ASTRONOMY 111            FALL 2015

Line Number: 91425

School of Earth and Space Exploration:

INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY I: Discovering the Solar System

        INSTRUCTOR: Regents Professor Sumner Starrfield, Ph.D.

The links to the study guides and tests will be found here later in the semester:  bookmark this page.

This Class is not on Blackboard and I do not use Powerpoint. If either of these bother you then please take another section.


    This course is an introductory survey of modern astronomy and our understanding of the Sun, Planets, and astronomical tools necessary to understand the properties of the Solar System. It is designed for both non-science and science students. The only pre-requisite is a knowledge of basic high school arithmetic and algebra. AST 111 and AST 112 are designed to be separate courses and it is possible to take one without the other so we will be using two different texts: one for each class. We will follow the textbook rather closely but outside reading is encouraged. Note that the text has many good discussion and review questions and you are encouraged to study them since I will use some of them for exam questions. In addition, articles and notes in Scientific American, Sky and Telescope, Astronomy, ... often provide interesting and fruitful supplements to our text. They are available in the Noble Library. You will be responsible for all the assigned reading in the text, even if the material is not covered in class.

I will hand-out a set of math and science questions. These questions are given to you to indicate if you have the skills necessary to work the problems given in class. If you cannot do many of the questions in this handout, I strongly suggest that you see me before continuing with the class. The answer key will be posted on a bulletin board on the first floor of Physical Sciences F wing. You will receive 2 exam points for turning it in with your name on it.


    Our textbook is a one semester version of a two semester introduction to astronomy. However, they did not renumber the chapters and so it seems peculiar that Chapter 19 directly follows Chapter 8. Plus they did not renumber the page numbers either. Nevertheless, this book is cheaper than the two semester version and hardly any students take the two semesters of introductory astronomy at ASU (111 and 112). It is a special edition printed just for ASU with its own Cover (not the one that you find linked by online textbook sellers).


    If you are in the Honors College, I encourage you to take this class for Honors Credit. I will expect additional work such as a term paper. You must see me if you are interested in doing this so we can agree on what will be necessary to obtain Honors Credit.


    There will be three (3) one hour exams during the semester each worth 50 points (50 questions worth one point apiece). Absence from an exam will result in a score of zero. I drop the lowest score among the three one hour exams so that there will be no make-up exam. I cover material during the class that is not in the textbook. I will, therefore, examine you on material that is not in the textbook. If this concerns you, I remind you that there is an attendance requirement for all classes at ASU. I do not take roll and satisfy the requirement by this method.

    The final exam is a two (2) hour exam and will be given on TUESDAY December 8, 2015 from 9:50am to 11:40am in PSF-166 (this classroom). Everyone must take the final or you will Fail the course.  Do NOT make airline reservations for any time before our final exam - there will be no early finals. The final exam is divided into two parts: one part covering the last quarter of the course and a second comprehensive part covering the entire course; it will be worth a total of 100 points.
    All my exams are machine scored, multiple choice and are open notes only. You must bring a picture ID to each exam and be prepared to show it upon demand. Neither cell phones, tablets, the TEXTBOOK, nor laptops will be allowed during any of the exams.  I will hand out a review sheet before each exam outlining the material that I think is particularly important. However, you are responsible for coming to class and reading the textbook. The review sheet is not a substitute for either of these.


    From time to time during the semester, I will hand out one page sheets with questions that require short answers.  Each sheet will be worth 3 Exam points and I expect to hand out about 10 of these --more or less. I will use some of the questions on these sheets as questions on the exams. They will be due the next class period and the questions must be answered on the sheets that I have handed out. No copies and no late sheets will be accepted. These are a required part of the course and you must do at least 2 or 3 to pass this course. They are not extra credit - I add in the homework points before making up the final grade.


    I will make up the grades by totaling the number of exam plus exercise points accumulated during the semester. I will construct a curve based on the person with the largest number of points. I cannot tell how many points will be necessary for a particular letter grade but would guess that about 180 are necessary for an A, about 150 for a B, and about 120 for a C. These numbers are only approximate.


(1) Show up on time.

(2) Please do not leave class early and rustle papers in preparation for leaving before class is dismissed.If you need to leave early, sit near an exit.

(3) Stay awake - putting your head down on the desk and going to sleep is very distracting.

(4) Don't read newspapers or surf the web or answer email with your laptop. I can tell when you are doing this by the laughter of the people behind you.

(5) Don't cheat off your neighbors exam sheet there is an honors code at ASU.

(6) Turn off your Cell Phones and Pagers!


"Academic honesty is expected of all students in all examinations, papers, laboratory work, academic transactions and records. The possible sanctions include, but are not limited to, appropriate grade penalties, course failure (indicated on the transcript as a grade of E), course failure due to academic dishonesty (indicated on the transcript as a grade of XE), loss of registration privileges,
disqualification and dismissal. For more information, see  (This statement included at the request of Provost PAGE)

ASTRONOMY Picture of the day:

Schedule of Chapters (rough order - subject to change by announcement in class):

Week                                           Chapters                                     Subject Matter

1                                         Appendix A and 1                             Units, Astronomical Data and the Scale of the Cosmos

2                                                         2                                         The Night Sky

3                                                     3 and 4                                    Cycles of the Moon and Origin of Modern Astronomy

4                                                         5                                          Newton and Gravity

5                                                         6                                          Light and Telescopes

6                                                         7                                          Starlight and Atoms

7                                                         8                                          The Sun as a Star

8                                                         19                                         Origin of the Solar System

9                                                         20                                         The Earth

10                                                       21                                         The Moon and Mercury

11                                                      22                                         Venus and Mars

12                                                     23                                          Jupiter and Saturn

13                                                      24                                          Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Sedna, ...

14                                                     25                                         Meteorites, Asteroids, Comets

15                                                     26                                         Life on Other Worlds (maybe)

The most important questions in science 

The Major Topics for AST 111

The Goals for AST 111