Astronomy 1: Introduction to the Cosmos

Fall 2012


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

Office Hours:  Mon 2:00 - 3:00 pm or by appointment.

Lecture times:    MWF  12:30 - 1:40 pm     
Lecture room:     Humanities Lecture Hall 206

(There will be NO discussion sections for this class)

News & Important Announcements:

Teaching Assistant:

Marie Lau         wlau10 .at.         Office: ISB 355    831-459-4485     Office hrs:  Tue 10:00am-12:00noon

(If you need to meet with Marie but have a schedule conflict with her office hours, please make an appointment to see her at another time on Tue morning, Tue afternoon, or Thu morning.)

Course material for Astronomy 1:

 Week #, Dates  Reading  Topics

week 1

Chapter 1 (1.1-1.4) A short introduction to the course and course content
[WEEK #1 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 2
10/1, 10/3, 10/5
Chapter 2 (2.1, 2.2, and
part of 2.4)
Chapter S1 (S1.1, S1.2)
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
10/8, 10/10, 10/12
Chapter 2 (2.3, 2.4)
Chapter 3 (3.3)
Parts of Chapters 4 and 5
Moon phases, eclipses; Kepler's laws, planetary motion
Light (waves, photons); Atoms, spectra
[WEEK #3 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 4
10/15, 10/17, 10/19

Chapters S2, S3, 18.3, 21.3

Special and General Relativity
Quasars, AGNs, black holes
Hawking radiation
[WEEK #4 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 5
10/22, 10/24, 10/26
MIDTERM #1 (Fri 10/26)
Overflow material; Review for Midterm #1
[WEEK #5 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 6
10/29, 10/31, 11/2

Chapters 20.3, 22.4, and 23

Cosmology: expansion, history and fate of the Universe
Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
[WEEK #6 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 7
11/5, 11/7, 11/9

Chapters 19.1 and 20.1

Early Universe
Milky Way galaxy; Galaxy morphological types
[WEEK #7 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 8
11/14, 11/16
(NO CLASS on 11/12:
Veterans Day)
MIDTERM #2 (Fri 11/16)
Review for Midterm #2
MIDTERM #2 (emphasizing material covered in weeks #6 and #7, plus questions based on earlier material)
week 9
(NO CLASS on 11/21 or 11/23:
Thanksgiving week)
Chapter 22.3
Large-scale distribution of galaxies
[WEEK #9 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 10
11/26, 11/28, 11/30
Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18
Birth and life-cycle of stars
Death of stars
[WEEK #10 Lecture Notes ppt]
week 11
12/3, 12/5, 12/7 
Chapter 19.2
Chapter 22
Interstellar medium
Dark matter
[WEEK #11 Lecture Notes ppt]

Final exam date/time/venue:  Thu 12/13 8:00-11:00am
(It will NOT be at the usual class time slot/day of week)
Humanities Lecture Hall 206 (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.

The Cosmic Perspective
Authors:  Bennett, Donahue, Schneider &  Voit.
ISBN: 1256315834 (custom UCSC edition)

Astronomy on the Web (this is just a start!):
 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
30%  In-lecture Quizzes
20%  Midterm 1
20%  Midterm 2
30%  Final Exam
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 two midterms and a final.   You must take all exams in order to pass the course.   Each midterm will cover all material up to that point in the course, but the second midterm will emphasize the material covered after the first midterm.   The final will cover material from the whole term.