PHYS 131

Survey of the Universe

Fall 2015

Instructor: Professor Gordon Richards  Lecture: TTh 12:30-1:50pm; Room: PISB 108
Office: 812 Disque Hall Phone: 215-895-2713
e-mail: (subj: PHYS131) Office Hours: WF 3:30-4:30pm
Text: Astronomy: The Universe at a Glance (1st Ed.), Chaisson & McMillan

Course Description:
The course description, credit hours, and enrollment restrictions can be found at this link.

Purpose and Learning Goals:
Students will be exposed to a broad brush of topics in astronomy with a focus on what has been learned from cutting-edge research in the past decade. Students will become familiar with the night sky, astronomical instruments/measurements, our solar system, the evolution of stars and galaxies, and the history/future of the Universe itself.

We'll be using a new textbook for the first time this quarter: "Astronomy: The Universe at a Glance". It is an abbreviated version of "Astronomy: A Beginner's Guide to the Universe (7th Ed.)" by the same authors. You could probably get away with using the old book if necessary. Note that we will be using the version that comes with the Modified Mastering Astronomy software. The ISBN number for the hardcopy (including Mastering Astronomy) is 978-0-3-442889-5; this is what is at the bookstore for $98.05. The ISBN for the book by itself is ISBN-13: 978-0-321-79976-0 (but you will still need to purchase the Mastering Astronomy access code separately). You should probably NOT buy it from Amazon as that will either come with no Mastering Astronomy access code or one that is out of date, in which case you'll need to spend another $60.50 to get the access code. If you already have the book (but need a new Mastering code), then go here, then "Register/Student", put in "richards50237" for the Course ID and sign in with an existing user ID or create a new one, then choose the Mastering-only option ($60.50; again, if you already have the book).

To access Mastering, please see this link (do NOT do a Google search--it will take you to an old version). Again the Course ID is "richards50237". You will need access to this weekly. If you are not sure if you will stay in the course, you have an option to get a 2-week trial access to Mastering, which you will need to convert to full access if you remain in the course.

For anyone looking for more, I recommend Prather et al.'s Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy (3rd Ed.). It isn't strictly required, but it would be helpful to have. You might also be interested in Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait, but it is also not required reading for the course. Those of you that are particularly interested in learning about the night sky and constellations should buy a copy of a recent Sky & Telescope or Astronomy magazine.

Students are strongly encouraged to at least skim through the readings for each lecture before class in addition to reading the material in detail after the lecture.

We will meet for lecture twice a week for 1 1/2 hours. Lectures will consist primarily of information based on the readings. In-class activities (1-2 per lecture) during the lecture will be part of your participation grade (and will count 5% of your final grade). You will be allowed to miss 1 lecture in the first half of the quarter and 1 in the second half without any penalty.

Office Hours:
Tentatively set for WF 3:30-4:30pm. I may have to adjust these after the first week of classes. For those that cannot make those days/times, I can arrange for some online office hours in the evening if there is enough demand.

Homework & Quizzes:
Homework will be given each week on the Mastering Astronomy site (course ID: "richards50237"). The Homework should be done completely on your own as it is meant to prepare you for the Quizzes (and Final Exam). Weekly Quizzes on the previous week's material (reading, lectures, and homework) will be given in the first 5 minutes of lecture every Tuesday. Quizzes will be mostly multiple choice, labeling, matching, true/false, etc. There will be ~9 quizzes during the quarter. I will drop your lowest quiz grade; no make-up quizzes will be given, so don't be late (even by 2-3 minutes) for class on Tuesdays. Homework will be available online from Thursday afternoon until the start of class on Tuesdays.

Currently no midterm is planned. A (comprehensive) final exam will be given during a time/date to be decided during the exam week. It will be mostly multiple choice, T/F, etc. questions with a few short answer and drawing problems. For the multiple choice and T/F part, your score will be the average of your own score and that of your group. I'll explain more about this in class.

10 point scale (90=A-, 80=B-, 70=C-, etc.) using the following weighting:

Students are responsible to monitoring their progress using the online gradebook. The table is sorted by the last 4 digits of each student's Drexel ID number. It is your responsibility to let me know (in a timely fashion) if I am missing any grades for you. I will NOT be using the gradebook in Mastering or Learn. This enhanced gradebook is provided in return for submission of course evaluations at the end of term.


