Astronomy 1: Introduction to the Cosmos

Fall 2016


Professor Raja Guha Thakurta
Office:  ISB 271, UCSC
Email:  raja .at.
Phone: 9-5169

Office Hours:  Tue 12:15 - 1:15 am (please confirm by email beforehand) or by appointment.

Lecture times:    Tue/Thu  1:30 - 3:05 pm     
Lecture room:    Thimann 3

Discussion sections run by TAs Molly Kosiarek and Tyler Takaro:
Molly's section: Tue 5:20 - 6:25 pm (Physical Sciences Building 114)
Tyler's section: Wed 12:00 noon - 1:05 pm (Physical Sciences Building 114)
(Attending discussion sections is OPTIONAL. The above weekly discussion sections will be the ONLY TWO offered for this class)

Important Resources for Students

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Webcast of ASTR 1 Lectures: CURRENT: Fall 2016 Lectures and OLD: Spring 2016 Lectures

News & Important Announcements:

Teaching Assistants:

Molly Kosiarek        mkosiare .at.         Office hrs:  Fri 10:30 - 11:30 am in ISB 165 (or by appt.)

Tyler Takaro            tktakaro .at.          Office hrs:  Mon 3:00 - 4:00 pm in ISB 165 (or by appt.)

Course material for Astronomy 1:

 Week #, Dates  Notes  Topics

week 1

Format of the class; detailed logistics
We Are Stardust: Overview of our cosmic connection
[WEEK #1 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 2
9/27, 9/29
Motion of Earth: spin, orbit around Sun, precession
RA and DEC, appearance of Celestial Sphere, seasons
Siderial versus solar day, parallax
[WEEK #2 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 3
10/4, 10/6
Moon phases, eclipses; Kepler's laws, planetary motion
Light (waves, photons); Atoms, spectra
[WEEK #3 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 4
10/11, 10/13

Special and General Relativity
[WEEK #4 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 5
10/18, 10/20 (exam)
MIDTERM (Thu 10/20)
Quasars, AGNs, black holes
Hawking radiation
[WEEK #5 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 6
10/25, 10/27
Cosmology: expansion, history and fate of the Universe
[WEEK #6 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 7
11/1, 11/3

Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation; Early Universe
[WEEK #7 and #8 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 8
11/8, 11/10
Milky Way galaxy; Galaxy morphological types
Large-scale distribution of galaxies

week 9
11/15, 11/17

Birth, life cycle, and death of stars
[WEEK #9 Lecture Notes part 1 and part 2]

week 10
No class on Thanksgiving (Thu 11/24) Spill over material from previous weeks

week 11
11/29, 12/1
Interstellar medium
Dark matter
[WEEK #11 Lecture Notes ppt]

Final exam date/time/venue:  Mon Dec 5 12:00noon-3:00pm
(NOT the usual lecture time slot)
Thimann 3 (usual classroom) 

Course Content
This is a one-term introductory course on astronomy and astrophysics.   We will cover the basic history, content, and fate of the universe.   Some of the topics we will touch on include: the origin & evolution of the Universe and the Big Bang model; galaxies & their constituents, including stars, planets & the interstellar medium (gas and dust); normal and active galaxies; the formation and evolution of galaxies; the life cycles & deaths of stars, including supernovae, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; nucleosynthesis (the origin of chemical elements); and dark matter.  Such studies require knowledge of  simple mechanics and basic laws of radiation, quantum mechanics, and nuclear & particle physics, which we shall develop as we go along.

The class syllabus  contains a detailed calendar listing weekly topics, reading chapters, online video modules, 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.

Explorations: An Introduction to Astronomy
Authors:  Arny & Schneider
McGraw Hill
ISBN: 978-1-30-874997-6 (custom UCSC edition)

Astronomy on the Web (this is just a start!):
Three "In a Nutshell" YouTube videos: Black Holes, Dark Energy, and The Big Bang
 365 Days of Astronomy Podcasts
 Recent discovery of a habitable exoplanet and video footage of the press conference announcing this discovery.
 Interactive Scale of the Universe
 A pictorial tour of the Solar System
 The Eight Planets
 Astronomy Picture of the Day
 The Best of Hubble Space Telescope Pictures
 Sloan Digital Sky Survey
 W. M. Keck Observatory -- home to the world's largest optical telescopes
 Our press release about the distribution of distant galaxies including a cool graphic (low resolution version and high resolution version)
 Our press release about a warp in the Andromeda spiral galaxy
 Carl Sagan's "Reflections on a Mote of Dust" and image of the Earth from the Voyager spacecraft

We will emphasize scientific methods and the process of discovery, not just facts about the Universe.  Students are expected to develop a qualitative grasp of key astrophysical concepts.  We will emphasize reasoning and understanding over memorizing.

The course material is self-contained. No previous college-level math, physics, or astronomy is required. Some of the best students in our previous introductory astronomy classes have been non-science majors who took a strong interest in the course material.

Questions and classroom discussion are encouraged, both for your benefit and to help me properly pace the course. Please browse astronomy web sites (we’ll provide some links on the class website) 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.  We will be giving quizzes in lecture on a regular basis using the electronic response system (the "clickers" discussed below).  So it is critical that you attend (and bring your clicker to!) every lecture.  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.  If you are having difficulty following the class material, it is important for you to attend discussion sections (even though attending discussion sections is optional, those who make a real effort to attend regularly will receive a bit of extra credit). Students who do not attend lectures are at a huge disadvantage for exams, quizzes, and the overall grade.

Course Grading
25%  Online Homework Sets (using the Connect website)
25%  In-lecture Quizzes (using iclickers)
20%  Midterm Exam
30%  Final Exam
We will be using the Connect online homework system; you will need to purchase an access code. Click here to go to the Connect site for this class.
We will be using the i>clicker remotes (electronic, hand-held response pads) in every lecture to ask questions and get feedback from the class.  This is extremely important for keeping you engaged and learning!   The i>clickers will also be used for daily in-lecture quizzes.   If you skip lectures, or forget your clicker, you will not be able to get points for the quizzes, which will be a significant part of your grade! Come to lecture and bring your clicker!   You can buy the clicker (called "i>clicker") from the bookstore along with your textbook.

It is important to register your i>clicker - you can register it here (see the "Register Your i>clicker" button in the left margin bar). You will need to enter your name, UCSC student ID (including the leading "W"), and the i>clicker serial number ("Remote ID") which can be found immediately below the barcode on the small sticker on the back of the i>clicker.
There will be one midterm exam and a final exam.   You must take both 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.