PHYS 1051 Planetary Astronomy   Fall 2022

Class Home page:  (this page!)
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Class time and place:  MWF, 9:00-9:50 am, Meyer 113
Section: 1 (CRN=20764)
Instructor: Dr. Jason Pinkney 
Office hours  in 111 Science Annex at  these times:   9am(R), 10am(T), 1pm(T), 3pm(W,R).
Email or call 419-772-2740. 
Instructor's Home page:
Credit hours: 3
Observatory Phone: 772-4028
Mars - Valles Marineris Bennu
NEW STUFF      (Watch this spot for new links, solutions, etc.)
This is a link about solving word problems in general.
Week 1 outline (PDF)
All 4 Sky Maps. (PDF)


Course Description:

Astronomy has so many subfields that it is impossible to cover them all in one semester. This course deals mainly with the solar system (hence "Planetary Astronomy"). Stars, galaxies and cosmology are covered in PHYS 1061. We begin historically with man's interpretation of the nighttime sky; the "naked eye universe" is that which we can see without a telescope.   We then look in detail at the Sun and planets. Two natural categories of planets emerge: the terrestrials and the Jovians. We are now in a golden age of discovery with space missions like the Parker Solar Probe, James Webb Space Telescope, InSight, and Perseverance in the news this year. Finally the comets, asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects are small but important for understanding the early formation of the solar system. We now have data on over 5000 extrasolar planets (planets around other stars) which challenge our theories of solar system formation and evolution. 

I have many goals for you in Planetary Astronomy. I want you to see how learning facts about planets (their weather systems, surface features, etc.) allows us to better generalize about planetary processes, and thus improve our understanding of our own Earth. This is called "comparative planetology". Math has played a big role in the development of astronomy (and vice versa), so I would like to challenge you with occasional activities and homeworks requiring math. However, you can still do well on the quizzes and exams without great math skills. I will make sure that you get a chance to study the sky directly, using the unaided eye and telescopes, at the ONU Observatory.   Try to ``keep an eye on the sky" during this course. Please bring your astronomical questions and news items to class for brief discussions. A final goal is for you to see science as valuable and distinct from pseudo-sciences (like astrology) which are rejected by the scientific method.

Pre-requisites:  None.

Text: Astronomy Today, 9/E   (9th Edition)  by Chaisson and McMillan. This 2017 edition has a "rent-only" ISBN-13 of 978-0134450278. This is what we have in the bookstore. Do NOT buy the Volume 1 or 2 versions ("The Solar System" and "Stars and Galaxies"). I don't require you to bring the text to class.

The Astronomy Minor: You might consider being an astronomy minor if a good familiarity with astronomy would complement your current major. Consider entering an exciting field like astrobiology, astrochemistry, archeoastronomy, cosmochemistry, science education, science illustration, or science journalism.

Observatory: Your visits to the ONU Observatory will weigh into the "Observing" portion of your grade (see below). You should try to visit at least 3 times for full credit. There is a legal pad in the control room that you must sign for credit. You can visit for as little as 10 minutes for credit, but to make progress on your observing forms and constellation sheets, you should plan to stay at least 30 minutes. Bring your pre-labelled sheets along with you. The best times to visit are on Friday nights when the weather calls for < 50% cloudcover. The exact times will be announced in class. I'm planning 5 of the Fridays to be Public Events in which the surrounding community is invited. These last for 2 hours. The other Friday observing sessions will last for only 1 hour. Another time to visit is during meetings of the ONU Astronomy Club every other Wednesday night at 9 pm. You can bring a friend (not necessarily enrolled in the class) for the long, dark walk to the Observatory. While there, follow these rules: 1) don't shine lights in other people's eyes, 2) keep lines spread out, and 3) don't push on the telescopes or touch their optics. Again, bring along the observing forms and constellation sheets that were given to you in class, and label the constellation sheets ahead of time.

Week of Topic Chapter(s) Tests Celestial Events
8/22,24,26 Syllabus. Survey of Universe. Powers of 10. 1 Survey Welcomefest (8/21)
8/29,8/31,9/2 Naked Eye Universe - the Celestial Sphere 1 quiz 1
9/7,9 Daily, monthly, yearly cycles 1
9/12,14,16 Moon and eclipses 1,2 quiz 2 Neptune opposition
9/19,21,23 Copernican Revolution 2 quiz 3 Autumnal Equinox / Jup Opp.
9/26,28,9/30 Copernican Rev., Solar system physics 2 Exam I
10/3,5,7 Light and spectroscopy 3,4 quiz 4 Draconid meteors 10/7
10/10-11 FALL BREAK
10/12,14 The Sun 16 quiz 5
10/17,19,21 Solar System Overview 6 quiz 6 Orionid Meteors (10/21)
10/24,26,28 Earth 7
10/31,11/2,4 Moon, Mercury, Venus 8,9 Exam II Taurid Meteors
11/7,9,11 Venus, Mars 9,10 quiz 7 Lun eclipse (11/8), Uran. Opp. (11/9)
11/14,16,18 Jovian planet atmospheres 11-13 quiz 8
11/28,30,12/2 Jovian planet atmospheres / Moons 11-13
12/5,7,9 Jovian Moons and Rings 11-13 Opposition of Mars
12/14 (Wed) Comprehensive FINAL at 9:15-11:15 AM, usual classroom. _ Final exam. Geminid meteors

