Astronomy 123

Summer Quarter 2017

Prof. James Schombert
Office: 461 Willamette, 6-5214
Office Hours: 10-11am MWF (or drop in any blank time on my schedule)

Course Content:

The past 20 years has seen an explosion in our understanding of the contents, formation and evolution of the Universe. Changes in our fundamental physics, combined with discoveries from space and ground-based telescopes, have led to a radically different model of our place in the Universe and its origins. The field of cosmology is science's newest endeavor into the most basic questions of humankind's existence; where do we come from and what is our fate? Cosmology is the meeting point of observational astronomy, philosophy and particle physics. However, unlike philosophy, cosmology engages Nature providing a foundation based in observation and experience.

The specific goals of this class are to:

This course requires a basic understanding of mathematics. Please read the requirements for this course and if you feel you do not have the appropriate skills, please do *not* take this class.

Many questions are answered in the course FAQ.

Course Organization:

This is a total on-line course. This means a great deal of the responsibility for keeping up and understanding the material lies with you, the student. Read carefully and fully this syllabus, as it outlines the requirements of the course and what you need to accomplish in terms of quizzes and exams to complete the course. The on-line lectures serve as an outline to the material, but the reading and quizzes are the in-depth material that are just as important as the on-line lectures. There are also video versions of each lecture, again to provide the key points to every topic. Do not fall behind in the reading assignments or you will find the exams to be extremely difficult.

Unlike most courses where you may have some familiarity with the material (for example, you probably know who Abraham Lincoln is for a history of the Civil War course), this course on cosmology will contain a large number of concepts that you will be experiencing for the very first time. For this reason, it is critical important that you research terms and concepts that are new to you. The assigned reading will help, but it is impossible to guess what topics are new to you, the individual. Thus, it is your job to hit the web and google on science terms and concepts that you feel are confusing. Only you can determine what these problem areas are, you can email me if you have trouble getting started.

There are two components to the grading for this course, the on-line quizzes (at the end of every lecture topic, see below) and three on-line exams. There are reading assignments to every lecture (hyperlinks at the top of every lecture) or there is are textbook readings (outlined below). Either the textbook or the on-line reading will be sufficient to understand the quizzes and exam questions. However, you do both if you find yourself struggling with the material. Note that many of the hyperlinks and readings contain a great deal of detail not needed for the exams. Typically the first few paragraphs of the readings are sufficient.

Every week I will send you a short email outlining the topics for the week and reminding you of any deadlines for that week. The on-line quizzes have hard deadlines, since the answers are posted after the deadline (see below). The exams are offered during a window of time after the last quiz for that section. You have 72 hours to take the exam, there will be no make-up exams, if you miss the exam window you will get a zero for that exam.

Again, keep up with the readings and quizzes. Take the exams in a timely manner. And you will do well in the course.

On-line Quizzes:

In order to get you to engage the lectures, the class has a quiz system at each web lecture. At the bottom of each lecture you will find a "quiz" button. Hit it and take a quiz of 10 questions. You can restart a quiz at any point, take it with open book, notes or web resources. Please do your own work for these quizzes. They are learning exercises and copying answers will only lower your exam score as you will miss critical material.

These quiz questions count the same as an exam question. Your final grade will be based on the exam scores plus quiz scores. Not doing the quizzes will be the same as not taking an exam and subject to a failing grade. You will find that the quiz material comes from the web lectures and things discussed in the reading assignments.

NOTE, you have only a limited window to take the quiz, the schedule is posted on the class web page (typically you have a few days after the lecture). Miss the date and you will be unable to take the quiz (the point of the quizzes is to get you to study before the exams, hence the deadline). The quiz answers and scores are posted after the deadline. For this reason you cannot submit your quiz answers late. The answers are posted and late submission will not be allowed regardless of the excuse. Do *not* email me about making up quizzes, the answers are posted after the deadline, the answer is no.

