Astro122 Spring 2008

Astronomy 122 : Stars and Galaxies

Instructor Information:

Instructor: Prof. Leslie Looney Email: lwl @ illinois . edu
Office: 218 Astronomy Phone: 244-3615
Office Hours: W: 11:00 a.m. – noon, or by appointment
TA: Jana Bilikova Email: jbiliko2 @ illinois . edu
Office: 128 Astronomy Phone: 333-9343
Office Hours: W 3:00 - 4:00 p.m., or by appointment
TA: Emily Byrne Email: ebyrne @ illinois . edu
Office: 209 Astronomy Phone: 244-7987
Office Hours: M: 1:00 - 2:00 p.m., or by appointment

Welcome to Astronomy!!

You have chosen a great time to take this course. Astronomy is right now in a golden age, with an explosion of new images and data about the Solar System, the Galaxy, and indeed the whole Universe coming from many new ground-based and space-based telescopes. Our scientific view of the big picture– the nature of the physical universe– underwent a revolution in the 20th century, and further discoveries are on the horizon. In this course, we will get an understanding of the big astronomical picture through the development of a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the structure and evolution of the Universe. From the night sky to the earliest instants of the Big Bang, we will apply basic physical principles on grand scales to outline the major aspects of modern astrophysics, describe some of the fundamental mysteries that remain unsolved, and imply how the flood of new data will help to solve them. Indeed, we will find astrophysics to be a great symphony that interweaves the Universe.

Course Goals:

My goals for a graduate of this course are that they understand our current scientific view of the Universe, conceptualize the Universe, propose what the future may hold for the field, make informed decisions about science policies, and hold any "discovery" to a personal scientific standard of proof. To realize this goal, the student should develop a broad conceptual synthesis– to "get under the hood" of the Universe and see how the cosmic machinery works. This will require a mathematical description of the Universe; thus, the lectures and assignments will feature a strong quantitative component. Indeed, we will find that a quantitative analysis is often essential to address qualitative questions, the results of which can lead to revolutions in our view of the universe.

Credit Hours and Exclusions:

This course satisfies the Quantitative Reasoning II requirement with 3 hours credit.

Course Requirements:

Requirement Percentage of Grade
Class Participation (will drop some) 22%
Homework Assignments 10 out of 11 20%
NIght Observing 5%
Midterm 20%
Final 33%
Total 100%


The following table shows the approximate grading scale in this course.

Grade Approximate Range
A 90-100%
B 80-89%
C 70-79%
D 60-69%
F <60%

Final course grades will follow these guidelines. Plusses and minuses will be used.

The ranges are approximate in that I may have to adjust them if, for example, I give an exam that is a little too hard. In any case, I will not increase the minimum cutoffs for each letter grade. In other words, you should expect that grade or higher.


Required Reading: Michael SeedsStars and Galaxies, 6th edition, 2008.

You can buy it from the publisher here. Or at the UIUC bookstore here

Class Participation:

You are expected to attend lectures and discussion sections. I will cover material here that will not always be in the text, and the lecture material will be included on the exam. Discussion sections will be a time to further discuss topics in more detail, explore more about lecture topics, ask questions about the homework, and review for exams. Class time is the most valuable for you if you come prepared, having done the reading and ready to actively engage the material. To encourage your engagement, the lectures and discussion sections will often be punctuated by opportunities for your feedback, in the form of asking questions, "voting" on the possible outcomes of observations or demonstrations, or brainstorming answers to open-ended questions. To reward your participation in these activities, you will occasionally be asked to write down and hand in your response or use the iClicker in class.

Make sure to register your iClicker here.

These participation surveys are not "quizzes" in the usual sense, in that you are not required to get all answers right. Rather, to get full credit you simply must offer a scientifically reasonable response. The point of this is that the survey is always an opportunity to gain points as long as you are actively engaged, even if you are still a little confused. Indeed, the most difficult and potentially confusing subjects are precisely those that most require you participation!

Although the number of these is not set, often they come upon me in a whim, we will usually have 10-20 of these a semester and 1-3 of them are dropped. This usually means that you can miss 1-3 surveys without penalty.


There will be 11 homework assignments given throughout the course. These are meant to sharpen your thinking on the material covered in lecture, to develop physical intuition and quantitative skills, and to help prepare you for the exams. Homework will typically have two parts: multiple choice and short-answer. The multiple choice questions and short-answer questions will be handled through Compass (due every Saturday evening). Check the online schedule online for specifics.

Homework counts for 20% of the final grade! Your best 10 homework grades will be counted. However, you are responsible for all of the material covered on all 11 homework assignments. Thus, it is to your advantage to do all 11 of the assignments, and hand them in on time. No late homework will be accepted.

Night Observing:

Students will be required to attend one of the observing sessions at the Campus Observatory. The dates and times are posted online at You may come any time during a session, but expect to stay a full hour. That means that you must leave enough time for the entire assignment. Do not come the last 10 mins of the session and expect to finish. Do not forget that the sessions are outside, so dress warmly. The weather is unpredictable, so go early in the semester.


Exams will be one midterm exam and a comprehensive final exam for this course. The exams will consist of short answer essay and multiple-choice questions. Dates are listed in the online schedule.

Academic Integrity and Collaborative Work:

Academic honesty is essential to this course and the University. Any instance of academic dishonesty (including but not limited to cheating, plagiarism, falsification of data, and alteration of grade) will be documented in the student's academic file. In addition, the particular exam, homework, or report will be given a zero.

Guidelines for collaborative work: Discussing course material with your classmates is in general a good idea, but each student is expected to do his or her own work. On homework, you may discuss the questions and issues behind them, but you are responsible for your own answers. In writing, you may discuss with classmates during the activity, but again, you are must give your own answers in your own words. Finally, on exams your work and your answers must of course be your own. For further info, see the Student Code, Part 4. Academic Integrity, at

Accessibility Statement:

To insure that disability-related concerns are properly addressed from the beginning, students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations to participate in this class are asked to see the instructor as soon as possible.

Course Schedule:

Note that the lecture material may vary. Remember to check the schedule at the main webpage for the most up to date information.

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Leslie Looney
Last modified: Thursday, 11-Feb-2010 09:26:59 CST