Introductory Astronomy: Planetary Systems: Ast 103 / Stars, Galaxies, & Cosmology: Ast 104: 3 hours, 3 credit hours: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)

Course Website / Extended Syllabus

Syllabus: Short Version

: Spring / Summer / Fall:

Course & Section Specific Links

  1. Syllabus Items:
    1. Transparent Course Summary: See especially Student Learning Outcomes.
    2. Class Coordinates: See also Class coordinates: course, section, time, location, semester.
    3. Classroom Guidelines: See especially Device Use. The guidelines do NOT apply to the remote instruction courses, of course.
    4. Evaluation Items:
      1. Reading-Homework-Self-Testings: Readings: Planetary Systems Introductory Astronomy Lectures (IALs), Stars & Galaxies/Cosmology Introductory Astronomy Lectures (IALs). See also How to Report Reading-Homework-Self-Testings (RHSTs).
      2. Group Activity: Note also group activity drops.
      3. Interview with the instructor: Suspended since 2020 Spring.
      4. In-Class Exams
      5. Final Exam
    5. Remote-Instruction Exam Procedure
    6. Exam Schedule
    7. Evaluation & Grading
    8. Submission of Grades to the Registrar
    9. Posted Grade Records and Anonymous Aliases
    10. On With the Show
    11. Today's Group Activity
    12. Course Mottos
    • EOF
  2. Remote Instruction Qualifications: The Course Website / Extended Syllabus now just treats the in-person instruction course and the remote instruction course as two equal streams, and so there are NO more special Remote Instruction Qualifications.
  3. Summer Semester Qualifications: 1, 2, 3, 4. See also the Summer Semester Website.
  4. Introductory Astronomy Lectures (IAL): Find online by googling "unlv david jeffery ial".
  5. Exam Announcements


Syllabus Items


  1. Questions: JUMP in with QUESTIONS at anytime, of course---this applies to the whole course.

    Wave your hand or just speak up as seems appropriate.


  2. Transparent Course Summary:

      • EOF

    1. Course Tasks:
      1. Learn jillions of facts---something like a googolplex of facts:

              googolplex =10 googol =1010100.

        No one can memorize jillions of isolated facts---you learn the narratives in which those facts turn up and the narratives cue you for the facts. This is like almost all non-trivial learning.
      2. How is this learning done? By a combination of learning modes: listening to the lectures, doing the Reading-Homework-Self-Testings (RHSTs), prepping for exams, and interacting with fellow students. We also have group activities in the in-person instruction course classes (but NOT during pandemics) to promote student interaction. In this course, those methods may be enough depending on your particular personality. But having friends to work through problems with, to test your knowledge against, to learn from and teach to, and have fun with in your studies is vital---perhaps, it's NOT so vital in this course, but in your major, it is vital. You have to think and talk a subject to learn it.
      3. Work as hard as you can in this and every course subject to all the constraints in life.
      4. Alas/Unalas, the prophecy implied in the image below has NOT yet come to pass.



      • EOF

    Now that we haved done the RECOMMENDED Transparent Course Summary, on with the details of the course.

  3. WARNING: The syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.

    Yours truly does NOT like to do that after a semester has started, but sometimes small adjustments or even large ones are needed.

    Any large one will be called to the attention of the students by email and during the class periods.

    The syllabus is always a little preliminary.

  4. Course Website / Extended Syllabus: The course website URL is

    www.physics.unlv.edu/~jeffery/course/c_astint/ast.html

    which is the website you are/may be viewing right now. Find online by googling "unlv david jeffery ast". The site may NOT be the first item listed, but it should be there.

    And the much shorter official syllabus is at URL

    The course website will never be linked from the Physics Department course page. But Yours truly Himself is listed on the Physics Department site under faculty and my name is linked to my personal site and that has links to my courses.

  5. Class Coordinates:

      EOF

    Note for the in-person instruction course that there are two Bigelow buildings:

    1. The Robert L. Bigelow Physics Building (BPB): Our building.
    2. The Rod Lee Bigelow Health Sciences Building (BHS): NOT our building.

    At the beginning of the semester, there are always a few people going to the wrong Bigelow building and wondering what's wrong. The two buildings are just across the boulevard from each other---they have slightly different light cones. See the preview on light cones in the the figure below (local link / general link: light_cone.html). Yours truly likes previews since it is too tedious to cover topics in strictly logical order.


