Physics 109
Astronomy & Cosmology
Planets here and everywhere
Spring 2018


Prof. Chuck Keeton
Office: Room 305W, Serin Physics Building, Busch Campus
Phone: 848-445-8876
Email: keeton[at]



This course describes how we understand planets in our Solar System and around other stars. There are no college-level prerequisites, but typical high school algebra and science preparation are assumed. The companion course, PHY 110, focuses on stars, galaxies, and the universe. The two courses are independent; you can take one or both, in either order.

This course is intended for non-science majors. Students who have completed two semesters each of physics and calculus should consider taking PHY 341/342 instead. Those courses cover similar material as PHY 109/110 but at a more advanced level.

Learning Goals

This course qualifies for the Natural Sciences area of the SAS Core Curriculum. It addresses both of the area learning goals:

Active Learning

Evidence shows that "Students learn more when they participate in the process of learning, whether it's through discussion, practice, review, or application." (Stanford Teaching Commons) Furthermore, doing science and learing about science share a lot of the same activities:

Class time is structured to let you engage in these activities. In order for them to be effective, it is important that you read the book before class. If you come to class prepared, we will all find class time to be productive and, I hope, even fun.

Required Materials


Your course grade will be based on the following elements:

Homework will be assigned in Sakai and will be due early in class on Mondays. (There will be a few minutes to ask questions at the start of class before the Sakai assignment closes.) It will consist of multiple choice questions that assess your understanding of material from the previous week's classes as well as new material from assigned reading. You may discuss the class material with the instructor or with other students in the class (e.g., in study groups), but you are expected to complete the homework assignments on your own. I will drop your one lowest homework score when computing the semester average.

Every class (except the midterm exam) will have hands-on activities, and you will earn points by participating. I will drop your three lowest in-class scores to account for occasional absences.

The course project will be discussed later in the semester.

The midterm exam will be held in class on Monday, March 5, and it will cover the first half of the semester. The final exam will be held on Thursday, May 3, and it will be cumulative. Both exams will have multiple-choice and short-answer questions similar in style to questions from homework and in-class activities. They will be closed book/notes/laptop/phone; you must not consult anyone else while taking an exam. You will need to know your RUID and bring photo ID; students lacking appropriate identification may not be allowed to take the exam. Makeup exams will be scheduled only in the case of a class conflict, a medical/family emergency, or another serious and unforeseen event; documentation will be required.

Your overall score for the course will be converted to a letter grade at the end of the semester. The initial scheme is: A = 90-100%, B = 80-89.9%, C = 70-79.9%, D = 60-69.9%. It is possible that the thresholds may be lowered, making it easier for you to earn a particular letter grade. The thresholds will not be raised.

Class Policies and Resources

Astrophysics at RutgersDepartment of Physics and AstronomyRutgers University