HST image of Supernova 1994D and its host galaxy

Physics 110
Astronomy & Cosmology
Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe
Fall 2017

Tuesdays and Fridays
12:00 noon to 1:20 pm
Physics Lecture Hall, Busch campus
Instructor: Saurabh W Jha


This course describes the properties of gravity, light, stars and galaxies, and the past, present and future of the Universe. There are no college-level prerequisites, but typical high school algebra and science preparation are assumed. The companion course, PHY109, covers the historical foundations of astronomy, the tools and techniques used by modern astronomers, the planets, moons, and minor bodies of our solar system, and the processes by which they formed. The two courses are independent; if you wish to take both, they can be taken in either order or concurrently.

Note that this course is intended for non-science majors. Students with two semesters each of physics and calculus should consider taking PHY341 and/or PHY342, instead. Those courses cover much of the same material as PHY110 and PHY109, but at a more advanced level.

Useful Links

More information about this course is available in our tab on Sakai (PHY 110 F17 Jha).
Interactive demos I show in lecture (based on the book) can be found here.
Public observing nights at the Schommer Observatory (on the roof of Serin) take place on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Thursdays of each month, weather permitting.

Contact Information

Prof. Saurabh W Jha
Room 315, Serin Physics Building, Busch campus
Email: saurabh[at]physics.rutgers.edu
Phone: 848-445-8962 (email is preferred)

Office hours: Wednesday 3-4pm, or by appointment

Required Materials

The textbook we will use is The Cosmic Perspective: Fundamentals (2nd edition, 2015, Pearson) by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit. The course is tightly integrated with this textbook, including lectures, reading assignments, and in-class quizzes, so the textbook is required. This is the same textbook currently used in PHY109. The first edition of the book (from 2009) is also acceptable.

We will also be doing in-class quizzes using the iClicker classroom response system. You may use either the original iClicker, iClicker+, or the second generation iClicker 2; we will not use any of the new features. You may also use the REEF Polling app with your mobile device. Once you acquire your iClicker, you should register it on Sakai.

Homework and Quizzes

Homework will be assigned for each lecture, in the form of reading ahead of the lecture and answering several homework questions. Homework will not be collected or graded, but reading and homework quizzes will be given at the beginning of each lecture. If you do the reading and homework problems, you should find these quizzes easy. The quiz problems will be similar - but not identical - to the assigned homework problems, so memorizing the answer will not help you, but understanding the problems will!

Completing the homework assignments is essential if you wish to get a good grade in the course, for three reasons:

  1. Personal response participation, which includes the reading and homework quizzes, counts for one third of the final grade for the course.
  2. It is easier to get a high score on the reading and homework quizzes than on the exams.
  3. Doing the homework will prepare you for the exams: most of the exam questions will test the material covered in the homework.

We will also have in-class conceptual quizzes throughout the lecture, so attendance at lectures is required. I will drop the equivalent of three lectures' points in determining your in-class quiz grade. Any absences beyond three must be excused, via a dean's note.

On Friday, November 17th we will have an in-class workshop. Attendance is required, but you can see me about an excused absence and a make-up assignment before the workshop date.


There will be a midterm exam, held on Tuesday, October 31 during the regular class period. The final exam covers the second half of the course and is scheduled (by the University) for the morning of Thursday, December 21 (exact time and place to be determined).

There will be make-up exams for those who have an excused absence for either the midterm exam or the final exam. Only those people who are unable to attend the regular exams because of a class conflict, a medical/family emergency (which must be documented with a dean's note), or other serious and unforeseen event (which must be documented with a dean's note) will be allowed to take the make-up exam. To take the make-up exam, you must have a valid conflict and get permission from me the week before the exam.

All exams will be multiple choice, computer graded, and closed book. Calculators are not required, though I will provide one if you need it.

Important: During the midterm and final exams, you will be asked to present the appropriate identification: i.e., a valid Rutgers student ID card. Students lacking the appropriate identification may not be allowed to take the exam!

Grading Policy

Your final grade will be calculated from the midterm exam (1/3), final exam (1/3), and in-class quizzes/workshop (1/3). A final grade of 90% or higher will guarantee you an A for the class.

Note that the maximum score you can get from the exams alone is 67%. Therefore it is impossible to get a good final grade without attending lectures and taking the in-class quizzes. Moreover, there will be some opportunities for extra credit throughout the semester, but these will only be available for students with good attendance at the lectures.

How to Succeed in this Course

Schedule: Topics and Assignments

This syllabus may be modified as the semester progresses. The assignments are listed on the date they are due.

Sep 5 (Tue)
course introduction
Sep 8 (Fri)
astronomy basics; algebra recap
iClicker practice
Appendix C
read: 1.1, 1.2, Appx C
do: Q1-11, 19
Sep 12 (Tue)
seasons and constellations
do: Chapter 1 Q18
read: 2.1, do: Q1-5 introduce yourself on Sakai
Sep 15 (Fri)
phases of the moon; eclipses
read: 2.2, 2.3
do: Q6-12
Sep 19 (Tue)
planetary motion
read: 3.1
do Q: 1-8
Sep 22 (Fri)
theory of gravity
read: 3.2, 3.3
read: Tools of Science p.97
do Chapter 3: Q9-12, 22
Sep 26 (Tue)
the nature of light
read: Tools of Science
p. 43, 80, 184, 132, 116
memorize: EM spectrum
in wavelength order
Sep 29 (Fri)
the Sun, our Star
read: 8.1
do Q: 1-6, 21
Oct 3 (Tue)
telescopes, stars, and starlight
read: 8.2, 8.3
do Q: 7-12, 22
Oct 6 (Fri)
classification of stars;
the H-R diagram
re-read: 8.2, 8.3
study H-R diagram
Oct 10 (Tue)
star lives
read: 9.1, 9.2
do Q: 1-6
Oct 13 (Fri)
star deaths
read: 9.2, 9.3
do Q: 7-12
Oct 17 (Tue)
white dwarfs and neutron stars
read: 10.1
do Q: 1, 2, 5, 6
Oct 20 (Fri)
neutron stars and black holes
read: 10.2
do Q: 3, 4, 7, 10
Oct 24 (Tue)
relativity and black holes
read: 10.3
do Q: 8, 9, 11, 12, 18
16 Oct 27 (Fri) midterm review   come with questions
Oct 31 (Tue)
midterm exam
covers Ch. 1-3, 8-10
Nov 3 (Fri)
the Milky Way
read: 11.1
do Q: 1-6
Nov 7 (Tue)
read: 11.2, 11.3
do Q: 7-12
Nov 10 (Fri)
cosmic distances
read: 12.1
do Q: 1-7
Nov 14 (Tue)
the expanding Universe;
galaxy evolution
read: 12.2, 12.3
do Q: 8-12
Nov 17 (Fri)
the age of the Universe
in-class workshop
bring laptop if you can
  Nov 22 (Wed) no class; happy Thanksgiving!    
Nov 28 (Tue)
the Big Bang
read: 13.1
do Q: 2, 3, 5-8
Dec 1 (Fri)
the cosmic microwave
background; inflation
read: 13.2, 13.3
do Q: 1, 4, 9-12
memorize eras of the Universe in order
Dec 5 (Tue)
dark matter; large-scale structure
read: 14.1, 14.2
do Q: 1-8
Dec 8 (Fri)
dark energy; the accelerating Universe
read: 14.3
do Q: 9-12
Dec 12 (Tue)
life in the Universe; final exam review
read: 15
do Q: 1-12
Dec 21 (Thu)
final exam
covers Ch. 11-15


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Last updated: October 16, 2017 swj