Astronomy 3: Introductory Astronomy: Planetary Systems

(formerly Introductory Astronomy: The Solar System)

Fall 2013


Prof. Jonathan Fortney
Office:  ISB 275
Email:  jfortney .at.
Office Hours:  Wednesdays 1:30 - 3:00 pm

Lecture times:   T-Th 2:00 - 3:45 pm     
Lecture room:     Thiman Lecture Hall 3
Discussion sections:   see below.

Important information:

TA Chris Mankovich will give lecture on Tuesday, 10/8, as Prof. Fortney will be out of town. Prof. Fortney's office hours on 10/9 will be moved to Thursday, 10/10 from 9-11 a.m.

Updates and news will get posted here during the quarter, so watch this space

The syllabus PDF from the first day of class is here.

Lecture PDF for:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Midterm Study Guide
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14
Day 15
Day 16
Day 17
Day 18
Day 19
Day 20
Final Study Guide

1- The text book: Cosmic Perspective: The Solar System, 7th edition, Bennett et al.

2- Access to the web site for the text book: The course ID is AY3FORTNEY.

3- An i-Clicker interactive remote.

4- Your student ID number so that you can register on (hereafter referred to as MA) and register your i-Clicker. Your student ID number is seven digits long and has no leading letters.

I believe that your cheapest option is to BUY the textbook FROM THE BOOKSTORE.

Teaching Assistants:

         Emily Cunningham,, office hours: Mon 3:30-4:30, Tues 5-6, Weds 11:30-12:30, ISB 255

         Chris Mankovich,, office hours: Tues 11-12 and 4-5, I SB 355

Course material for Astronomy 3, Planetary Systems:


         Course content


         Lecture and Discussion Section times

         Homework assignments will all be available through the web page.

         Lecture Notes will be linked here.

Syllabus (will be updated throughout the term):

 Week #, Dates 



week 1

Chapter 1

A short introduction to the course and course content , seasons

week 2


Chapter 2 (all, but 2.1 briefly)

Chapter 3 (all, but 3.1 and 3.2 briefly)

seasons, moon phases, history of astronomy

orbits, Kepler's laws, nature of science, HW1

week 3


Chapter 4 (4.1-4.4)

Chapters 4 and 5 (4.5-5.4)

Newton’s Laws, Energy

Matter and Light, HW2

week 4


End of Chapter 5, Start of Chapter 7

Chapter 7, first part of Chapter 8

overview of the Solar System

formation of the Solar System, HW3

week 5


End of Chapter 8, start of Chapter 14

Chapter 9

the Sun

geology/geophysics of terrestrial planets I, HW4

week 6


Chapter 9


geology/geophysics of terrestrial planets II


week 7


Chapter 10

Chapter 10

atmospheres of terrestrial planets I

atmospheres of terrestrial planets II, HW5

week 8


Chapter 11

Chapter 11

giant planets I

giant planets II and their satellites , HW6

week 9


Chapter 12

Chapter 13

asteroids, meteorites, dwarf planets, comets

planetary systems around other stars I, HW7

week 10


Chapter 13


planetary systems around other stars II

week 11


Chapter 13

Chapter 24

planetary systems around other stars III, HW8

life in the solar system and in other systems

Final exam time: 

Tuesday, 10 Dec, 8 - 11 am 

Course Content


This is a one-term introductory course on planetary systems, covering the properties of the solar system and other planetary systems. Topics include the Sun, solar system exploration, the physical nature of the Earth and the other planets, comets and asteroids, the origin of the solar system, the possibility of life on other worlds, planet formation, and the discovery and characterization of planets beyond the solar system. It is intended for nonscience majors.

The class syllabus  contains a detailed calendar listing weekly topics, homework deadlines, exam dates, and holidays. There may be some deviations from this syllabus depending on our rate of progress and any special topics that come up in current research.

         Textbook & Other Resources:

The Cosmic Perspective: The Solar System, 7th Edition, with MasteringAstronomy  (Bennet, Donahue, Schneider, & Voit), Pearson.

