Pima College Astronomy Classes

AST 102IN Classes at the Pima College Davis-Monthan AFB for the Spring 2010 Semester, 2nd 8 week session.

Click here or scroll down for class details and news

The Eight Planets and Pluto - Click on a planet (or the moon) for more details



Earth and Moon







Details of the course I am instructing this semester are as follows:

Class AST 102IN, Section code CRN 22954, Days/Times Tuesdays and Thursdays at the
Davis-Monthan AFB Campus from 16:45 to 22:15.  Click here for the syllabus in PDF format.



Reading:	Please read chapters 12 and 13 of the course textbook before the next class on Tuesday,
		April 13.  These two chapters will be covered in that class.

Homework:	A two page essay on stellar evolution should be handed in on Tuesday. You may use other
		sources in addition to the course textbook, if you so wish.

Lab:		Lab 22 will be completed and handed in by the end of the class on Tuesday.

Overdue:	The previous labs, 15 and 21, are now overdue and are to be handed in on Tuesday,
		together with the overdue essay on the sun.

Midterm:	The midterm exam will be held on Thursday, April 15, and will cover the topics in the
		course so far, including chapters 12 and 13 of the course textbook.  I may also include
		a question on the differences between science and pseudoscience (see
		http://csharp.com/whatisscience.ppt), as well as some extra credit questions on the
		observing we did last week.

		Specifically, the exam will be divided into the following sections:

		Section I   - Worth 70 points, with 10 points for each question.  The first question is
		obligatory, followed by 10 other questions, out of which any 6 must be answered.

		Section II  - Some bonus questions worth a few points of extra credit.

		Section III - Worth 30 points.  There will 30 multiple choice questions worth 1 point
		each.  Each questions will have four possible answers, out of which only one is the
		correct answer.


Errata:		In the reading for April 13 I stated that chapters 12 and 13 of the course textbook
		should be read as part of the homework.  In fact I meant to state that chapters 13 and
		14 should be read.  These two chapters were mentioned as the reading in the previous
		class of April 8, and were covered in the class of April 13.  In the midterm questions
		on chapter 14 may be asked.

		There is some confusion about the links to the planets at the top of this page and their
		relationship to the exam.  There is no relationship to the exam and questions on the
		planets will not be asked.


Reading:	As stated just before you started the midterm exam on Thursday, I would like you to read
		chapters 15 and 16 from the course textbook before the next class.  We will now be
		studying our Galaxy, the Milky Way, and other galaxies as a whole, rather than
		individual stars, which have been studied up to now.

Lab:		Lab 27 will be completed and handed in at the end of the next class.  It is a good idea
		if you start on Lab 27 at home, then any issues can be discussed in the next class.


Reading:	We only covered part of chapter 16 of the course textbook on Tuesday evening, so I would
		like you to read through that chapter, if you have not already done so, then read through
		chapter 17 before the next class on 04/22/10, as I plan to cover those chapters in that

Labs:		Lab 27 was completed in the last class and handed in.  For those students who did not
		attend that class, the lab has to be handed in by the end of the next class.  However,
		please note, questions 3b, 3c, 3d, 3e and 3f, all parts of question 4, and questions 5b,
		5c and 5d should be skipped over.  This is because these questions require particular
		materials or equipment to answer.  These questions will not be graded, in case anybody
		answers them.  At the moment I am not sure if I will have all this work graded before the
		next class.

		Lab 29 will be the next lab, so be ready to work on it in the next class.  Please skip
		questions 7f and 7g, as these require some equipment.

Observing:	Weather permitting, I hope to get the telescopes out for some observing during the next
		class, as the moon will be well placed to observe.  This is probably the last chance to
		get a good view of it before the end of the semester.

Old papers:	I still have some old graded exam and lab papers belonging to students who were not at
		the last class.  Please pick them up from me as soon as possible.


Labs again:	This was mentioned in class and I meant to post it here yesterday, but I ask that when
		writing on the lab pages, please write your answers clearly.  Several times I have had
		considerable problems trying to read your answers, and although I try to give students
		the benefit of the doubt, sometimes it is just not possible to read what is written, and
		a considerable amount of time can be wasted trying to read the answers.  Yes, I know the
		labs do not always leave much space to write your answers, but please try your best.

