AS102, AS102L, Intro to Modern Astronomy

Syllabus CRN 36466 and 36467 (4 credits) Lab  Science

Inside MC

for winter/SPRING semester January 28-May 19, 2013
this file is at Astronomy professor

Montgomery College at Takoma Park, Maryland, USA, Planet Earth, (the third major planet) around the star Sol in the Milky Way Galaxy in the Local Group in the universe where the fine-structure constant is currently approximately 7.297352533(27)x10-3
[240]-567-1463 Dr. Williams' office Science North 106.

Class Meetings Times: This is a distance learning class using Blackboard and you may take it using a web browser on a computer connected to the Internet.  If you try and take this class without a computer at your domicile in my experience of teaching this class online before both AS101 and AS102 online you will most likely fail. I will be conducting some star parties with telescopes out doors through out the semester.  You will be invited to come to these, but you are not required to come to these star parties.  I also teach AS101 this semester in the planetarium and if you want to speak to me briefly about AS102 or relearn something we are doing in AS101 it meets Tuesday & Thursday 6:30-9:10PM in the Planetarium, Science South 130 at Montgomery College on the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus.  So you will have some idea of what we are doing in AS101 on a given evening the syllabus for that course is here.

Catalog Description: A basic course elaborating on topics briefly covered in AS 101 including black holes, pulsars, planetary structure, galactic structure, radio and x-ray astronomy. A major portion of the course is devoted to observing and observational techniques. Laboratory sessions cover such topics as the use of computer-controlled telescopes for visual and electronic observation, planning observations, CCD imaging and image processing techniques. Numerous nighttime observing sessions will be conducted. (NSLD) PREREQUISITE: AS 101 or consent of course instructor. Three hours lecture, three hours laboratory each week.

Course Outcomes:
Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the methods used in searching for the extra-solar planets.
  • Differentiate the various types of variable stars and explain the importance of these stars in research.
  • Explain different cosmological models.
  • Explain the basic concept of general relativity and its applications to astronomy and cosmology.
  • Explain the basic concept of special relativity and its application to astronomy and cosmology.
  • Explain what planetary missions are currently being undertaken by the various national space agencies, what they are designed to investigate, and what results have been obtained to date.
  • Operate CCD imagers, including taking the images, processing the images, and analyzing the images scientifically.
  • Operate computer-controlled telescopes, including their set-up, and use them to locate various celestial objects.

