Astronomy - Honors Section
PH 230.01 (3 credits)
Spring 2002

Dr. Mark P. Turski
239B Boyd Hall
535-2749, email -
Home page -
Office Hours: 11-12 am T&Th and as needed


Comins, N.F. & Kaufmann, W.J. (2000) Discovering the Universe (5th ed.)

Course notes:


    This course is intended for non-science majors. The emphasis of the course will be on the nature of science, and the impact of science on society and technology through the study of historic and current astronomy topics.

    The course will attempt to introduce you to a range of astronomy concepts. In this way, you should gain an understanding of the fundamental laws that govern the universe and develop an appreciation for the nature of astronomy research and science research in general.

The course is based on several fundamental learning outcomes. After studying astronomy, you should:

    1. have gained a knowledge of facts, concepts and principles related to the major topics in astronomy, in other words become scientifically literate in some of the key concepts;
    2. be able to use and understand methods of science (science processes) as ways to acquire new knowledge;
    3. communicate the key concepts through the use of mathematical relationships, including tables, graphs and algebraic expressions;
    4. be able to process astronomy information and make responsible decisions regarding science and technology issues;
    5. be aware of how astronomy affects other areas such as law, politics, and the economy of a nation;
    6. communicate the knowlege gained to your peers and professors in both written, visual and verbal mediums.


    1. Attendance is up to you. However, you are responsible for what ever happened while you were gone. (But before you skip see Grading below.) If you miss class I do not need to know why except for a long term illness. (See #5 below) Use common sense if it snows and you commute. I DO NOT consider Fox Park commuting!
    2. Specific requirements include textbook reading, writing assignments, homework, evening observing session & attending a planetarium show. Students are expected to be active participants in class activities and determining the focus and topics of discussion.
    3. Grading - Exams - There will be two (2), they are comprehensive. Quizzes, there will be approximately 6, they are unannounced and there are NO make ups. They will be given in the first five (5) minutes of the class. If you are late you will not be allowed to take the quiz. You will be allowed to drop one quiz grade. Specific grade procedures are given with any other assignments.
    4. Late work - The highest grade late work can earn is an 80. It will lose 10 points each additional day it is late after the first day. (Not class session). After four (4) days it will not be accepted.
    5. Long term illnesses require documentation from a physician. I consider a long term illness to be one that requires a stay in a hospital, infirmary or prolonged bed rest. I will recommend a drop if this occurs.
    6. If you use a reference for any of the papers you write for me you must include a bibliography. It should be formatted as APA or MLA.

Exams                         20%
Story summaries     10%
LPs                               25%
HW                               25%
Quizzes                      20%

Final grades will be assigned according to the following scale:

100 - 94 - A                     93.9999 - 90 - A-
89.9999 - 87 - B+           86.9999 - 83 - B                 82.9999 - 80 - B-
79.9999 - 77 - C+           76.9999 - 73 - C                 72.9999 - 70 - C-
69.9999 - 68 - D+           67.9999 - 66 - D                 65.9999 - 65 - D-                <65 - F

I DO NOT SCALE and There is NO Extra Credit!

Assignments Explained(?)

On-line Biography (HW) - post an online biography to the WebCT bulletion board."Getting to Know You" (pretty corny huh?) It should follow the model I have posted. I would expect yours might be shorter since I'm 100x older. This will be graded on how well it is written.

Structure - 4 pts
Grammar, spelling, and punctuation - 3 pts
Readability - 3 pts
Draw Your Own Constellation (HW)- Using the star map draw your own constellation and write its mythology. This will be graded on how well it is written. Two page maximum.
Structure - 4 pts
Grammar, spelling, and punctuation - 3 pts
Readability - 3 pts
Creativity - 1 pt (You need to really WOW me.)
Total: 11 pts

Biographies (HW) - You will prepare a short ( presentation using the presentation software of your choice (providing that it is on the class computer) for the class on a person (non-astronomer) who lived in the time between Copernicus’ and Newton’s birth. This person should be somebody who exerted a profound influence on your major and you need to comment on that. If you are undecided, as a major, pick someone who has influenced an area of interest to you. This will be done in two person groups (upper class students will be matched with first year students). This will be graded in the following manner: Seperate handouts.