		Preferably your answers should be in written in black or dark blue ink, but if not, at
		least use a well sharpened pencil.  It might be a good idea to write your answers down
		first on a scratch sheet of paper, and once you are happy with them, write them in ink
		on the lab sheets.


Reading:	Please read chapter 18 of the course textbook, which is on cosmology and will be
		covered in the next class and possibly the class after that.  This is one of the most
		interesting subjects in the book, and I intend to cover it in some detail.  I do not
		plan to cover chapters after 18 on a formal basis, as they are not part of the course.

Labs:		The next lab is 31 on the H-R diagram, and this is particularely relevant to the course.
		Plan to work on it in the next class, but of course this does not preclude you from
		starting work on it at home if you so wish.  I plan to hand back to you the graded labs
		27 and 29.

Observing:	Unfortunately the weather did not collaborate during the last class, so we will try and
		observe again in the next class.  The moon will be nearly full, so in fact it will not
		be so easy to observe.  This is because of the lack of shadows cast by mountains and
		crater walls etc.


Reading:	You should all have read chapter 18 of the course textbook, which I plan to complete in
		class on Thursday, April 29.  In preparation for the final exam on May 11, it may be a
		good idea to start going back over the previous chapters we covered in class.

Homework:	Please write a two page essay on the Big Bang.  This can be based on the course textbook,
		plus whatever other source you can use, and should be handed in on Tuesday, May 4.

Labs:		Those people who have not completed lab 31 should complete it by Thursday evening and
		hand it in then at the latest.  The next lab is 33, which you will work on in the next
		class on Thursday.


Extra credit:	I am offering students the chances of gaining extra credit as follows:

	     a) Visit to Kitt Peak National Observatory - worth an additional maximum of 10%, i.e. one
		letter grade, to the final grade.

		You must pay a visit to Kitt Peak when it is open to the public, either at day or night,
		write an essay of at least two typed pages, and in the case of a day visit, providing
		some pictures would be advantageous.  Proof of attendance must be provided, such as an
		entrance ticket or a receipt.  Only one visit is allowed.  If you make more than one
		visit, the best essay of two or more visits will be graded.  Students are responsible
		for all travel arrangements and costs.

	     b) Observing through telescopes at Starizona - worth an additional maximum of 5%, i.e. one
		half letter grade, to the final grade.

		Starizona is a telescope and other astronomical supplies store on Oracle Road on the
		West side North of River Road, and is immediately South of Circle K after driving North
		up the hill.  They are open on most days and evenings, and on Friday and Saturday
		evenings they are open until 22:00.

		In order to get credit you must make observations of three different astronomical
		objects, draw sketches of them and write a short description of what you saw of each
		object.  A stamp or signature from the owner or one of the employees must be included as
		a proof of your visit.  You may make more than one visit if you observe only one or two
		objects during a particular visit.  Only three observations count.  If you make more
		than three, the best three will be graded.

		The Sun can be one of the objects you can observe.  In that case obviously you go during
		the day.  A telescope with a suitable filter is often set up for solar observations.
		Depending on what equipment is available, you can observe either the sun in white light,
		or through a special filter in the light of hydrogen, known as H-alpha.  White light and
		H-alpha count as two observations, which is an exception to the rule above.  To complete
		your three observations, you will have to include at least one visit at night.

	     c) As an alternative to (b) you can visit the Flandrau Science Center on the University of
		Arizona campus - worth an additional maximum of 5%, i.e. one half letter grade, to the
		final grade. 

		In order to get credit you must visit the science exhibits and the planetariaum, write a
		one page typed essay on your impressions, and include proof of attendance, such as a
		ticket or receipt. Students are responsible for costs.

		Note: You can combine (a) with (b) or (a) with (c) to get a maximum of 15% extra credit
		points, but you cannot combine (b) with (c).


Labs:		You will work on lab 34 in the class on 05/04/10, and hand it in at the end of the class.
		This will leave lab 35 as the final lab, which you can start on in that class after having
		finished lab 33, or you can start on it at home and finish in the next class on 05/06/10.

Final exam:	As a reminder and as given in my syllabus and mentioned in class, I plan to hold the final
		exam on 05/11/10.  All outstanding work should be handed in at that time, which means
		essays, labs and any extra credit work.  I have posted a provisional study guide here,
		which I may revise as I work on the final exam, but I will post any changes in plenty of
		time before the final exam.