  • My Description:
    Going much deeper into astronomy, very project oriented will be offered this semester, as it last was several years ago.  If you took AS101 and enjoyied it and made and A or a B then perhaps AS102 is for you.   If you are an amateur (do something because you truly love it) astronomer {your instructor in this class, Dr. Harold Williams, is both an amateur astronomer and a professional astrophysicist and a planetarium educator} and you understand astronomy at the AS101 level at least; and know what planets there are around Sol, that there are some moons around the planets, the Sun (our star), the stars, the Milky Way (our Galaxy) and other galaxies and would like to know more about how the universe works and where to find things in the real sky (celestial coordinates), how to make every sundial known to mankind, how to use an astrolabe (an ancient sky computer that Geofrey Chaucer wrote about in 1387), would like to lean how to apply a little quantum mechanics to spectra of stars and galaxies, would like to learn more about dark matter and dark energy and some of the alternative to this darkness, and are interested in exploring the frontiers of the universe in time and space then perhaps this course is for you, too.  If you are a teacher that teaches science in elementary, middle school, or high school, you might also find this course useful and profitable (you could even write learning modules, lesson plans, to be use with your students).  If you are a youth group leader at your church, synagogue, or mosque or a scout leader of any type you might find this course useful, too.  If you just want to know where you are and where we are going as a species of semi-literate and semi-numerate and semi-intelligent carbon based life forms you might also enjoy this class on-line.  If you are an alien (non-human) pretending to be a human so the humans will not hurt you, you might enjoy registering for this class to avoid detection of your type of alien in the future as we humans expand out into the cosmos.  All being with an inquiring mind are welcome even synthetic life forms base upon Silicon or Germanium/Arsenide if there are any currently residing on the planet are welcome to register, too.  You will need a computer and a web browser with INTERNET connections in your domicile or spacecraft.   Unlike AS01 where you just have to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, arithmetic, with a calculator on a lab occasionally; and could make an A even if you were a remedial mathematics student, but did what it says in the syllabus in this course, it would be helpful to be able to solve or follow very simple algebraic or geometric reasoning.  If you have forgotten what a logarithm or exponentiation is don't worry, we will review it, it is actually very simple and will make you a powerful person capable of amazing your neighbors at cocktail parties and other chit chat occasions.  You will be able to make and A without doing calculus or solving ordinary, or partial differential, or integral equations.  This is Intro to Modern Astronomy NOT Intro of Modern ASTROPHYSICS.  We will learn all of the PHYSICS and CHEMISTRY and GEOMETRY that is necessary to do simple astronomy.  This course will not turn you into a professional astronomer or astrophysicist that takes years, not one semester.  I know, as I am an astrophysicist, and it took me a long time to become what ever it is that I have become.   This AS102 class though will help you become what ever you eventually become that might require knowing about the larger universe outside of Earth; which is on the shore of the cosmic ocean, surrounded by violent hot chaos and cold 2.7 Kelvin black-body radiation in the current epoch, but become more orderly as the universe not only expands in space and progressed in time, but it rate of expansion in space is now accelerating even though in the distant past the universes rate of expansion was decreasing according to our more resent measurements.  Oh yeah, and on December 19, 2012 exoplanets around tau Ceti a star around 12 light years away were discovered with masses near enough to the earth's mass and in the habitability zone (liquid water could exit on these planets) of a metal deficient star sort of like our Sun, Sol or Helios.  My Description:

    Clientele: Anyone who wants to understand the bigger universe outside of this planet and who made and A or B in AS101 or understands the material in AS101 through life experience or some other introductory astronomy course.

    Prerequisite: Willingness to read, think, and communicate. The catalogue says assessment levels:

    Course Materials

    Stuff You Have to Buy at the Bookstore

    1.  The Cosmic Perspective 6th edition by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit as primary astronomy text $154.50. new in bookstore or download  text or one line subscription for 180 days for $60.10 (make sure you get The Cosmic Perspective not the Essential Cosmic Perspectives which is shorter and more expensive.  It is very hard to share text books with a friend while taking the course and pass the course.
    2. A Janus Astrolabe that you can buy in the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Bookstore.  You can also pay more money and get it directly from Janus, he will mail it directly to your home though if you are taking this course from an extreme distance.
    Course Goals


    1. That you will complete a number of astronomy labs that may be done as small group activities or solo if you wish to work alone.
    2. That you will keep your Portfolio up to date so you can use it on the astronomy exams.
    3. That you will appreciate our place in the universe and have discovered your own answer to the question of how the universe reveals knowledge and wisdom.
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    Disability Support
    Any student who may need an accommodation due to a disability, please make an appointment to see me in my office. You can make an appointment in class or by call my office, 240-567-1463, which is Science North 106. A letter from Disability Support Services (ST120) authorizing your accommodations will be needed. Any student who may need assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation must identify to the Disability Support Services Office; guidelines for emergency evacuations for individuals with disabilities are found at:  
    Drop Dates
    Last Day to Drop with:



    No Grade,Change Audit/Credit-20%

    W Grade-73%
















    College No Smoking Policy
    On August 1, 2008, Montgomery College implemented a Smoke and Tobacco Free Policy which prohibits smoking or the use of other tobacco products on any of its campuses or other property.  Students who smoke or use tobacco products will be considered in violation of the student conduct code and their behavior will be reported to the Dean of Student Development’s office for the appropriate disciplinary action including probation, suspension, or dismissal.  If you have any questions about this new policy, please contact the Vice President and Provost’s Office, the Office of the Dean of Student Development or the Campus Security Office.”