Component Percent
Observing Constellation sheets, 2 observing forms, 3+ visits to Observatory 5%
In-class Homework, in-class worksheets, participation 20%
Quizzes Quizzes (drop lowest grade) 25%
Exams There will be two exams and a final. 50%

Your final letter grade is assigned roughly as follows:

< 55 55-70 70-80 80-90 90-100
I will not grade any "harder" than the above. However, if the class mean drops below about 75, I usually grade more leniently.

Other Course Policies

Moodle will only be used sparingly for this class unless we have to go online. Read how I will use Moodle in the Introduction Section here.

Attendance is important for doing well in this course.  Absence can directly lower your grade if you miss a quiz or in-class activity.  Also, I record attendance on many days and then form a score out of your attendance which factors into the "In-class" part of your grade. Let me know in advance (e-mail is good) if you plan to miss for a valid reason (e.g. your team is on the road, you are sick, you have a family emergency).  If you miss a quiz or exam because of an emergency, let me know as soon as possible, and provide proof of the emergency. "Proof" may consist of the name and phone number of some parent or authority figure who knows your situation. If you miss an in-class worksheet activity, you should get a copy of the worksheet but you won't receive credit for that work.

Homework will consist mainly of reading the textbook and writing answers to review questions from the textbook. Some math problems will also be assigned from the textbook.   Homework will receive 50% credit if turned in late. It will be scored on completeness and correctness, but not every problem will be checked. You can discuss homework with your classmates, but don't copy their work verbatim. After a warning, you'll be docked points. Look for keys posted after the homework is due.

Turning in Assignments. This semester I will be accepting only hardcopies of homework (as opposed to scanning and uploading). These can be written out by hand if you can write neatly, but printouts of Word documents are preferred. Do not email the assignments to me without special permission.

Quizzes will be given on some non-exam weeks.  They will consist of about 10 multiple choice or short answer questions.  They cover the assigned reading and especially the material discussed in class.  You can only make up a quiz that was missed because of an excused conflict or emergency.  Also, you can only make up the quiz before the answers are revealed (usually the next class). For this reason, I will drop your lowest quiz score. Expect a total of 6-7 quizzes.

Exams will be given roughly every 4-5 weeks. These will weigh most heavily towards your class grade. The final exam will be comprehensive, but will emphasize the last 3-4 weeks of material.

Review Questions will be provided to help you prepare for Quizzes and Exams. They will appear under "NEW STUFF" on this web page. Many of these questions will appear on the Quizzes and Exams and so it is strongly recommended that you use them to prepare. More than half of the questions on a given test will be found in the review.

Observing consists of filling out constellation sheets and visiting the ONU Observatory. The " constellation sheets include 2 maps for 2 dates during the semester (4 sheets total). Your job is to 1) write the names of the constellations within the constellation boundaries, and 2) Fill out this Observing Form on two different occasions in which you actually viewed the sky. #1 can be done on your laptop using the Stellarium planetarium program. #2 must be done under open skies, but not necessarily at the ONU Observatory. Label all of the constellations on the maps, and the 6 brightest stars on each map. For full observing credit, you must visit the observatory at least 3 times. Signing the log at the observatory will get you the observing credit. The Observing Forms and constellation sheets are due on the last day of class.

Disruptions You should ask questions during class, and talk during group activities, otherwise you shouldn't talk while the professor is talking. Anything that distracts your teacher or your neighbors is hindering the teaching/learning process. This includes playing with your phones, laptops or tablets, talking with neighbors, coming to class late, and leaving class early. If you want to use a laptop or tablet in class, you must show me how you can write equations and figures into your notes with it.

Academic Misconduct In PHYS 1051 (this class), the biggest temptation will be to look at another person's work during tests. Spread out before tests. Do not wear caps during tests. Do not use phones or electronic devices to help you. A calculator (not a phone calculator) is acceptable if it isn't used to store information. The penalty for cheating is a zero score for the quiz or exam. See the link to the university code of conduct in the table below.

Calculators I encourage you to use a calculator in this class. A simple calculator will suffice.

Tutoring is available. You are welcome to drop by during my office hours, or you can make an appointment for another time. The physics department usually has tutors on Thursday evenings (TBA) in Science Annex 116.

Common syllabus information. Here is common course information which applies to all courses. This includes Academic Dishonesty, Accomodations, ONU Health and Safety Policy, Title IX, DEI, Grading Modes, Readmission, Repeat Policies, and more.

Astronomy Links of all kinds Pinkney's Homepage The ONU Physics Homepage