  6. EOF

  7. Rebelmail: UNLV Policies requires that UNLV (including instructors) email students only using their Rebelmail accounts.

    This can always be done with Canvas (unlv).

    However, since MyUNLV actually sends emails to any email account students specify, we can assume that the Rebelmail account requirement is at present in honored in the breach as well as in the observance.

  8. Pre/Corequisites: None per the physics department Ast 103 course page / Ast 104 course page.

    Note that the courses Ast 103 and Ast 104 are both stand-alone courses. Neither the one nor the other is a pre/corequisite for the other or the one.

    If you would like to take both, you could take them in any order or at the same time.

    The first part of both courses can be much the same depending on the instructor's choice of topics. Often the first part is the basics of astronomy: e.g., the celestial sphere, constellations, phases of the Moon, the history of astronomy, and the necessary background physics material. So taking both courses may give the student a double dose of some topics.

  9. Academic Integrity:

    From UNLV Policies in the Syllabi Content memo:

    See also:
    1. Office of Student Conduct.
    2. Office of Student Conduct: Forms and Policies.
    3. Office of Student Conduct: Student Conduct Code.
    4. Student Academic Misconduct Policy
    5. Instructor Flow Chart: Student Academic Misconduct incident / Academic Misconduct Report Form.
    6. OSC Flow Chart Student Misconduct / Student Conduct Incident Report.


    To emphasize a key point for this course:

    Cheating on exams is absolutely out of line. It's shameful to do it. It is attempting to steal from your fellow students.

    Cheating gets a zero on that exam plus maybe other course penalties and the Office of Student Conduct will apply their own penalties.

    About assignments: in the instructor's view, teaching a fellow student about a problem line by line is fine. Allowing them to directly copy is NOT.

    Another important issue under academic integrity is copyright.


    From
    UNLV Policies in the Syllabi Content memo:

    Actually, becoming really familiar with copyright law is an enormous task.

    It's simply best NOT to use copyrighted material whenever possible.

    About all that is absolutely fair use are short quotes of text.

  10. Course Textbook: None. Instead of a textbook, we use the Introductory Astronomy Lectures (IAL).

    IAL was written and is updated by the instructor.


    IAL can never be as perfected as published books, but it amounts to the same thing---and it's free.

    IAL is the unified source---it is ONE-STOP SHOPPING---it is the course textbook, student notes, my notes, and the lecturing tool.

    Students do NOT need to take notes at all. But note-taking probably helps with maintaining alertness and learning the material even if students never looks at their notes again.

    There are numerous supplementary sources: e.g., Wikipedia (generally very good on astronomy, but never a final source), NASA sites (numerous), UNLV libraries (probably quasi-infinite astronomy books), and so on endlessly.

    What of copyrighted material in the IALs?

    For better or worse, all the writing is my own, except for short quotes which are explicitly indicated as such.

    What of images? Like in the figure below (local link / general link: hubble_ultra_deep_field.html).


    The images are a more complicated story:

    1. Some images are my own and my own copyright. The two things are NOT necessarily the same since authors can relinquish copyright and I have done so for some published work.

    2. Many images are from NASA and other US government agencies and are public domain. Public domain means anyone is absolutely free to copy, display, and distribute them. But one has to be careful since NOT all US government agency images are public domain and those agencies do display images on their pages that are NOT their own and are copyrighted.

      Naturally, NASA is a main source for IAL. But finding NASA images is actually tricky since NASA seems to never have invented an easy-to-use, one-stop-shopping image archive. NASA Multimedia may be the closest to that. See Wikipedia: Internet archive: NASA images for a brief, vastly incomplete, and probably out of date discussion of NASA image resources. Wikipedia articles are actually a pretty good sources for NASA images. Good ones for topics have already been selected. You could also just go googling for images.

    3. Many images displayed are linked and hotlinked to Wikipedia and are used under Creative Commons licenses or are public domain.

    4. There are some images from other various sources.

    5. Some images are NOT shown and can be found by clicking on a linked image like the one shown below. These are images I'd like to show, but CANNOT get clear permission to.


    6. In all cases, I have attempted to give the correct credit and permission for use for an image. In most cases, I have given a download site (usually identified as image link) for an image.

