Astronomy 129-007/8, Introductory Astronomy I

Fall 2014

MWF 11:30-12:20

Room 112 HWWE

Dr. Chris Fragile

Office: 207 JCL

Office hours: M 1:00-2:30; Tu 1:00-2:30

But come by any time

Phone: 953-3181

[ Tentative Schedule ] [ General Info ] [ Assumed Knowledge ] [ Class Policies ] [ Goals and Objectives ]

[ Homework and Quizzes ] [ Tests ] [ Grading Scheme ] [ How to Get Help ]

Tentative Schedule (Subject to change as we go.)

We will cover chapters 1-4 and 7-14 of the book this semester. The remainder will be covered in ASTR 130. Some chapters will be covered in more depth than others, and some sections will be omitted. Note, however, that there are only 14 weeks in a semester, so this works out to about one chapter per week. It is crucial that you keep up with material.

To be fair to all students planning travel during and after the semester, consider all test dates to be set in stone. If you think you might have a conflict with one of these dates, you need to talk to me ASAP.

20 Aug Ch. 1, A Modern View of the Universe   Lecture notes
22 Aug Ch. 2, Discovering the Universe for Yourself Moon Project (due 9/10/14) Lecture notes
5 Sep Ch. 3, The Science of Astronomy   Lecture notes
12 Sep Ch. 4, Making Sense of the Universe   Lecture notes
22 Sep   Test 1, chaps 1-4  
24 Sep Ch. 7, Our Planetary System   Lecture notes
29 Sep Ch. 8, Formation of the Solar System   Lecture notes
6 & 8 Oct   Class presentations  
10 Oct Ch. 9, Planetary Geology   Lecture notes
20 Oct   Test 2, chaps 7-9  
22 Oct Ch. 10, Planetary Atmospheres   Lecture notes
23 Oct   Last day to Withdraw!  
24 Oct Ch. 11, Jovian Planets   Lecture notes
3 Nov   Fall Break  
5 Nov Ch. 12, Asteroids, Comets & Dwarf Planets Exoplanets Homework (due 12/1/14) OR
Book report (due 12/2/14)
Lecture notes
10 Nov Ch. 14, Our Star   Lecture notes
19 Nov Ch. 13, Other Planetary Systems   Lecture notes
24 Nov   Test 3, chaps 10-12, 14  
26-28 Nov   Thanksgiving Break!  
10 Dec   Final Exam, 12-3 pm, HWWE 112  


Syllabus Fine Print

Required materials:


One of the most fundamental unanswered questions of human existence is, “Are we alone in the universe?” One of the fundamental goals of modern astronomy is to attempt to answer this question. In order to do that we first need to develop our understanding of how we got to where we are today. How did our Sun form? How did the planets of our solar system form? Which planets are capable of supporting life? Once we possess this and other knowledge, we can look outward toward other stars and solar systems for signs of extraterrestrial life. The purpose of this course is to review the body of knowledge accumulated thus far regarding the nature of the solar system we inhabit. As we study our solar system, we will also discuss the history and physical principles that are the foundations of modern astronomy.

Assumed Knowledge:

You should be comfortable with math through algebra. Math is a skill needed in the modern world outside of astronomy. Use it!


I expect you to have studied the relevant material for each day, such that you could answer simple questions about the material before it is presented in class. Assume that I may also give you short in-class quizzes at any time to help motivate you to be prepared. The best advice I can give you for doing well is to come to every class, participate, take good notes, read the book, do the problems and keep up. The most common, and perhaps the most detrimental, habit is to postpone your assault on the material.

Bring your calculator every day!

Class Policies:

The College will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Students should apply at the Center for Disability Services/SNAP, located on the first floor of the Lightsey Center, Suite 104. Students approved for accommodations are responsible for notifying me at least one week before any specic accommodation is needed.

Cellular technology: All cellular devices must be turned off during class unless you have a job that requires them to be on for safety (e.g. EMT or firefighter).

Cheating: Violations of the College of Charleston Honor Code (including cheating or attempted cheating) will be referred to the Office of Student Affairs for adjudication. Examples of cheating relevant to this course include copying test or quiz answers, using cellular technology to communicate information during a test or quiz, or copying homework answers verbatim from an external source.

Collaboration: You are welcome, even encouraged, to work together in small groups on homework and in-class assignments. Just be sure everyone in your group is contributing. Don’t let someone else “carry” you through the course; otherwise you’ll sink on the exams. Collaboration is not allowed on quizzes or tests.


Attendance and participation is critical to the learning process and an integral part of this course. In general, I believe that absence is its own punishment; that is, you miss things you can't possibly get by going over another classmate's notes. You are still responsible for material covered on days you are absent. Failure to attend class on the day an assignment is given or due does not mean that you may turn it in late without penalty. There will be no makeup assignments, though your lowest quiz score for the semester will be dropped. If you miss a scheduled test, then you will be given a 0 for that test until you take the final exam. Once you have taken the final, your final exam grade will count as the replacement grade for the test(s) that you missed.

Heaven forbid that you have a catastrophe this semester that keeps you out of class, but if you do, please contact the office of the Associate Dean of Students to get it documented. After I am notified by the Dean's office I will make the final determination whether you get an excused absence or a zero for any late or missed material.

Finally, I shouldn't have to say this, but experience tells me I do: Each student who attends class is expected to participate in a positive manner. This means being on time (so as not to disturb the learning of others) and making positive contributions to the learning environment. Students who disturb others (including me) will be asked to leave.

General Education Objectives:

  1. Students apply physical/natural principles to analyze and solve problems.
  2. Students demonstrate an understanding of the impact that science has on society.

Homework & Quizzes:

You will have 3 fairly sizeable homework assignments during the semester. You can also expect 4 or 5 quizzes during the semester. These quizzes serve 2 purposes: 1) they help you and me assess your comprehension of the course material; and 2) they force you to keep up. Late homework will be penalized and in-class assignments can not be made up. I will, however, drop your lowest in-class assignment score.


We will have three in-term tests plus a final exam. About 70% of each test/exam will focus on terms and definitions through fill in the blank, matching, or multiple-choice questions. The remaining 30% of each exam will require you to work short problems or understand and relate different concepts covered in the course. If you suspect I made an error grading your exam and would like it reviewed, please bring it to my attention before the next class after the one in which I hand it back.

Extra credit:

There may occasionally be bonus questions on the quizzes or exams. Also, students are encouraged to keep up with current events and discoveries in astronomy. For each astronomy-related article presented in class during the semester, a student may receive 0.5 bonus percentage points toward their final course grade (maximum 2.5 bonus percentage points for the semester).


The grading scale for the course will be:


A -




























Your final grade will be based upon the following weightings:


% of final grade

In-class assignments






Midterm exams (3)


Final exam





There are numerous resources available if you need help with the material: