ASTR 150 E: The Planets

Winter 2021
Meeting:
to be arranged / * *
SLN:
10585
Section Type:
Lecture
Instructors:
*DISTANCE LEARNING - ASYNCHRONOUS INSTRUCTION. *ONLINE GROUP-START COURSE: STUDENT BEGIN & END TOGETHER. COURSE DOES NOT HAVE SYNCHRONOUS MEETING TIMES. DOES NOT QUALIFY FOR RESIDENCE CREDIT. *FOR C OR W CREDIT SEE OPTIONAL LINK WRITING COURSE, ENGL 199B. -OFFERED VIA REMOTE LEARNING
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Meet Your "Astro 150 Team"

Instructor: Dr. K

Intro Nicole.jpg

Instructor: Dr. A

Eric Agol

Instructors

  • Nicole Kelly, Lecturer
  • Eric Agol, Professor

Teaching Assistants & Graders

  • TAs
    • Rain Borges 
    • Jessica Birky
  • Graders
    • Luke Surber
    • Mira Cho

Please refer to the Instructor and TA Information page under the Important Course Information module for our contact information and office hours.

Covid-19 Information

We are very aware that these are ridiculously difficult times.  We understand that some of you are new to remote learning, may get sick, may be caring for sick relatives or friends, dealing with kids who are home and online for school, juggling work, etc.  As you read through the Syllabus you will see that there is quite a bit of flexibility on assignments, but there are deadlines in place because we do need to get through a minimum amount of material for course credit.  If you find yourself falling behind, unable to complete assignments on time, need help setting up a schedule, etc., please don't hesitate to ask for help!  And, do this early! If things happen in your life that are out of your control, we will do our best to accommodate you and will handle issues on a case-by-case basis.  Your Astro 150 Team is here to help you be successful and enjoy this course.  Let us know when and how we can help!

This course was originally designed 6 years ago to be an asynchronous, online course.  We have run this course every quarter online since then, so rest assured, you are in good hands!  There are no official or required in-person meeting times nor are there required Zoom sessions to attend.  There will be weekly, optional Zoom and/or Canvas Chat sessions with your TAs and Instructors so you have the opportunity to interact real-time. 

If there is any important information discussed in a Zoom session, we will record it and Canvas Chat keeps a record of the chat thread for those of you unable to attend.  Look for an announcement or email from your Instructors or TAs regarding the optional Zoom sessions.  Your Astro 150 Team members are also available each week on Zoom or Chat for office hours and individual appointments. 

Course Introduction

Welcome to Astronomy 150: The Planets!

Where did our Solar System come from? What is it made of? Are we alone? What else is 'out there'? These are some of the natural and fundamental questions that humans have been asking since the dawn of time. Given the complexity and breadth of such questions, it is not at all surprising that astronomy itself is a diverse and interesting field of study. Over the next ten weeks we will explore the planets of the Solar System in the hopes of bringing you closer to answering these and, undoubtedly, numerous other questions you may already have or will have as we move along in this course.

Whether you are an avid backyard astronomer complete with your own telescope or a complete newbie to astronomy or any science class, we are sure you will enjoy the material in this course. The course is open to all students and there are no prerequisites.  There are some basic concepts that, as intelligent stewards of this planet, we'd like you to leave this course with. By the end of the course, you will be able to answer the following questions:

  • The Geology & Geography of the Planets: What are the basic characteristics of the planets and how do they compare to each other (comparative planetology)?
  • Solar System Formation: What gives rise to the great diversity of worlds in our solar system? What can this tell us about how the Solar System formed?
  • Solar System Evolution: How did the Solar System get to, or evolve to, its current state? Where is it headed in the near and distant future?
  • Life in the Universe and Exoplanets: What do we understand about life in our own Solar System? Can we apply this to other stellar systems? What can be said about life and its distribution throughout the galaxy and the universe?