      Giving proper credit and permission is ethically required. Also, the value of an image depends very much on its provenance---where it came from, who made it, what is its authority.

  11. Course Topics: All from astronomy---but there are three streams:

    1. All Astronomy (AA): Well NOT quite that, but we cover a lot of ground---but NOT at UNLV.


    2. Planetary Systems (PS): Ast 103: The Solar System at UNLV.

    3. Stars & Galaxies/Cosmology (SC): Ast 104: Stars & Galaxies/Cosmology at UNLV.

    The facts to learn go on and on---jillions of them.

    How do you do it?

    As mentioned above under Tasks, no one can memorize jillions of isolated facts---you learn the narratives in which those facts turn up and the narratives cue you for the facts.


    There is a
    math component---but it's elementary.


    The
    math component is there because astronomy is very mathematical (though this course isn't), and so getting some understanding of the mathematical aspect of astronomy is essential. It is also one of the gaols of this course to develop student math skills a bit.

    A little algebra, a little geometry. Roughly 10 % or less of the questions will involve math. No need to react with shock and awe---like the Medieval scholars shown in the figure below (local link / general link: lady_geometry.html)

    To help with the math component, there is a math refresher: IAL 1: Scientific Notation, Units, Math, Angles, Plots, Motion, Orbits---which is actually the 2nd IAL since there is a zeroth IAL: IAL 0: A Philosophical and Historical Introduction to Astronomy.


  12. Hard Course, Easy Course:

    Is this a hard course or an easy course?

    Somewhere in between.

    It's easy in that there are NO essays, NO course projects, and all exam questions are multiple-choice questions.

    But it's hard in that it is extensive---those jillions of facts.

    But as I always say, it's nothing like organic chemistry.


  13. Daily Routine:

    There are two streams:

    1. For the in-person instruction course, yours truly lectures in a classroom to a live audience of students. There are group activities to encourage attendance, but they are NOT required if a student chooses to opt out and treat the course just as a pure online course, except for exams.
    2. For the remote instruction course, there are live Webex (unlv) lectures at the official course times. Attending the Webex (unlv) lectures is optional (i.e., unmarked) and the student can opt to treat the course just as a pure online course except for exams which must by the provost's rule be during the class period. See Rules for Remote Instruction Exams/Quizzes.

    For either stream, a good approach is to do the reading-homework-self-testing for an IAL first and then listen to the lecture. You get the detailed lengthy presentation and then the abbreviated, simplified one in other words.

    For lecturing, yours truly uses IALs as a lecturing tool.

    Note IAL has a complete narrative as must have in order to be the course textbook.


    But when I'm lecturing, we mostly just look at:
    1. images/animations/applets.
    2. keywords.
    3. key statements.
    4. key facts.
    5. questions for the class.
    6. videos. NOT so many of these as you might think. There are many great astronomy videos, but more than one every once and awhile is more sleep-inducing than hearing yours truly talk. They're too smooth. They lack the glitches of live lecturing.

    I will just scroll through most of the words---those are for the student's private reading.

    I find that students get used to NOT reading most words.


    The two streams again:

    1. For the in-person instruction course, at about the 40 minute mark, we will usually break from lecturing for about 10 minutes for the group activity---which is a marked item.

      The length of the break for group activity depends a bit on what's in it and how it goes.

      See group activity below.

    2. For the remote instruction course, there will usually be a break of 10 minutes or so. We can look at homework questions and solutions. We can wander off on domestic breaks. We can seek a little cardiovascular health by brief invigorating workouts: see Standards: exercise music.


  14. Evaluation Items: There are 5 marked items for the in-person instruction course (but only 3 in 2022 Spring) and 3 marked items for the remote instruction course.

    1. Reading-Homework-Self-Testings (RHSTs): For weighting see Evaluation & Grading:

      A reading (see below Readings) and a homework-self-testing (see below Homework-Self-Testings) combine to make a reading-homework-self-testing for which a student gets a mark.

      For the classroom, we can explicate how RHSTs work just by looking at the IAL Contents with words of explication.

      1. Readings:

        The readings are all from IAL---except the Course Website / Extended Syllabus (which you are reading right now) is a required reading too and is considered IAL: -1.