    Grading Policies

    How Your Grade is Determined in Astronomy

    1. Miniquizes (a READING the CHAPTER QUIZ) at the start of every class right after question time will count 7%.  It is very important to read the text before the lecture, you will be tested on this in the miniquizes, they count almost as much as one of the regular test!  Do the math here.
    2. Laboratory exercises will 30%. Obviously these labs are very, very important! You can not pass this course unless you do all of the lab projects!
    Course Journal or Portfolio
    What is your AS101 Electronic Portfolio?

    Montgomery College has a policy of encouraging writing across all curricula.  The AS102 Electronic Portfolio a written record of your AS102 study and learning. Keeping this electronic portfolio will help you learn astronomy and keeping a portfolio in any class will help you understand and remember the course material. It will also help you get a substantially higher grade in the course. It will consist of several parts. Your portfolio will be organized in chapters similar to the chapters in the book and it will have the following subsections in each chapter.  If you are still "old school" or not yet prosperous and do not own a laptop or palm computer you may want to make you AS101 Portfolio on paper in a 3 ring binder.  Many students in past semesters have made an A using 3 ring binders.   Some students have made an A with their AS101 portfolio on a laptop computer or tablet like the iPad.  You may even take the exams midterm and final on your laptop or on paper the way most people still do.  I write the test as a Microsoft Word file. USB keys, diskettes, zip disks, and wireless Internet connections are all possible ways of getting the test on your machine in the planetarium. One student has made an A with his electronic portfolio on a Siemens SX-56 pocket PC phone several years ago.  I think he did the writing on a regular laptop computer and just downloaded the files in Word to his phone.  He did take the midterm and final on paper, though.  I am technologically savvy and opened to creative students figuring out other possibilities, too.  Spiral bound notebooks are not suitable as AS101 portfolio, because you can not rearrange things!

    1. Notes in outline form of the chapter. You should also include questions in here about things that you didn't understand when you read the text. These questions you will ask me in our threaded discussions.  I like to answer questions. Make me happy. Everything, definitions and all, should be expressed in your own words. You need to make astronomy real to yourself. Writing about it will help you do this. You have to organize your thoughts to write about them. Write as you read, please. Do not read an entire chapter in the text before summarizing it. Summarize subsections before going on to the next subsection.  If you have never studied this way before, please start doing it this way.  You will lean more, remember more, and understand more.  You will even work less for the same letter grade!

    2. Vocabulary words defined in your own words. Most of the vocabulary words will be in bold face type the first time they are used in the text.  Do not copy the definition out of the glossary. I will consider that plagiarism.  You may want to look in the glossary to see if you have captured the essence of the word. For you to really understand the meaning of astronomy's words and terms you must express it in your own words--have faith in your own expression.  Your expression of a definition will be better for you when done right than Doctors Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit (the textbook authors) definition in the glossary, which is after all best for him not you; but it can be used as a  check to see if you have got it approximately right.

    3. Laboratory exercises that you do. Always make a copy of your labs before you email me a copy.

    4. A recapitulation or synthesis of all of the important ideas summarized  in the chapter. You do this only after items 1--3 are finished. You should use this to study for test taking.

    Besides items 1--4, which are done on each chapter in the text, the journal will contain laboratory exercises from The College Astronomy Kit, and all other labs like the CLEA, Contemporary Exercises in Astronomy, that you will install and run on your computer.   But you don't own a computer, don't worry, all of the CLEA labs that we will do are installed on computers in the Science Learning Center in Science North 100. The Science Learning Center is opened 6 days a week: Monday-Thursday 8:30AM-7PM, Friday 9AM-3PM, and Saturday 10AM-4PM!  Some of the most interesting things we will do all semester will be in these laboratory exercises done on a computer. The computer Lab ST304, Student Technology Center also has the CLEA labs installed; and it is opened 7 days a week: Monday-Thursday 7:30AM-10PM, Friday 8AM-9PM, and Saturday and Sunday 9AM-5PM. 