Course Objectives

After completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Recognize and describe the basic characteristics of terrestrial and Jovian planets.
  • Outline and describe the physical mechanisms that give rise to the great diversity of worlds in our solar system.  Predict how these mechanisms have influenced the formation and evolution of our own Solar System?
  • Discuss how the Solar System arrived at or evolved to its current state. Determine where the Solar System is headed in the near and distant future.
  • Summarize what we currently understand about life in our own Solar System and apply this understanding to other stellar systems. Discuss the implications of this knowledge with respect to life and its distribution throughout the galaxy and the Universe.  

Expectations

What you can expect from your Instructors and TAs:

Each module has been designed to tell a part or a chapter in some sense, of a story. That story is a fascinating one that will take the full quarter to tell. It is one about how the Solar System came to be organized as we see it today, which, to foreshadow a bit, is a story about star formation and about how life came to be on this planet and perhaps how it might arise on others.

Presentations will be given for each lesson module on the Canvas site. We encourage you to print the PDF versions out to take notes and to have them with you at office hours if you have questions.  As you will see, the slides themselves will not be a sufficient substitute for reading the text and doing the additional research on related sites that will be given, so be sure to keep up with those as well. 

Your Astro 150 team will be available both in-person (when campus is open: check the Instructor and TA Information page for details) and online on Canvas Chat and/or Zoom for office hours each week and we will have time outside of that for you as well.  

This is a survey course, therefore we do not assume or require that you have a scientific or mathematical background. That being said, we will expect you to do some simple algebra in your head (you can balance your checkbook and multiply 4x4, right?). You will need to know how to use a scientific calculator and a basic spreadsheet and document programs (e.g. MS Office or  G-Suite - See the Technology Requirements section below).

If you do not know how to use these tools, please make a point of speaking with someone on your Astro 150 team as soon as possible so we can help you get started.

What we will expect from you:

Your Astro 150 team's job this quarter is to help you be successful in this class. We cannot do that alone. You must put in effort too. As stated above, we expect you to keep up with the material presented in each module every week, participate in groups and discussions and submit assignments in a timely fashion. It's that simple. As you will see, several short assignments  will be given each week and you have an entire week to complete them.  If you setup a schedule, stick with it, and put in constant weekly effort and you will be very successful! Take advantage of our time too. That's what we are here for!

Success in this class hinges upon your commitment to participate and complete the assignments every week of the quarter. Many of the people who choose this course have jobs, kids, or other commitments that make attending in-person classes difficult, but you must still commit to completing the assignments in a way that works with both your schedule and the course due dates, and ideally gives you enough time to get help when you need it.  We usually do not give extra credit. This course moves quickly through material, therefore we do not allow registrations beyond the first week of classes.

Required Materials

Please refer to the Textbook page for more information on the textbook requirements.   In addition to the textbook, you are responsible for the information presented on the course's Canvas site, including Announcements and messages sent to you via Canvas/email. 

Technology Requirements

You will need a reliable and reasonably high-speed connection to the Internet and the ability to connect remotely to the Canvas course.  Note that the images in the Canvas page may not display in Safari.  You may want to participate in live Zoom meetings so you'll need reliable high-speed internet to participate on video. Please see 

https://itconnect.uw.edu/connect/phones/conferencing/zoom-video-conferencing/

for more information on connecting to Zoom.

Occasionally it may be useful to compose or edit assignments outside of the Canvas framework.  You also  have the option to hand in some assignments in different formats. As UW students you have access to both Microsoft Office 365 and the Google G-Suite of applications.  Please refer to 

https://itconnect.uw.edu/connect/productivity-platforms/uw-office-365/

https://itconnect.uw.edu/connect/email/google-apps/

for more information about the suite of applications available to you for your studies.

Communicating with Your Instructors, TAs and Peers

Make sure you read Instructor and TA Information and Important Canvas Settings pages before you begin with the course.  All course-related email will receive a reply usually within 24hrs. Meetings with TAs and instructors are available on platforms such as Canvas Chat or UW Zoom.  

