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ASTRO 101, Spring 2012


The Solar System and the Search for Life Beyond Earth
Course: ASTRO 101. Spring Term 2012

This course is an introduction to our Solar System, Extrasolar Planets, and the prospects for finding Life Beyond Earth. This is essentially a non-mathematical course, although values for sizes, times, masses, etc. will be widely used, and simple equations will be presented from time to time.

     Dipankar Maitra
     Office: 913 Dennison
     Email: dmaitra@umich.edu
     Phone: 615-1583
     Office hours: TWTh MTTh 2:15-3:45pm, or by appointment.

Discussion Instructior:
     Jessica Hart (jeshart@umich.edu).
     She will announce schedules, office hours, etc., at your first meeting.

Lectures: Monday through Friday, 1-2pm, 807 Dennison

Discussions: In addition to the lectures, you must be registered for one of the discussion sessions. These are held on the fifth floor of Angell Hall: Room 5180B. 
There are two different discussion/lab sections.  One is Tuesday 2-4pm, and the other is Wednesday 2-4pm.  Each student goes to only one section per week.  You can be present at either if there is a conflict since we will be doing the same activity but it is preferred that you show up at the one you have enrolled in.

Telescopic observations: Using the telescopes on the roof of Angel Hall.  Since these depend on weather we will announce/send email via  Ctools. You must attend at least one observing session.

Text Book: Introduction to Astronomy: The Solar System and the Search for Life Beyond Earth. Either the Second or Third Custom edition for the University of Michigan is OK.

     Exam 1  20%
     Exam 2  20%                        
     Presentation/Report  25%
     Discussion  30%
     Key points paragraphs  5%

The Exams will be a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions. They are not cumulative, and will focus on material covered since the last exam. However, remember that different parts of the course are interrelated, and an old topic that is reintroduced may be on the next exam. The report replaces a final exam, so will be expected to be an individual effort, and substantial; they will be graded critically! The ‘key points paragraphs’ are hand-written summaries of 5 presentations (of your choice) that you hear in class.

Course grade will be assigned on the basis of A: 88% or above, B: 76-88%, C: 64-76%, D: 52-64%, E: less than 52%.

Bonus: Earn an additional 4% to your final grade, simply by participating in all classroom activities (like quizzes etc.)!!!

Schedule: A timetable appears at end. The reading should be treated as a target – for example, read Chapter 7 by May 16. Chapters designated C (e.g., C3) are from the first parts of the text Cosmic Perspective; chapters designated with just a number are from Life in The Universe. If you must miss an exam because of another university commitment, let me know in advance. It will not be possible to make these up (except in the case of doctor-certified illness) without advance warning.

CTools: Lectures, answers and grades for the Exams, and other material, will be available on the CTools site.

Timetable: Time spent on a given subject is indicative only; as the term advances, you may find us a little ahead or behind this plan. After the drop/add period, once class enrollment has stabilized, the class will be divided into small groups to work on presentations to be given in the last week or so of term. These presentations will form the basis of individual written reports due at the end of term.

5% of the course grade will be for the 5 paragraphs that you hand in summarizing the key points of the topics presented during the days when you are not a presenter.  The length of these 'key points paragraphs' should be about half a page. The key points paragraphs are aimed to encourage involvement in all the topics.

 05/01 Introduction; place of Solar System in Universe C1
 05/02 History of astronomy; nature of science C3
 05/03 Motion of Earth/Moon; lunar phases; eclipses C2
05/04 Celestial sphere: time, seasons, constellations, etc.
[material will be divided between this lecture/1st discussion]
 05/07 Gravity/Orbits C4
 05/08 Gravity/Orbits contd.  
 05/09 Matter/Energy C4/C5
 05/10 Matter/Energy contd.  
 05/11 Light/Matter C5
 05/14 Light/Matter contd.  
 05/15 EXAM 1 -- 807 Dennison, during regular class period  
 05/16 Overview of Solar System C7
 05/17 Overview of Solar System contd.  
 05/18 Formation of Solar System C8
 05/21 Planetary geology C9
 05/22 Planetary geology contd.
 05/23 Planetary atmospheres C10
 05/24 Planetary atmospheres contd.  
 05/25 Gas giant systems C11
 05/29 Gas giant systems contd.  
 05/30 Rock and ice C12
 05/31 Rock and ice contd.
 06/01 EXAM 2 -- 807 Dennison, during regular class period  
 06/04 Astrobiology: nature of life 1
 06/05 Geological history of Earth  
 06/06 Astrobiology: origin/evolution of life 5/6
 06/07 Requirements for life 7
 06/08 Extrasolar planets and life outside the solar system  
 06/11 CLASS PRESENTATIONS: Mars/Martian meteorites 8
 06/12 CLASS PRESENTATIONS: Jovian/Saturnian moons 9
 06/13 CLASS PRESENTATIONS: Habitable zones of stars 10
 06/14 CLASS PRESENTATIONS: Life in Galaxy  
 06/15 CLASS PRESENTATIONS: Fermi paradox/SETI 12
 06/18 CLASS PRESENTATIONS: Interstellar travel 13
 06/21 NO FINAL EXAM. Reports due by 5pm this day.  

See CTools site (UMich internal only) for lectures, resources, announcements, etc.

This page is maintained by Dipankar Maitra.   Last updated: Sep 09, 2012