable to your College Dean.
Homework scores There will be twelve homework assignments and your ten best homework scores will count towards your grade for the course. Completing the homework assignments is the best way to ensure a good grade because: (1) homework counts for towards your overall score for the course, (2) homework scores are generally higher than exam scores, and (3) many of the exam questions will test the material covered in the homework - thorough preparation for the homework will help a lot with the tests also.

Back to top


There will be three examinations: two mid-terms and a final. The mid-terms will be held on Wednesdays at the usual class time (11:30am) and location (Scott Hall 123) on February 22 and April 4. The final exam will be held at 10am on May 8, also in Scott Hall rm 123. All exams will be multiple choice and computer graded. Material from the lectures, homework assignments, and text will be used in selecting exam questions, which will not be cumulative. Sample mid-term and final exams will be posted a week or so before each test.
Alternative Final Exam There will be an alternative final exam during the exam period, at 10am on Fri May 4 in Scott Hall rm 103. This alternative exam will have different questions from the main final exam, but otherwise will be equivalent. Anyone who would prefer, for whatever reason, can take this make-up instead of the regular final, provided you notify Dr. Sellwood by the time of the last class (Friday Apr 27).

Back to top


Your course grade will be determined by your overall score out of 400, which is made up as follows. Each exam will each be scored out of 100 making a maximum possible exam score of 300. 50 points will be scaled from your ten best homework scores, and the remaining 50 points for in-class iClicker scores.
Exam scores and final grades will be available through Sakai.

Back to top

Learning Centers

The Learning Resource Centers provide a little support for this course. the Math and Science LCs on Busch and Douglas offer video tapes, experimental apparatus and computer demonstrations. If there is a demand, the LRCs will try to set up tutoring help.

Back to top

Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability, it is essential to speak to Prof Sellwood early in the semester to make the necessary arrangements to support a successful learning experience. Also, you must arrange for Prof Sellwood to receive a Letter of Accommodation from the Office of Disability Services. For more information, see

Back to top


There are viewing sessions (which are open to the public) using telescopes located on the roof of the Physics & Astronomy building on Busch campus. They are held every 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month when the sky is clear. See the web site for more information. Attendance at these observing sessions is optional.

Back to top

Astronomy on the web

This is a good web page for astronomical information. Those who like photographs of planets, etc, can find all NASA's pictures on their PhotoJournal website.

Click here for information about the Southern Africa Large Telescope (SALT), which has recently begun observations in South Africa. Rutgers owns a 10% share of this exciting new facility.

You might like to take part in the Galaxy Zoo project, which involves the general public in classifying galaxies. Start here to find out more - it can be addictive!

Back to top