ASTR 120: Exploration of the Solar System, Fall 2017, Section 8528
Grossmont College, Department of Physics & Astronomy
Instructor: Dr. Philip Blanco.
Phone: (619) 644-7312.
Course web page: http://www.grossmont.edu/people/philip-blanco/astr120
Lectures in Health & Physical Sciences Building (34), lower floor
Section 8528: Tue/Thu 12:30-1:45pm in 34-171
Office hours:Mondays 10:30-12:30pm, Tues/Wed 2:30-4pm, or by appointment.
Note: To avoid time conflicts with other students in other classes,
please let me know in person or via email when you intend to arrive.
Other meeting times can also be arranged in advance.
Tutoring/Computer lab in Room 34-108:
Remember to bring your
Grossmont computer account login information, Canvas login
information, and optionally your textbook.
2017 Nov 19: Tuesday reading quiz: 6.2-6.3
Thu Oct 26: Exam 2 Study Guide.
Bring a Datalink 26760, small ruler+pencil for diagram, calculator,
up to 4 sides (2 pages) of HANDWRITTEN notes.
Tue Oct 17: READING QUIZ: Sections 4.1-4.2. Bring a Datalink 26760.
2017 Sep 22: Exam 1 study guide
for Tuesday's exam. Please bring: Datalink 26760, pencil, scientific calculator, up to
4 sides (2 pages) of handwritten notes.
2017 Sep 14: TUESDAY SEP 19 READING QUIZ: Sections 2.1-2.2. Bring a pencil and a Datalink 26760.
Exam 1 is now rescehduled to TUES SEP 26.
2017 Aug 31: "Canvas" is the new online learning system which will replace Blackboard for all classes at Grossmont College by the end of the year.
You can find your Canvas account at gcccd.instructure.com, where
you can log in with your Webadvisor username/password (password initially set to birth date).
Then just follow the instructions for MasteringAstronomy in the quick links below.
If you run into difficulties with accessing Canvas or registering for MasterAstronomy - DON'T PANIC!
We shall go through the (one-time) process in Week 3 in class.
Also check out the many extra credit opportunities (up to 10% of your course grade) listed at the link below.
2017 Aug 13: Need a general education science laboratory class? Register for my
section of ASTR112 Section 2227 Astronomy Laboratory, which meets on Thursdays 2:30-5:20pm. The labs will support
your learning in ASTR120, and you can continue working with your fellow ASTR120 students as lab partners
(in addition to students from other astronomy classes).
2017 Aug 8: IMPORTANT! Online homework is accessed through Grossmont's new Learning Management System
Canvas (which replaces Blackboard),
using the publisher's "MasteringAstronomy" modules, which you have to pay for.
There are two options for obtaining a text book with the online access:
If this sounds confusing, don't worry. You will only have to set this up once, and guidance will be provided in Weeks 1 and 2.
Guide to registering and
enrolling in Canvas and MasteringAstronomy (PDF file).
Extra Credit Activities -
I recommend that you print this and take it with you!
This Week's Sky at a Glance - weekly sky guide, news headlines, and interactive sky chart.
Skywatching - daily chart from Earth & Sky
of the Day.
Space Weather, including
current images of the Sun, night sky phenomena, and a list of potentially hazardous asteroids (click on any one to see their orbit)
Universe Today, astronomy and space news, with some great pictures and videos.
Planetary Society. For the latest in solar system exploration news,
check out their blogs by Bill Nye and others.
Sep 4 Mon: Labor Day holiday
Sep 26 Tue: EXAM 1 (new date)
Oct 24 Tue: EXAM 2
Nov 10 Fri: Last day to withdraw from course (a "W" grade will be recorded)
Nov 30 Thu: EXAM 3
Conflicts? Please inform the instructor within the first 3 weeks of
the semester. Note that there is a "no make-ups" policy for this
course. No exceptions. Instead, you may drop TWO reading
quizzes and ONE mid-term exam without penalty.
ASTR120 is a full equivalent to ASTR110 (Introduction to Astronomy) but
focuses on our Solar System and our endeavors to explore and
understand it. This is an exciting time in history to learn about our
Solar System - with more spacecraft than ever before traveling to,
observing, and landing on, our planetary neighbors. Thanks to the
knowledge gained, in our life time we shall begin to answer many of
mankind's age-old questions about our past, present, and future relationship
with the solar system.
NOTE: This class IS acceptable as a pre-requisite for the ASTR112
laboratory, which can be taken at the same time or later. Both together
satisfy the General Education science+laboratory requirements for
This course investigates the origin of our Solar System and how its
contents change with time. The course surveys and analyzes the physical
properties of solar system contents, including the Sun, planets, moons,
rings, comets, and asteroids. Methods of space exploration will be
discussed as related to past, current, and future efforts.
Topics include: origins of the elements in our solar system, formation
and evolution of the solar system; comparative planetology (geology and
atmospheres), gravitational and thermal effects on solar system objects,
space exploration, and recent developments in the search for extrasolar
Student Learning Outcomes:
Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the skills to:
- identify the important components of the solar system.