Review of the Literature (HW) - There are three sections to this project: 1. the newspapers,2. general magazines, 3. science magazines/ journals.

    1. Newspapers - Over the course of the semester I want you find three newspaper articles that deal with topics covered in this course. Photocopy or cut them out (If you own the newspaper!) and include a paragraph that relates the article to topics that are covered in this class. This will be graded in the following manner:

Three articles - 4 pts
3 paragraphs - 6 pts
Total - 10 pts

    2. General Magazines - read one current (less than 2 yrs. old) astronomy article that appears in a non science magazine. The original article must be at least 2 pages long.Write a short summary ( ~300-400 words). This will be graded in the following manner:

Structure - 4 pts
Grammar, spelling, and punctuation - 3 pts
Readability - 3 pts
Total - 10 pts

    3. Science magazines - read one astronomy article from a science magazine or journal. Write a short summary (~ 2 page). The original article must be at least 4 pages long. This will grade in the following manner:

Structure, grammar, spelling, and punctuation- 2 pts
Content - 2 pts
Readability - 2 pts
Difficulty of topic - 4 pts ( Top of the line Journals get 5 pts - but beware!) Total - 10 pts

Learning Projects -

Project #1 - You will be assigned a chapter(s) from the text and you will present this material to the class.

Project #2 - This project has several parts.

1. You must find at least five learning activities that deal with astronomy on the WWW. They must be at different sites.
2. You must email me the URLs of these sites and indicate which learning activity you are going to attempt. I must approve it. (However, there is a lot of leeway in this project)
3. You must download and complete the learning activity that you chose to attempt.
4. You present your learning activity to the class.
Presentation - 6 pts
Grading : Difficulty of project - 4 pts
Completion of Project - 8 pts
Completely subjective - 2 pt
Total - 20 pts

Night Sky Observation (HW) - separate handout

Sun/Moon Project (HW) - separate handout

Story Summary/Review Grading Rubric - You need to read, review and summarize two (2) science fiction stories. The sum/rev needs to discuss (ex. right vs wrong) at least four points that relate to astronomy. Write a short paper (_ 2 page) for each story. See the attachment for the review format. This will be graded in the following manner:

Structure, grammar, spelling, and punctuation- 3 pts
Content - 4 pts
Readability - 3 pts
Total - 10 pts -> Total writing grade 20 pts
How I grade for writing

What my notations mean on your papers.

No bibliography -.5-1.0 from final grade

Restructure -.5S                                       ROS -.3 S
? -.3 R                                                         NAS -.3 S
syntax -.3 G                                               Lost me -.3 R
¶ -.4 S                                                         ref -.3 S
NC -.3 R                                                     transition .3 S
WW -.2 G                                                    choppy -.3 R
spell -.3 G                                                   no intro/concl -1.0 S
wk intro -.5 S
wk concl -.3 S

Story review example - This is just under 300 words

Mark Turski
PH 228 - Astronomy
Instructor: Dr. Stuffedshirt

Nordley, G. David (1998). A Life On Mars, Analog, July/August, pp. 68-90.

    Pete Nelson has a big problem. His ex-wife who had abandon him and their daughter has had a major accident and needs a lung transplant. The catch - she is on Mars and the matching donor, her daughter, is on the Moon. This story deals with the problems of how to get to Mars from the Moon before the ex dies and the personal and ethical dilemmas that can arise.

    The science in this story is very good. Nordley incorporates many facts to give the story credibility, taking well-known principles and extrapolating how they may be used with future technologies and the problems of applying the technology in the face of “real life” situations. The following four items are examples of correct scientific principles or astronomical references that are in the story. The name of one of the space craft is the Edmund Halley which is named after the British astronomer. During communications between Moon and Mars there is a 3.5 minute lag time which corresponds to the time it would take a transmission traveling at the speed of light to reach Mars from Moon. The locations of settlements on Mars correspond with current geographical locations. The theoretical spacecraft involved has a way to shield the occupants from radiation.

    Overall the story has an interesting plot and is scientifically sound. Some of the discussions of Newtonian physics would be difficult to follow for someone with a weak math background but these discussions can be skimmed without detracting from the overall story line. I would highly recommend this story to anyone who has an interest in good technical science fiction.


Ast Syllabus - 4 of 4