Online Discussion Forums allow you to communicate with other currently enrolled students and with your instructor and TA. We encourage you to use the General Discussion Forum to exchange ideas, resources, and comments about your coursework with other students in this course. This forum is monitored by your instructional team. You can use Canvas email to ask the instructor/TA questions but, if the topic would be of general interest, post your question on the General Discussion Forum

Course Elements & Assessment

Please note that our primary form of communication with students will be on Canvas in the form of announcements on the Announcements list, through Canvas email, or in the comments sections on your individual assignments and related discussion boards.

All deadlines and due dates for reading summaries, activities, quizzes and exams are clearly listed with each assignment and will show up in your Canvas Calendar. Any changes will be sent as Canvas Announcements. Please either make a habit of checking Canvas for announcements or set your Canvas preferences to email your UW email account with daily or immediate summaries. Either make a habit of reading your email account or forward it to one that you read often. 

Please be aware that you cannot edit or delete your posts in discussion assignments so please be thoughtful in your posts and responses. If you cannot live with a mistake you've made in a post, you may email your TA or instructor for help.  Please refrain from posting blank, partial, or nonsense posts as these will result in a zero grade.  

Reading Summaries

As good citizens and stewards of this planet, we'd like you to be aware of what is going on in science and technology in the world. We live in really stunning times - we (the scientific communities of the world) landed another rover on Mars and a new on is on its way! We landed a probe on a comet and a new probe is on it's way to "touch" the Sun; we have several exciting missions in progress to different worlds in our solar system and a whole slew of other projects in the works. If that's not exciting to you, then in a very practical sense, it's your tax dollars hard at work, so you'll likely want to be aware of how scientists are spending your money! 

Almost every week you will be responsible for having read one news article from an astronomy-related source. You will prepare a written summary of the article you read and submit your summaries each week to a discussion under the appropriate module/assignment on Canvas.  Your Astro 150 team will attempt to answer questions on the readings in a timely manner so feel free to start a dialogue with us on them!

The list of appropriate web sources can be found under each assignment along with detailed instructions and due dates.  

Late submissions will receive 1/3 credit per day off, zero credit thereafter.  Missed submissions will result in a zero grade. Your lowest reading summary grade will be dropped.

Group Discussion Participation

Participation is a requirement for this course.  The Canvas Discussions platform will be used for online discussion about class topics and assignments. It has been shown that learning outcomes are better when students are encouraged to interact with each other in small groups.  Since this is an asynchronous, online class, you don't have any in-person contact with your fellow students, so online discussions are particularly useful and important in the learning process. 

Your participation in these discussions will count towards your final grade.  You will be working in small groups (~4-5 students) for most of these discussions.  

Credit for the discussions will be based on the timeliness, frequency and relevance of your posts as well as fulfillment of your role within the group. More information on the discussion requirements, roles and responsibilities can be found on the Discussion Roles, Requirements & Rubric, Group Discussion Guidelines, and Group Roles - Wi 2021.

The more you participate and post, the better you will do in this course as the discussions will usually be closely tied to the topics, assignments, and learning goals each week.  You will also see questions on the exams based on these discussion topics.

Before you start posting, be sure to read the Group Discussion Guidelines. If your post doesn’t follow the guidelines, there is a chance it will be removed and you won’t receive points for that discussion.

You must participate throughout each week for full credit. All group discussions count towards your course grade. No group discussions will be dropped. Group Discussions are due on Saturdays at 11:59pm.

Lesson Activities

Almost every week you will be assigned an activity which emphasizes a specific learning goal from that week's lesson module.   Most weeks the activity is closely tied to the group discussion so you will be working on them closely with your group.  These assignments have been selected to be closely related to or augment in some meaningful way, the current week’s course material.  

Late submissions will receive 1/3 credit per day, zero credit thereafter.  Missed submissions will result in a zero grade. All lesson activities count towards your course grade. No lesson activities will be dropped.

Online Quizzes

There will be a weekly online lesson quiz, consisting of 20-25 multiple choice questions. The quiz will be based on the material presented in the weekly lesson modules, activities and required textbook readings. 