- recognize how scientific observations and methods are used to improve our understanding of the solar system.
- identify the fundamental forces and physical processes affecting the solar system.
- explain the relationships between components of the Solar System.
- explain how the Solar System and its components change with time.
Required Course Materials:
Please note that the lectures, not the textbook, form the basis
of the examinable course material. We shall be using the textbook for
reading assignments (weekly reading quizzes), for homework, and to
support the lecture material.
- Text and associated online homework access for The Essential Cosmic Perspective, 8th edition by Bennett et al.
If shopping for the book online, make sure you have the correct edition, which has a
cover that looks like this.
Here are the two best options for obtaining the book + online access:
You should plan on being able to access the Masteringastronomy materials via Canvas for
at least 1 hour per week from a computer with a reliable, reasonably fast connection to the internet.
The computers in the
Grossmont Tech Mall, or the Physics Department (Room 34-108) are ideal
- Scientific calculator, i.e. one which can handle powers of 10
from -99 to
+99, square and cube roots, and trigonometry functions (sin, cos, tan).
- Small ruler and colored pens/pencils, for diagrams.
- Datalink 26760 test forms (grey on front, green on back),
eraser for multiple-choice reading quizzes and mid-term exams.
- Small stapler, for written assignments and reports.
Course Assignments and Grading Policy The approximate grading
scale for this class is: A: > 85% B: 70-85%
C: 55-70% D or F: < 55%
Grades near the upper and lower boundaries of their respective
ranges will be modified by "+" and "-" values, as described in the
Grossmont College Catalog. (Note that there is no C-, D+, or D- grade).
Actual grade boundaries may change slightly, and depend on the
difficulty of exams and homework assignments - NOT on class
performance (i.e. there is no "curve" or set quota for each grade). This
- Everyone in the class can get an "A".
- You are not in competition with your fellow students. In fact,
working together in class will be actively encouraged! However, all work submitted for grading must be your own.
Homeworks - online and written (35% of final grade): Homework
assignments will be given at the start of each week, usually for
completion by the following week's Wednesday lecture. Most of the
homework assignments will be online tutorials or quizzes from
masteringastronomy.com, but 1 or 2 may be written end-of-chapter
assignments to be handed in for grading, or worksheets to be completed
using astronomy software on the Physics department computers (in Room
All homework, online and written must be your own work. Written
assignments need not be typed, but must be neatly presented in blue or
black pen (not pencil!), with pages stapled together.
Submissions by email will not be accepted - please print and hand in
your work like everyone else.
Each written assignment will receive a score between 0 and 4 points.
Late work will be penalized at least 1 point. Assistance with homework
can be obtained during office hours provided you can show me
that you have made a bona fide effort on your own first! Note: if
you do not at least attempt the homeworks on your own, you will be at a
severe disadvantage in the mid-terms, and in the final exam!
Mid-term exams (35% of final grade): Mid-terms will consist of
about 40 multiple-choice questions (bring a Datalink 26760), and
occasional short-answer questions - often in the form of a diagram.
There will be absolutely no make-ups for a missed
mid-term; instead, the best 2 mid-term scores out of the 3 given count
towards 35% of your overall grade.
Unless otherwise noted, you may be allowed to bring up to 4 sides (2 pages) of handwritten notes to the mid-term exams.
Weekly reading quizzes (15% of total grade): Beginning in week
3, I shall give a reading assignment from the text book for a short (5
question) reading quiz the following Monday. There will be
no make-ups for missed reading quizzes. Instead, the
lowest two scores will be dropped from the overall grade calculation.
Final Exam (15% of total grade):Thu Dec 14, 11:35am-1:45pm
The final exam will be a comprehensive review of all material covered in
lectures, and will consist of multiple-choice and short-answer written
or diagram questions. Once the final exam schedule has been published,
please contact the instructor as soon as possible to resolve any
conflicts with your other exams.
Extra Credit Assignments (up to a maximum of 10% of
During the semester you can receive extra credit for participating in
scheduled astronomy events around San Diego County. A separate handout (see Quick Links above) contains the
information and requirements for your extra credit reports. First two
reports: up to 3% extra credit. Subsequent reports: 2% with a maximum of
10% total for the course.
For each event attended, you must write a 1-page report on what you
learned, and attach the proof of participation described in the separate
handout provided in class and on the course web page. You may receive
additional extra credit (up to 10% maximum) for attending and reporting
on more than one event during the course.
Other activities may be acceptable for extra credit with prior approval
from the instructor.
There are no "group credit" assignments in this class, including the
homeworks. While working and studying together is encouraged, all work
to be graded must be your own. Unless otherwise noted, all exams and
quizzes are "closed book" absolutely no recorded information may be
brought in from the outside. You will be provided with relevant
equations and numerical values for all tests. Mid-terms and the final
exam will be designed to test understanding, not memory, so cheating
will not help you - and you will probably be caught!