    Remember this is ultimately a portfolio for you. You can use your AS102 portfolio on the tests! You should not use your text book on the exams.  If you are reading the matrerial for the first time on the exam you will probably fail or make a miserable grade. (added February 21, 2012) This means that my test do not require you to memorize crap that you will forget at the end of the class. This does mean that I can ask you really hard questions on the final exam like: "Compare and contrast the atmospheres of  Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars."  To answer this question you have to know the composition (what is in the atmosphere, they are not all the same) and the pressure and temperature of each of these four planet's atmospheres.  Who remembers details like that?  I don't, (and I have spent more than half a lifetime studying this stuff) but I know how to use it when it is in a clear table that I wrote or you wrote in an AS101 portfolio.  This is real science, not just memorizing temporarily a few cute facts that will soon be forgotten.  It should be clear and neat enough so that not only another student can understand what you are doing, but that you can understand what you did when you look at it ten years from now.  A follow up question based upon the previous question is: What three properties of a planet and what two physical laws make a planets atmosphere?
    Portfolio Resources:
    763 web pages from the Horizons by Michael Seeds
    HTML and PPT files from Horizons by Michael Seeds
    PowerPoint Lectures from a former text 9th edition Horizons: Exploring the Universe by Michael Seeds modified by your  instructor
    Even though we have changed text these previous resources from the old text are fine.
    PowerPoint Lectures from your last semester modified by your instructor
    PowerPoint Lectures from the current semester modified by  your  instructor 
    Chris Impey's fairly new site, actually a Wiki.
    Pictures of AS101 students after I take them and post them up.

    Major Resources to use all throughout this class:

    Schedule of Textbook Reading Assignments, extra reading assignments, laboratory assignments, and tests

    Class Schedule time line (all of this is changing, but some links will be left in EXTENSIVE CHANGE HERE)

    Reading Assignment
    in Text before your instuctor lectures on it.
    Lecture Resource
    PowerPoint Presentations and/or Streaming Videos

    Week 1
    January 28
    Ch.1  Our Place in the Universe
    None on first class period,

    • Scale of the Cosmos 
    Week 2
    February 4
    Ch. 2 Discovering the Universe for Yourself by the second class period Sept.11 
    Ch. 3 The Science of Astronomy &
    Ch. S1 Celestial Timekeeping and Navigation
    • What Sign of the Zodiac are you really?
    • Eclipses 
    • Other Occultations 
    • Origins of Astronomy 
    Week 3
    February 11
    Ch. 4 Making Sense of the Universe, Understanding Motion, Energy, and Gravity &
    Ch. 5 Light and Matter Reading Messages from the Cosmos

    • Newtonian Gravity 
    Week 4
    February 18
    Ch. 6 Telescopes Portals of Discovery

    Week 5
    February 25
    Ch. 7 Our Planetary System & Ch. 8 Formation of the Solar System
    CLEA Lab CLEA Lab "Moons of Jupiter" done on a computer the executable. The CLEA Lab "Moons of Jupiter should be turned in before the first test, if you want to pass the first test!
    Week 6
    March 4
    Ch. 9 Planetary Geology: Earth and the  Other Terrestrial Worlds & Ch. 10 Planetary Atmospheres: Earth and the Other Terrestrial Worlds

    CLEA Lab "Radar Rotation of Mercury: what you turn in"
    PowerPoint presentation on Mercury Lab done on a computer the executable   The CLEA Lab "Radar Rotation of Mercury" should be turned in  before the second test!