Post-mortem:	As is my common practice, I plan to have a post-mortem on the final exam on the last day
		of class, which is on 05/13/10, when I will hand back to you the graded papers, labs, and
		any other work.  This is also your very last chance to hand in any work to be graded.  Any
		work handed in after this date will not be considered.


Final essay:	As discussed last night, I want you to write a final essay.  It can be on any subject you
		like of your choice in astronomy covered in the course, and must be at least two pages
		long.  The essay must not be on a subject you have already written about, and must not be
		too broad, i.e. it must focus on a specific topic or range of relevant topics, and
		obviously it must be related to what has been covered in the course.

		Some students have given me essays with up to three pages of singled spaced text with a
		lot of detail, whereas others have only given me 1 1/2 pages of double spaced text.  It
		would obviously have been unfair to those students who have put a lot of effort into their
		work to have given them the same essay grading as those who wrote much less, so I have
		been giving those students who did the extra work a bonus A+ grade.  I want all students
		to write at least two pages of single spaced text, or the equivalent amount of text with
		larger spacing.  When quoting facts and figures, make sure you have them correct, as
		students have lost points in putting in incorrect details.

		Many students have given references at the end of their essays, which is an excellent idea
		and is what is presented in professional publications.  You should all do this, and it
		should be in addition to the required amount of text.

		The essays should be handed in at the very latest on 05/11/10, but if you can hand them in
		in the next class, that would be much appreciated.

Extra credit:	The issue was brought up last night on observing at the Flandrau Observatory on the
		University of Arizona campus, which is part of the Flandrau Science Center mentioned in
		(c) for my posting on 04/30/10.  Admission is free, and it is run separately from the
		museum and planetarium, but I am not sure if it is functioning at the moment.  If you can
		observe there, then any observations would be treated as if they were performed at
		Starizona in (b) in my 04/30/10 update, i.e. if you observe an astronomical object at
		Flandrau, you must draw a sketch, write up a few words on it, and provide proof of your
		visit.  This observation would count as one of your required three, with the other two
		being at Starizona, or Flandrau, or both.  Please note, however, that at the Flandrau
		Observatory it is not so easy to observe several objects, and when it is open, there are
		often long lines.


Final exam:	I have posted an update to the study guide here, which replaces the provisional version.
		Please note that I have decided not to add an additional 2 sets of questions to the
		multiple choice section, which will have 6 questions as originally planned.


Post-mortem:	As mentioned previously, on the last day of class on Thursday 05/13/10 I plan to hand the
		graded final exam papers back to you together with the final essay and the extra credit
		work.  What I call the post-mortem will be to go over the exam with you, and the other
		work you have handed in, together any other issues relating to the course before the
		class is dismissed for the final time.  I would encourage you all to attend this final

Extra credit:	I am most impressed that at such short notice several students took the trouble to do
		some extra credit, including a visit to Kitt Peak.  You still have the time for extra
		credit before the last class on 05/13/10, which is the final deadline.  However, this will
		only be accepted if I have the material as a hard copy, not as an e-mail, particularly if
		the e-mail never arrives in my inbox, which has happened.

Final grades:	The Pima Community College computer system will not allow me to post the final grades
		until 05/16/10, although I may have the grades ready before then.  Accordingly, I hope to
		have the final grades posted on that date, or as soon as possible after that date.  The
		deadline for having the grades posted is 05/21/10.

Contact		As given in the syllabus, if you need to contact me, my e-mail address is csharp@pima.edu, 
    details:	and my phone number is 445-6546.  I also have the cell phone number 223-5928 (area code
		520 in both cases), but that should only be used if you cannot get me on the other number,
		and it is really important.


Final grades:	The final grades have just been posted this evening.  Everybody who has attended the
		course and did the work passed, with the final grade depending on the quality of the work,
		as well as any extra credit.  The computer system prevented me from entering the grades
		until today, and as it happens I have been out for most of the day, so I was not able to
		enter the grades until the evening.

		This is my final posting, and I wish everybody a great summer and good luck with you
		continuing your education or whatever else you plan to do.

C. M. Sharp - Spring 2010