Academic dishonesty is a serious action and will not be tolerated,
since it compromises the value of hard-earned grades for all students at
Grossmont. It includes, but is not limited to, copying another's work,
allowing someone to copy your work, talking during an exam or quiz,
giving information to another student during an exam or quiz, using
unauthorized notes on an exam or quiz, or having another person take a
test for you.
Cheating and plagiarism (using as one's own ideas writings, materials,
or images of someone else without acknowledgement or permission) can
result in any one of a variety of sanctions. Such penalties may range
from an adjusted grade on the particular exam, paper, project, or
assignment (all of which may lead to a failing grade in the course) to,
under certain conditions, suspension or expulsion from a class, program
or the college. For further clarification and information on these
issues, please consult with your instructor or contact the office of the
Associate Dean of Student Affairs.
Laws control the lesser person;
right conduct controls the greater one. ~ Chinese Proverb
"Be excellent to each other!" ~ Bill & Ted's
All students should be familiar with the Student Code of Conduct,
which may be found in the Grossmont College catalog. In addition, please
observe these rules out of consideration for your fellow students and
your instructor, so that we may all enjoy a pleasant and productive
Attendance and Enrollment:
After week 2, you do NOT need to let the instructor know that you will
miss a class. However, after 3 consecutive absences, Grossmont's policy
allows the instructor to drop a student from class, but do not assume
that you will be dropped if you just stop showing up! YOU are
responsible for ensuring that you are properly enrolled or dropped
before the deadlines given above.
Arriving and Leaving:
Please arrive "ready to learn", i.e. with your belongings in order, no
food or drink, and no need to use the restroom during lecture.
Students leaving the classroom during lecture time will not be
allowed to return! Otherwise this behavior becomes an annoying
distraction to your fellow students and the instructor. If you think you
may need to use the restroom, it is better to do so beforehand and be a
few minutes late for lecture, than to leave and return in the middle of
If you have a good reason to leave early, please notify the
instructor at the start of lecture, then find a seat where you can leave
without disturbing others unnecessarily.
In the Classroom:
Productive and respectful interaction with classmates and instructor is
encouraged, while any behavior which disrupts the learning environment
will not be tolerated.
This includes (but is not limited to): talking, chewing, gesturing,
passing notes, sleeping, reading non-classroom material, use of
headphones, cellphones, or portable electronics. (Either silence your
cellphone, or place it where you can cancel the ring-tone within 2
seconds. Cellphones must be turned off during any test.
No recording of audio, images, or video is permitted in the
classroom. This is to protect the privacy of your fellow students, and
to ensure the integrity and academic freedom of our learning
environment. Recording of any classroom activity, even if clandestine,
will be treated as disruptive behavior.
Possible sanctions for disruptive behavior include: ejection from the
lecture, a 2-lecture suspension, and disciplinary action by the college.
During any test (reading quiz, mid-term exam, or final exam) cellphones
and all other electronics (with the exception of your non-programmable
calculator) must be turned completely off, and you may be asked to roll
up your sleeves and remove hats. Electronic dictionaries are not
permitted, but with prior approval you may use a published foreign
language to English dictionary. The instructor may use video recording
equipment to monitor exams, and software designed to detect plagiarism
on homework assignments or multiple-choice tests.
Help is available!
In addition to office hours, please feel free to contact me via email
are "stuck". Also, Grossmont offers some great resources to help you do
- Math Study Center
can help you with the calculation aspects of homework assignments
your textbook and Masteringastronomy.com login information with you).
English Writing Center - useful if English is not your native
especially since Astronomy has so many new words and new definitions
"common English" words.
- Grossmont College
Library. Copies of the textbook and lecture tutorial book will be
in the reserve collection.
- Tech Mall -
computer access for all Grossmont students, and a great place to
complete your online assignments on masteringastronomy.com. Bring this
syllabus with you if you need help registering online and joining the
online class with the "Course ID" given above.
- Disabled Student
and Services in Room 110 (619-644-7112 voice or 619-644-7119 TTY)-
specialized services including an Assistive Technology Center. Students
who need accommodations for their disabilities are encouraged to
the instructor and DSPS as early in the semester as possible so that
reasonable accommodations can be implemented.
- Supervised Tutoring Referral. Students are referred to enroll in
the following supervised tutoring courses if the service indicated will
assist them in achieving or reinforcing the learning objectives of this
course: IDS 198, Supervised Tutoring to receive tutoring in general
computer applications in the Tech Mall; English 198W, Supervised
Tutoring for assistance in the English Writing Center (Room 70-119);
and/or IDS 198T, Supervised Tutoring to receive one-on-one tutoring in
academic subjects in the Tutoring Center (Room 70-229, 644-7387). To
any of these courses, students may obtain Add Codes at the
Information/Registration Desk in the Tech Mall. All Supervised Tutoring
courses are non-credit/non-fee. However, when a student registers for a
supervised tutoring course, and has no other classes, the student will
be charged the usual health fee.
- Student Career
and Job Placement
Philip Blanco, Astronomy, Grossmont