Drexel's policies on Academic Integrity and Course Dropping apply to this course.

The nature of this course means that changes to its parameters may need to be made during the quarter. In the case of such events, students will be notified by the instructor through their official Drexel e-mail.

Student with disabilities requesting accommodations and services at Drexel University need to present a current accommodation verification letter (AVL) to faculty before accommodations can be made. AVL's are issued by the Office of Disability Services (ODS). For additional information, contact ODS at, 3201 Arch St., Street, Suite 210, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 215.895.1401 (V), or 215.895.2299 (TTY).

If you have read this far, please send the instructor an e-mail (prior to the first lecture) for one unit of extra credit. Please indicate that you are aware that you need both the book and acccess to Mastering Astronomy, that you should only follow the links above to get to Mastering Astronomy (then bookmark it), that the gradebook is at the link above and not in Mastring Astronomy or in Drexel Learn, and that I don't allow make-up quizzes or exams (and that it will be a fun and interesting course!).

Topics to be Covered

Week Subject Chapter(s) Reading Learning Outcomes
1 Introduction & Constellations Chapter 1, Appendix 1.1-1.3,1.6, Appendix 2 (9 pages) 1-L02, 1-L06
2 Earthly Phenomena:
Seasons, Lunar Phases, Eclipses, Tides
Chapter 1, Chapter 4 1.3-1.5, 4.2 (8 pages) 1-L03, 1-L04, 1-L05, 5-L02
3 Gravity, Light, Cameras, Telescopes Chapters 2 2.1-2.3, 2.6, [2.7-2.8] (~12 pages) 2-L01, 2-L02, 2-L03, 2-L06
4 Solar System Intro:
Killer Asteroids & Pluto's Exit
Chapters 6 & 7 6.7-6.8, 7.1-7.2, 7.4-7.5,7.6b (~14 pages) 6-L07, 6-L08; 7-L02, 7-L04, 7-L05
5 The Planets Chapters 3, 4, 5 & 6 3.7a,c; 4.4b, 4.6-7; 5.1-5.5, 6.1-6.3, 6.5-6 (~26 pages) 6-L01,L02,L05; 5-L01,L02,L03,L04,L05
6 Stars & Stellar Evolution
We are Stardust
Chapters 8, 9 & 10 8.1,8.2a,8.3c,8.4-8.7, 9.1,9.2a,9.5, 10.4-5 (22 pages) 8-L04,L05,L06,L07; 9-L02,L03,L04,L05; 10-L04,L05,L06
7 Black Holes Chapters 10, 11, & 12 10.6; 11.2-5,7; 12.1-6 (24 pages) 11-L01,L02,L04,L05; 12-L01-L06
8 Galaxies
Ours and Others
Chapters 13 & 14 13.1-5,7; 14.1-2,4 (18 pages) 13-L01-L07;14-L01,L04
9 Clusters, Quasars, and "Dark Matter" Chapters 13 & 14 13.6; 14.3,5-8; 15.1 (14 pages) 14-L02,L03,L05-L08
10 Cosmology
The Age of the Universe
Chapter 15 15.1-4,6,7 (12 pages) 15-L01-L04,L06,L07

Final Exam:
TBD. Do NOT make travel plans for winter break before the exam schedule comes out in Week 6.


Astronomy Picture of the Day
BAD Astronomy
How to Buy a Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope Images
Spitzer Space Telescope Images
Chandra X-ray Observatory Images

Observing Information

Drexel's Joseph R. Lynch Observatory (our 16 inch Meade telescope)
Heavens Above (for viewing satellites)
Sky & Telescope (the premier astronomy magazine)

Sky Charts
Spring Sky Chart
Summer Sky Chart
Fall/Winter Sky Chart
North Polar Sky Chart
South Polar Sky Chart
Northern Stars Planetarium Observing Resources

Philly-area Public Observing Nights

Note: These are weather dependent events and may be canceled in case of rain or significant cloud cover.

Last Modified: 22 September 2015