        URLs and videos linked from IAL are purely supplementary---they are NOT part of the required readings.

        For the 3 streams, the readings are:

        1. All Astronomy IALs:

          The readings from IAL are IAL -1 (which is the Course Website / Extended Syllabus that you are reading right now), IALs 0 to 30, but 3 are omitted since we do NOT cover them and mostly they do NOT exist. The omitted IALs are specified in the IAL Contents.

          Someday, yours truly might get those omitted IALs written/completed.

          So there are 1+1+30-3=29 IALs to read altogether.

          Here's a table to coordinate IAL number and count of IALs:

            IAL identification number   -1  0  1  2    3  4  5  6    7  8  9 10
            Count of IALs                1  2  3  4    5  6  7  8    9 10 11 12
          
            IAL identification number   11 12 13 14   15 16 18 19   20 21 22 23
            Count of IALs               13 14 15 16   17 18 19 20   21 22 23 24
          
            IAL identification number   25 26 28 29   30
            Count of IALs               25 26 27 28   29  (see IAL Contents)
                    

          IAL 18: Exoplanets and IAL 23: The Post-Main-Sequence Life of Stars are readings only insofar as they can be read since they have never been finished.

          IALs NOT covered at all in class: IAL 5: Physics, Gravity, Orbits, Thermodynamics, Tides and IAL 13: Venus. Parts of other IALs are NOT covered in class: some such parts are already set; other parts are NOT covered if we need to catch up a bit. The NOT-covered-in-class IALs and parts are still readings if they appear in the table above.

          IALs NOT covered at all in class may be less heavily weighted on exams.

          There is NO rigid schedule for covering the IALs in class. We do them when we get to them and they vary in length: typically 1 to 3 class periods.

          We will just glance over our stream of IALs now: see IAL.

        2. Planetary Systems IALs for Ast 103: The Solar System at UNLV:

          The readings from IALs are IAL -1 (which is the Course Website / Extended Syllabus that you are reading right now), IALs, 0 to 18 plus 21, omitting 17 which is out of date as specified in the IAL Contents,

          Someday, yours truly might get 17 updated.

          So there are 1+1+16+1+1=20 IALs to read.

          Here's a table to coordinate IAL number and count of IALs:

            IAL identification number  -1  0  1  2    3  4  5  6    7  8  9 10 
            Count of IALs               1  2  3  4    5  6  7  8    9 10 11 12
          
            IAL identification number  11 12 13 14   15 16 18 21
            Count of IALs              13 14 15 16   17 18 19 20  (see IAL Contents)
                    
          IAL 18: Exoplanets is a reading only insofar as it can be read since it's never been finished.

          IALs NOT covered in class:

          1. Usually IAL 5: Physics, Gravity, Orbits, Thermodynamics, Tides is NOT covered in class, but it is a reading-homework-self-testing. It is NOT covered since it overlaps considerably with IAL 1: Scientific Notation, Units, Math, Angles, Plots, Physics, Orbits, IAL 6: Electromagnetic Radiation, and IAL 7: Spectra.
          2. Usually IAL 13: Venus is NOT covered in class, but it is a reading-homework-self-testing. It's NOT covered since usually there isn't enough time and Venus is not yours truly's favorite planet.
          3. Parts of other IALs are NOT covered in class: some such parts are already set; some other parts are NOT covered if we need to catch up a bit.

          The NOT-covered-in-class IALs and parts are still readings if they appear in the table above.

          IALs NOT covered at all in class may be less heavily weighted on exams.

          There is a schedule for covering the IALs in class, but it is NOT rigid. We do them when we get to them and they vary in length: typically 1 to 3 class periods.

          We will just glance over our stream of IALs now: see IAL: Contents.

        3. Stars & Galaxies/Cosmology IALs for Ast 104: Stars & Galaxies/Cosmology at UNLV:

          The readings from IAL are IAL -1 (which is the Course Website / Extended Syllabus that you are reading right now), IALs 0--8, 19--23, 25--26, and 28--30.

          Someday, yours truly might get omitted IALs 24 and 27 written/completed.

          So there are 1+1+8+5+2+3=20 IALs to read.