Due to the large number of quizzes, it is highly likely that you will miss a quiz deadline or your dog will eat the Internet the night before they are due. Thus, each student will be allowed to drop the three lowest quiz scores for the final grade. If you miss three quizzes, then those three zeros are dropped. If you answer all the quizzes on time, then your three lowest scores will be dropped. If you miss more than three quizzes you will be dropped 1/3 a letter grade (i.e. B+ to B) per group of three that you miss in a step-like fashion (i.e., you miss 1-3 quizzes, no penalty; miss 4-6 quizzes, you lose 1/3 a grade, miss 7-9 quizzes, you lost 2/3's a grade, etc.).

To summarize:

  1. Quizzes are on-line and mandatory
  2. The deadlines are posted on the main web page
  3. Answers and scores are posted immediately after the deadline
  4. No late quizzes will be accepted, none, zip, zero
  5. You can drop your lowest three quiz scores (these might be the three you missed and got zeros)

Anyone, repeat, anyone who sends me an email with an excuse for late quizzes, requesting to submit them late, will be dropped a full letter grade.

On-line Exams:

The exams are also on-line. You will receive a email a few days before the exam with directions and a link to the exam. These are timed exams with open notes/book. However, given the limited time (90 mins) and the number of questions (100 questions), you will not have enough time to look up all the answers. Therefore, you must study for them, much as you study for an in-class exam. Once you start the exam, you must complete it within 90 minutes. So, pick a quiet time and place to begin the exams.


Grading will consist of the following:

The three exams are large, difficult multiple choice exams. Each exam covers 1/3 of the course. The exams are designed using material from the lectures *and* textbook/readings, so mastery of both is required for a good grade. Not taking an exam will automatically fail you from the course. It's not very useful to wait till the last minute to study for an exam.

Note there is no final exam during final exam week. The three exams taking during the term consist of all the exams towards your grade.

Your grade will be based on the sum of the quiz and exam scores. You must maintain an average of greater, or equal, to 45% to pass the course. Above that score, your grade is ranked compared to other students and your grade is assigned based on that rank. The class website has a button to find out what your current grade is, which is activated *after* the first exam. Note that the exams are worth more than the quizzes, failing all the exams will mean you fail the course, regardless of your quiz scores.

Read the FAQ for more questions about grading.


The textbook for this class is Schneider&Arny, Pathways of Astronomy, any edition is fine. The textbook is optional as the readings at the top of every lecture should be sufficient. However, if you need a textbook, this is the one you should select. The reading assignments are:

Lecture Chapter
Lecture 1
Lecture 2
Lecture 3
Lecture 4
Lecture 5
Lecture 6
Lecture 7
Lecture 8
Lecture 8
Lecture 10
Lecture 11
Lecture 12
Lecture 13
Lecture 14
Lecture 15
Lecture 16
Lecture 17
Lecture 18
Lecture 19
Lecture 20
Lecture 21
Lecture 22
Lecture 23
Lecture 24
Lecture 25
Lecture 26
Units 10, 11
Units 12, 13
Units 14, 15, 17
Unit 21
Unit 20
Units 21, 22, 23, 24
Unit 24
Unit 68
Unit 50
Unit 70
Unit 75
Unit 77
Unit 74
Units 74, 79
Unit 80
Unit 78
Unit 81
Unit 81
Unit 83
Unit 81
Units 66, 81
Unit 80
Unit 80
Unit 80
Unit 80
Unit 82

I also recommend a new book, "Cosmology" by Harrison. More in depth, but well worth the read.

Academic Honesty:

A recent survey of UOregon upperclassmen has indicated that 91% admit to cheating on a written assignment or exam. Every effort will be made in this class to deter dishonesty through classroom procedures. You are all welcome to work in groups on homework assignments, however exams must be based on individual work only (i.e. don't look at someone else's exam). It is degrading to impose draconian security measures to enforce honesty. Instead, we will use the honor system in this course and allow each of you to uphold your personal standards of conduct. For those of you who have failed to develop your own ethics, the University has designed the Student Conduct Program. To also help you down the ethical path, anyone caught cheating will recieve an 'F' for the course.


If you have a disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please see me as soon as possible. And please request that the Counselor for Students with Disabilities ( send a letter verifying your disability.