There is a lot of information on active research in astronomy on the web. Here are a few links to get you started:

 A pictorial tour of the Solar System
 Astronomy Picture of the Day
 The Best of Hubble Space Telescope Pictures

         Emphasis and Advice:

We will emphasize scientific methods and the process of discovery, reasoning, and understanding.  The goal is not just memorizing facts about planets.  Students are expected to develop a quantitative grasp of key astrophysical concepts.  

The course material is self-contained. No previous college-level math, physics, or astronomy is required. It will be assumed, however, that the student has mastered elementary arithmetic, algebra, and powers, and has  some familiarity with scientific concepts and reasoning. A background in math or physics will help, but is not necessary to succeed in the class.  Some of the best students in previous classes  have been non-science majors who took a strong interest in the course material.

It is advisable to purchase a small inexpensive calculator, if you do not already own one. Be sure to get one that does powers and roots. Questions and classroom discussion are encouraged, both for your benefit and to help me properly pace the course. Please browse astronomy web sites and share your findings, comments, questions, etc in class.

To get the most out of class (and a good grade), it is critical that you attend lectures. In order to get the most out of lectures, it is also a really good idea to read the chapter before hand so that you are familiar with the material.  It is also extremely important to attend discussion sections. Students who do not attend both discussion sections and lecture are at a huge disadvantage for exams, homework, and the overall grade.

Course Grading

iClickers:  10%

Homeworks: 25%

Midterm:    30%

Final: 35% (Tuesday, December 10,  8 – 11 am)


There will be homework assignments every week to help you digest the material. All homework will be assigned via the textbook web site: You can register on that web site using the code that is in your textbook if you purchase a new book from the UCSC bookstore. If you arrange to get a used book, you will need to purchase access to the web site also.

To register, you will need your student ID, and you will also need the course ID, which has been emailed to all of you. You should expect to spend 2-3 hours per week reading the material in addition to the time required for  the homework. You will find that the web site contains a lot of additional resources to help you understand the information. Explore it!

Your grade on the homework assignments will be clear as you complete the homework. Each assignment will be worth a certain number of points. Your final homework grade will simply be the fraction of the points you have earned during the term relative to the total number possible.

Homework assignments will appear each week on the course web page at Each homework assignment will be available until its posted due date. Once that date/time is passed, the assignment will be "closed" and there will be no way to get the points for that homework. No exceptions can be made. You will be able to review any homework assignment at any time during the term.


We will be using the iClicker remotes (electronic, hand-held response pads) in most lectures to help you assess if you have understood the material and get feedback from the class. In most classes, you will get points for simply answering the questions, right or wrong. In some classes, the clickers will be used for a short quiz. If you skip lectures, or forget your clicker, you will not get the points from the questions or quiz that day. Come to lecture and bring your clicker!

Your iClicker score will be the fraction of the total number of points you have accumulated during the term compared to the total number of points possible. However, I will reduce the total number of points possible by 10% before I calculate your grades. In other words, you can miss about 2 lectures and still get up to 100% of the credit from questions and quizzes.

It will be important to register your iClickers in order for me to associate it with you!   You can register any iClicker (new or used) for this class on the iClicker web site.  Information about how to register your iClicker can be found here.

         Midterm and Final:

There will be one midterm and a final.   You must take all exams in order to pass the course.   The midterm will cover all material up to that point in the course.  The final will cover material from the whole term with a slight emphasis on the 2nd half.

Discussion Sections:

Discussion sections are strongly encouraged. More importantly, this is your primary opportunity to ask questions outside of lecture and get help working out particular problems. Be sure to take advantage of this! 

Tuesday evening Section (01A) and Wednesday early morning section (01B) meet in Physical Sciences 114.

Wednesday late morning (01C) section and Friday afternoon section (01D) meet in Nat Sci Annex 101.








8:00-9:10 am 01B (Emily)




2:00-3:45 pm   Lecture

11:00 am-12:10 pm 01C (Chris)

 2:00-3:45 pm   Lecture

3:30-4:40 pm 01D (Chris)


6:00-7:10 pm 01A (Emily)