          Here's a table to coordinate IAL number and count of IALs:

            IAL identification number  -1  0  1  2    3  4  5  6    7  8 19 20
            Count of IALs               1  2  3  4    5  6  7  8    9 10 11 12
          
            IAL identification number  21 22 23 25   26 28 29 30
            Count of IALs              13 14 15 16   17 18 19 20  (see IAL Contents)
                    
          IAL 23: The Post-Main-Sequence Life of Stars is a reading only insofar as it can be read since it's never been finished.

          IALs NOT covered in class:

          1. Usually IAL 5: Physics, Gravity, Orbits, Thermodynamics, Tides is NOT covered in class, but it is a reading-homework-self-testing. It is NOT covered since it overlaps considerably with IAL 1: Scientific Notation, Units, Math, Angles, Plots, Physics, Orbits, IAL 6: Electromagnetic Radiation, and IAL 7: Spectra.
          2. Parts of other IALs are NOT covered in class: some such parts are already set; some other parts are NOT covered if we need to catch up a bit.

          The NOT-covered-in-class IALs and parts are still readings if they appear in the table above.

          IALs NOT covered at all in class may be less heavily weighted on exams.

          There is a schedule for covering the IALs in class, but it is NOT rigid. We do them when we get to them and they vary in length: typically 1 to 3 class periods.

          We will just glance over our stream of IALs now: see IAL: Contents.

      2. Homework-Self-Testings:

        All the IALs included in the Readings have accompanying homeworks and solutions which are already POSTED.

        AFTER you have completed a reading, you are REQUIRED to self-test on the homeworks (unless there is a homework).

          Self-testing means you try all the homework questions WITHOUT looking for answers in the IALs NOR looking at the solutions.

          After completing self-testing you should check your answers. Ideally, you should first try to find the answer in the IALs and only after you should check the already posted solutions.

          Self-testing is vital in any course to achieve active knowledge that leaps into your mind---like an elephant when someone says elephant. Ideally, the answer or how to get the answer needs to spring into your mind on tests and in life. It can only do that with practice.

        After doing the homework-self-testing for an IAL, you report that you have done that reading-homework-self-testing. See below for How to Report Reading-Homework-Self-Testings (RHSTs) and Recommended Due Dates for Reporting Reading-Homework-Self-Testings (RHSTs).

      3. How to Report Reading-Homework-Self-Testings (RHSTs):

        Two ways:

        1. For in-person courses, the usual way:

          Report on your group activity slip (see Group Activity below) as per the following examples:

          1. Doe,John,IALs -1 and 0.
          2. Roe,Jane,IAL 2.
          3. Hassan,Malik,IALs 8, 19, and 20
          4. Prefontaine,Janeuf,IALs 21, 22, and 23

          Do NOT report partial reading-homework-self-testings: e.g., "I've done reading-homework-self-testing for 3 sections of IAL 0". I do NOT record partial reading-homework-self-testings since these are slices too fine to notice.

        2. For remote instruction courses or, if you wish, for in-person courses:

          Send the email RHST report in the email BODY to david.jeffery@unlv.edu in format:
          Lastname,Firstname,Ast103 or 104,section1001 or 1002, IAL number(s), date.

      4. Recommended Due Dates for Reporting Reading-Homework-Self-Testings (RHSTs):

        The recommended due dates for the reports of reading-homework-self-testings (RHSTs) are all specified by regular semester week or summer semester day at Introductory Astronomy Lectures (IAL): Contents.

        The recommended due dates are for keeping up efficiently with the course. There is NO penalty for being late until the final due date. The final due date is Tuesday at 4 pm after final exam week (or final exam day for the summer semester) when grades are due for all courses. Do NOT wait till the last moment to report.

        Note that yours truly sometimes, but rarely, misses reports, and so yours truly's makes it the STUDENT'S RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that the instructor has recorded all reading-homework-self-testings by the final due date.

        You can check your reading-homework-self-testings by looking at the Posted Grade Records under your anonymous alias.

        So before loafing begins (see the figure below (local link / general link: hammock_loafing.html), check that reading-homework-self-testings have been recorded in the Posted Grade Records.


      5. The Study Guide:

        The homeworks and solutions are the study guide.

        Typically, about 50--70 % of the exam questions are drawn from the homeworks.

        So knowing all the homeworks really well is a desideratum for the exams.