You are allowed 2 attempts for each quiz with the high score being recorded as the final grade.    Correct answers will be revealed after your second attempt. If you miss an online quiz, you will not have access to the answers and will need to contact a member of your Astro 150 Team for the answers after the quiz closes.

Missing an online quiz will result in a zero grade.  Your lowest quiz grade will be dropped. 

Exams

There will be two online exams.  The first exam, the Mid-Quarter Review Quiz, is really just a longer lesson quiz (30-40 multiple choice questions) that covers all of the material presented in the first 5 lesson modules (5 weeks) of the course.  As with the lesson quizzes, you will be allowed 2 attempts, however the Mid-Quarter Review Quiz will not be dropped.

The second exam is the Final Exam.  It is both optional and cumulative with heavy emphasis on the material presented after Lesson Module 5.  You have two options for the Final Exam:

Option 1: If you are happy with your cumulative course grade at the end of the 10-week quarter, after all assignments have been graded, you may choose to not take the Final Exam and use that grade instead as your Final Exam grade. In other words, your course grade will not change with the inclusion of the Final Exam grade.

Option 2: If you would like to try and raise your cumulative course grade, you may attempt to take the Final Exam.  If your Final Exam grade is higher than your cumulative course grade, after all assignments have been graded, your exam grade will be factored into your course grade.  If your exam grade is lower than your cumulative course grade, your cumulative course grade will be used as your final exam grade.  In other words, if you choose to take the exam and don't do as well as you hoped, you won't lower your course grade by giving it a try.

The Final Exam will cover all of the material presented in each module, including the textbook readings and group discussions. The format of the exams will usually consist of some combination of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and short-answer questions.

If you know you are going to miss either exam for an excused reason please read the Exam/Project Information  page for more information. Your Astro 150 team will attempt to accommodate your schedule, if possible. If you encounter a last minute unforeseen issue (e.g. "I’m having my appendix out" or "I got called into Jury Duty"), the issue will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

It is not possible to take an exam after the scheduled date/time windows unless prior accommodations have been made with your instructor (see above). No Exam grades will be dropped.

About The Lessons

Week 01: Numbers, Vocabulary and the Lunar Surface

Week 02: The History and Origin of the Moon

Week 03: The Surfaces and Exploration of Mercury and Mars

Week 04: The Surface of Venus and Terrestrial Atmospheres [weeks 4 & 5 are combined for Summer Qtr]

Week 05: Earth and Life – How Impacts Have Shaped Them (and Midterm)

Week 06: Meteorites, Asteroids, and the Asteroid Belt

Week 07: Giant Planet Satellites – Dead Worlds, Rinds, and Recently Active Worlds

Week 08: Active Worlds – The Kuiper Belt, Oort Cloud, and the Comet Connection

Week 09: Giant Planet Atmospheres & the Origin of the Solar System

Week 10: Extrasolar Planets & Life in the Universe

Evaluation/Grading

Component

% of Total

Reading Summaries

10%

Group Discussions

35%

Lesson Activities

30%

Lesson Review & Mid-Quarter Quizzes

10%

Final Exam

15%


Your assignment submissions and exams will be graded by the graders and TAs with suggested point values and rubrics designed by the instructors.  Weekly lesson quizzes will automatically be graded by Canvas.  The answers to quizzes and assignments will be made available in the following week's lesson module. 

This course is graded on the 4.0 scale (not C/NC). The final percentile score (out of 100) in the Canvas gradebook is converted to the 4.0 scale upon submission to the registrar with the typical average grade of 80% receiving around a 3.1. Higher and lower grades scale accordingly.  The cut for credit for this course is 60% (0.7). Grades around 97% or higher typically receive a 4.0, though these anchor points vary slightly from quarter to quarter.   Your minimum estimated GPA for the course is listed in the gradebook at the very top right of your view of the gradebook.

