Astronomy and Cosmology (Physics 109 Section 1)
Fall 2016


Lecturer: Prof. Jack Hughes, Busch Campus, Serin-307, Tel: (848)445-8878, e-mail: jph "at"

Textbook: Required. The Cosmic Perspective: Fundamentals, 2nd Ed. by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit (Publisher: Addison-Wesley/Pearson, ISBN-13: 978-0133889567; ISBN-10: 0133889564). Available from the bookstore in either print or e-book format (your choice). Optional: The Pearson on-line "MasteringAstronomy" website. This site contains lots of useful learning aids that many students will find useful.

iclickers: Required. Register your i>clicker on the sakai course site. When you first log on to Sakai you will be on the "My Workspace" page. On the left side, the second row there should be a tab that says "i>clicker". Click on that and follow the instructions.

Overview: In this course we shall discuss the historical foundations of Astronomy, the tools and techniques used by modern astronomers, the constituents of our solar system, and the processes by which it formed. The companion course, Ph 110 (taught this semester by Prof. Lath) covers the structure and evolution of stars, the properties of galaxies, and the past, present, and future of the Universe. There are no college-level prerequisites for either course, but typical high school algebra and science preparation is assumed.

Format: The course consists of 2 lectures each week on Wednesday from 11:30AM to 12:50PM and Friday from 1:10PM to 2:30PM in room 123 of Scott Hall on the College Avenue Campus.

Assessment: Grades will be determined based on three elements weighted equally: (1) in class iclicker quizes, (2) a midterm exam, and (3) a cumulative final exam. All quizes and exams will be closed-book format and will consist of multiple-choice questions. Iclicker quizes will be given on material that has been presented in class or covered in the assigned reading. There will be a make-up final for students with a class conflict, a medical/family emergency, or other serious and unforeseen event. In all cases, documentation (your class schedule, a doctor's note, etc.) must be provided to take the make-up exam.

Exam Schedule:

Study Groups: We are fortunate to have two undergraduate learning assistants (Sagar Sharma and Melissa Stept) available for this course, each of whom will run two weekly study groups:

Attendance and active participation in study groups will allow students to gain extra credit. If you sign up at least 1.5 hours in advance (on Sakai) and show up at a weekly session, you will get an extra +1 point, and if you participate actively (ask and answer questions, draw a diagram of an astronomical phenomenon like a lunar phase or a solar eclipse, etc.) then you will get a total of +2 points. Obtain a minimum of 20 points this way throughout the semester and you will gain extra credit equal to a perfect score on an iclicker quiz. More importantly, participating in study group will give you a huge advantage in preparing for clicker questions and the two exams: the learning assistants, all of whom took and did well in this course last year, are your greatest allies in helping you master its subject matter. (For students whose schedules prevent them from attending any of the weekly study groups, I am willing to give equivalent extra credit on the basis of active engagement in one of my weekly office hours.)

Observing: Viewing sessions using the telescopes located on the roof of the Physics & Astronomy Building (Busch campus) are held on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month when the sky is clear, beginning at 8 pm or 1 hour after sunset, whichever is later. Attendance at these observing sessions is optional. For more information, see:

How to succeed in this class:

The address of this page is

Please send any comments to Jack Hughes, jph "at"

Revised Sept 6, 2016