        But since there are exam questions NOT from the homeworks and there are over the semester too many homeworks questions to just memorize them all, you have to know those astro stories too.

        As an example of accessing homeworks and solutions, let's access Homework -1 for in-person instruction (or Homework -1 for remote instruction) and Solution -1 for in-person instruction (or Solution -1 for remote instruction).

        If this is is an in-person instruction course, below in today's group activity, we'll do Homework -1.


    2. Group Activity: For weighting see Evaluation & Grading:

      Full 75-minute and 90-minute lectures are awful---they harder to receive than to give, in fact.

      No one can pay full attention that long on a regular basis.

      So usually, but probably NOT always, we will break from lecturing at about the 40 minute mark for a group activity.

      Nota bene:

      1. The group activities are done in groups of ONE during pandemic, unless you can work with someone with whom you adequately safe.
      2. Group activities are a good learning mode and make good use of classtime, and so you are strongly encouraged to do them.

      Yours truly will circulate during the group activity and that's a good time for short interactions with me.

      Rules of the group activity:

      1. A group activity will usually be specified in the current IALs.

        The group activity will be carried out in groups of 2 or 3 usually.


      2. Almost always, the group activity is just working your way through several of the homework questions for the current IAL lecture.

        Students should put their answers on a slip of paper.

        There is only ONE slip per group and all the students should put their names on it.


        The full name should be PRINTED legibly.

        Your name should appear just ONCE on the slip at the TOP of the slip:

        ONCE

        ONCE

        ONCE

        And PRINTED, NOT written in cursive like John Hancock's signature.


      3. Usually there will be about 8 minutes for the group activity, about 2 minutes to take it up, and 1 minute or so for the absconders to abscond.

        The group activity slips should be handed at the end of class---or when you abscond during the group activity.

        Just put group activity slips on the front table as you head out.

      4. You get one point for a group activity whatever your answers are.

      5. You can report readings done on the group activity slip too.

        Be really, really clear about readings done.

        On the group activity slips, make sure it is clear who is reporting what readings.

        Print your name on the slip ONLY once at the TOP of the slip: the same printed name to report your participation AND your readings.

        Your name should only appear ONCE on the slip:

        ONCE

        ONCE

        ONCE

        Do NOT slow down my recording process with confusing repeats of the same names!!!!!

      6. I can miss group activity reports since I only glance at the group activity slips.

        Any corrections to the grade record for group activities (which can be checked by the students---see Posted Grade Records and Anonymous Aliases) must be done very soon after the date the corrections are asked for. I'm NOT going to consider corrections for dates long past when accurate memory of group activities done has faded from mind.

      7. I give 7 drops for the group activity---so the group activity is only minimally an attendance encourager.


      8. There are special drops up to a LIMIT of 5 for religious holidays, official extracurricular activities, illnesses, emergencies, special education/career occasions, unavoidable absences, late registration, etc.

        Just let me know that you need a special drop. I just take your word for it.

        If you have 5 special drops and 7 ordinary drops already, and need more special drops, I will just drop the whole group activity item: see Dropping Whole Group Activity Item below.

      9. Note that whenever one has lots of drops, one needs a tricky formula for accounting for them. You can understand it you try really really hard. It's given at Grade Record Interpretation: Note 4.

      10. Group Activity Makeups: UNLV Policies for Faculty & All Teaching Staff require that students be given the opportunity to make up marked items missed for excusable absences: these being defined to be religious holidays and official extracurricular activities ONLY. However, there is almost nothing to make up in the case of group activities. The group activities can always be done by students working on their own time alone---but between special drops and ordinary drops, there will usually be no impact on a student's grade for missed group activities for excusable absences. However, if a student with an excusable absence does the group activity on their own and hands in or emails a group activity answer slip, they will receive the group activity mark instead of a drop or special drop.

      11. Dropping Whole Group Activity Item: If you CANNOT attend class regularly at all for job or other reasons, I can drop the whole group activity item from your grade. If a person was coming to class all the time or nearly all the time, dropping the group activity item would be a disadvantage since they would likely get 100 % on the group activity. But if a person, CANNOT attend class at all, they would get zero on the group activity and that would lower their average by 10 % or so. So dropping the group activity would be good for that person.

        I require that students ask me to drop the group activity. I don't do it automatically if it improves your grade.