Please Note: Think carefully if you are considering taking this class as S/NS. As an undergraduate, you need a 2.0 (~70%) to receive an S (satisfactory) for the class this way.  As of Spring Quarter 2020, the S/NS guidelines have changed to accommodate the Covid19 precautions.  We are following these guidelines until further notice: https://www.washington.edu/provost/springquarter/

Academic Integrity & Conduct

Written Work

Cheating/plagiarizing is obviously not tolerated. You will be allowed and encouraged to work with other members of the class, but all of your assignments must be your own original work, in your own words, and/or using proper citations.

We will be using the standard plagiarism checker (SimCheck by TurnItIn) within Canvas on most assignments.  SimCheck will automatically produce originality reports for assignments in this class. The SimCheck Report will indicate the amount of original text in your work and whether all material that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source is appropriately referenced. Please refer to this site for more information on SimCheck:

https://itconnect.uw.edu/learn/tools/canvas/canvas-help-for-instructors/assignments-grading/simcheck

The University takes academic integrity very seriously. Behaving with integrity is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community. If you’re uncertain about if something is academic misconduct, ask your instructors. We are willing to discuss questions you might have.

Acts of academic misconduct may include, but are not limited to:

  • Cheating (working collaboratively on quizzes/exams and discussion submissions, sharing answers and previewing quizzes/exams)
  • Plagiarism (representing the work of others as your own without giving appropriate credit to the original author(s))
  • Unauthorized collaboration (working with each other on assignments or exams)

Concerns about these or other behaviors prohibited by the Student Conduct Code will be referred for investigation and adjudication by Community Standards & Student Conduct (https://www.washington.edu/cssc/; https://www.washington.edu/cssc/facultystaff/academic-misconduct/).

Audio, Video, & Recordings

Misuse or abuse of any recorded content is also prohibited under the student conduct code.  Screenshots of instructors or other students during active Zoom participation sessions are strictly forbidden.  Re-posting or altering of video, still, or recorded images is also strictly forbidden.  Any student caught engaging in this behavior will automatically be referred to the Community Standards and Student Conduct (https://www.washington.edu/cssc/) representatives for review and consequences as determined by their findings.  

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at https://www.washington.edu/studentconduct/

UW Library Services

As a UW student, you have access to a wealth of online resources compiled to provide fast, easy access to information that supports your learning experience. Organized by subject, UW Library Services links you to sites with help for writing and research, study skills, language learning, and library reference materials. All links have been assessed for credibility and reliability, and they are regularly monitored to ensure their usability.

Access and Disability Accommodation

Your experience in this class is important to me. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Religious Accommodation

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).

About the Instructors

Nicole Kelly is an observational astronomer specializing in the evolution of binary star systems, primarily those comprised of a low mass star and an evolved white dwarf star. Kelly arrived at UW for her first post-doctoral position in January 2003 to work with Dr. Suzanne Hawley, after completing her dissertation work at the Florida Institute of Technology. Kelly’s research at the UW utilizes photometry and spectroscopy from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to identify and investigate the properties of white dwarf and M dwarf stars in close binary (pre-Cataclysmic Variable) systems. Kelly has been a member of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Project and is currently lecturing full time in the Astronomy Department.  In her spare time she enjoys keeping up with her daughter and husband and also enjoys hiking, biking, backpacking, paddling and playing in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Eric Agol is a theoretical astrophysicist who currently studies exoplanets, and formerly worked on quasars, black holes and gravitational lensing.  Eric did his PhD at University of California, Santa Barbara, followed by postdocs at Johns Hopkins and Caltech.  He arrived at UW in 2003 as an assistant professor where he advises PhD students on their astronomy research.  He has been involved in modeling exoplanet transits and dynamics, and has also worked on models for stellar variability.  Not content to theorize, he also works on applying these models to data from the Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes.  He lives in Edmonds with his wife and two sons, and spends free time playing basketball, doing crosswords, and searching out the best bakeries in the Seattle area.

 

Catalog Description:
For liberal arts and beginning science students. Survey of the planets of the solar system, with emphases on recent space exploration of the planets and on the comparative evolution of the Earth and the other planets. Offered: AWSpS.
GE Requirements Met:
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning (QSR)
Credits:
5.0
Status:
Active
Last updated:
June 20, 2024 - 5:40 pm