    Week 7
    March 11, Midterm week
    Ch. 11 Jovian Planet Systems & Ch. 12  Remnants of Rock and Ice: Asteroids, Comets, and the Kuiper Belt &

    Week 8

    Week 9
    March 25
    Ch. S2 Space and Time & Ch.  S3 Spacetime and Gravity

    Week 10
    April 1
    Ch. S4 Building Blocks of the Universe
    Ch. 13 Other Planetary Systems, the Science of Distant Words. Exoplanets, the Kepler Space Mission will most likely discover earth size planets in the habitabilty zone this semester.
    Splendors of the Universe

    Week 11
    April 8
    Ch. 14 Our Star &
    Ch. 15 Surveying the Stars 
    Some useful hand outs:
    Ask an Astronomer 1?
    "What is a brown dwarf?" (Ask an Astronomer)
    Chapter 14 PowerPoint and Interactive Learning Tools
    Chapter 15 PowerPoint and Interactive Learning Tool
    Astrolabe Stuff:
    CLEA Lab, "Photometry of the Pleiades" done on a computer the executable.  This CLEA Lab "Photometry of the Pleiades" need to be turned in before the final exam. VIREO, the VIRtual Education Observatory.  New way to do the "Photometry of the Pleiades" 

    Week 12
    April 15
    Ch. 16 Star Birth & Ch. 17  Star Stuff 
    Chapter 16 PowerPoint and Interactive LearningTools
    What's Between the Stars? (Ask an Astronomer)
    Chapter 17 PowerPoint and Interactive LearningTools
    Red and Blue Colors on Astrophotographs

    Week 13
    April 22
    Ch.  18  The Bizarre Stellar Graveyard 

    Week 14
    April 29

    Ch. 19 Our Galaxy & Ch. 20 Galaxies and the Foundation of Modern Cosmology & Ch. 21 Galaxy Evolution

    Week 15
    May 6
    Ch. 22 Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Fate of the  Universe & Ch. 23 The Beginning of Time
     Finish up any lab not already done,  because you will be tested over it on the final exam!

    Week 16
    Final Exam Week
      May 13

    Take Astronomy Final exam : Friday, May 17 through Tuesday May 21, 2013

    Extra Credit Opportunities
    The Washington Metro area is currently the naval of the planet earth (the capital of the only remaining superpower) and is culturally and scientifically one of the richest places. Write at least one page (around 250 words) about what you learned during an astronomy lecture or a clear night viewing through a telescope at an observatory. Please draw a sketch of anything that you saw though a telescope. Send me a copy, but keep one for yourself as it belongs in your journal.  Turn in a newspaper article or a news item on current new astronomy article from the internet with your name written on it to me. 

    Power Point Presentations done by the four AS101HM students in the winter/Spring 2005 class!

    Science Learning Center at Takoma Park/Silver Spring, SN101

    As you may need some assistance in understanding some labs and as three labs are done on the computer the Science Learning Center, SLC, in Science North Room 101 has the computer astronomy labs already installed on at least 20 computers.  There is also a "Learning Technologies" assembled celestial sphere, assembled telescope, and assembled spectroscope and other helpful aids in the SLC to help you study for the exams and to do the labs.  For MSLC hours see  The SLC hours will most likely be Monday through Thursday: 8:30am-7:00 pm, Friday: 8:30 am - 3:00 pm, Saturday: 10:00 am-4:00 pm, and Sunday: closed.  Check the web for possible changes in hours of operation.  Nice computers and nice people, but do not expect them to know enough astronomy particularly the details of the CLEA labs to help you do more than find the icon to click on the computer.  Be courteous and be finished before they close and have to tell you to leave.  They have a life to just like you.

    Student Technology Center, ST304
    Another computer lab that has computers for you to do the CLEA labs on.  They are even open on Sundays on the third floor of the Student Services building, ST, the Charlene Nunley building at 7625 Fenton Street, where security is located. Monday through Thursday 7:30am-10pm, Friday 8am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm.  Nice computers and nice people, but do not expect them to know enough astronomy particularly the details of the CLEA labs to help you do more than find the icon to click on the computer.  Be courteous and be finished before they close and have to tell you to leave.  They have a life to just like you.

    Student Technology Center Fall Semester 2012  

    Effective 9/5/12

    Hours of Operation




    Changed last on 4:44PM Tuesday May 7, 2013 by Dr. Harold Alden Williams.