        You can ask to have group activity dropped up until the time grades are submitted to the registrar---but NOT after.

        People who have had the group activity dropped have to report readings by email and keep track of exam dates from the Course Website / Extended Syllabus: Exam Schedule. Remember the posted dates are only tentative until maybe a week before the exams.

    3. Interview with the instructor: Suspended since 2020 Spring: For weighting see Evaluation & Grading:

      Sometime before the END OF CLASSSES (i.e., see the Academic Calendars), you must stop by MY OFFICE (BPB 244: see also instructor information) for an interview---where will do physical distancing and masking during all pandemics.

      Note the END OF CLASSSES is the last Friday BEFORE the finals week---or just the last Friday for the summer semester.

      I give extensions in the cases of people who have tried to set up an interview within the deadline, but who I have NOT been able to see me before the deadline.

      Other very extenuating cases might be considered---but remember you've had all semester to do the interview.

      Do NOT wait for the last minute.


      You can just come by during my office hours. But I may have wandered off down the hall or gone off on errand, etc.

      So make an appointment if you want to be sure to catch me,

        My office hours are per my preliminary schedule, except for summer semesters when I'm around pretty much all day, except when teaching or lunching. So you know my office hours. But I don't know yours.

        So you should suggest a time for an interview---and NOT ask me to suggest one.

        I understand that students often have tight schedules for when they are on campus.

        So short interviews just before or after class are OK. But usually you should let me know in advance you are coming.

      You should have at least one astronomy/physics question for me and I'll have some questions for you.

      You just get the mark for showing up.

      Typically, the interview is 5 to 10 minutes or so, but we can chat longer if we like.

      The interview is really just to make sure that all students meet up with me at least once out of class for a one-on-one or one-on-two if two come at once or ...

      It helps break the ice between students and instructor, and gives me some insight into the concerns of students.

        Instead of the interview, you can do an ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITY---which must be done during the duration of the current semester so the extra insight gained from the course makes it more rewarding.

        Acceptable alternative activities include:

        1. Visiting an observatory: e.g., Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, California.
        2. Attendance at a special public astronomy lecture. At UNLV, we have our very own Russell Frank Astronomy Lecture Series. There will usually be one of these per semester. Yours truly will alert you to it.

        You should check with me if a proposed alternative activity is acceptable before you do it.

        Just report that you have done an acceptable alternative activity and you will be given the interview mark.

    4. In-Class Exams: For weighting see Evaluation & Grading:

      There will be two of these---just like in the figure below (local link / general link: testing.html).

      All questions will be multiple-choice and, as aforesaid, typically about 50--70 % will be drawn from the homeworks.

      The exams consist of 72 multiple-choice questions and you have 75 minutes.

      The material covered on each exam is specified below in section Exam Schedule.

      See the note on Device Use during tests.

        Summer Semester Qualification 3:

        For in-person-instruction courses, the in-class exams consist of 50 multiple-choice questions and will occur in the first 50 minutes before the ordinary 5-or-so-minute break (see Summer Semester Qualification 1).

        After the break, we will just resume with an ordinary class period.

        It's sort of sickening to have a class period just after a exam, but that's the summer semester for you.

        There will be NO group activities on in-class exam days.


    5. Final Exam: For weighting see Evaluation & Grading:

      It will be comprehensive and two hours long.

      "Comprehensive" means all IAL readings are included---except for explicit exceptions. See Final Exam Information.

      The final will be similar to the in-class exams, but with 100 multiple-choice questions, and so is about 40% longer---except for the summer semester, it's 100 % longer.

      The IALs covered since the last in-class exams MAY be given a somewhat heavier weighting than earlier IALs. The longer the interval since the last in-class exam, the likelier there will be a heavier weighting.

      See the note on Device Use during tests.

      Why a comprehensive final?

        Well, remember a course is about learning.

        A comprehensive final is part of the learning process.

        The student is obliged to comprehend the whole course at once.

        To see big picture and how the parts fit in to the big picture: see the big picture in the figure below (local link / general link: sistine_chapel_ceiling.html).

        From an evaluation point of view, a comprehensive final puts more weight on understanding than the in-class exams where pure memorization is a somewhat more feasible strategy.


  15. Remote-Instruction Exam Procedure:

    See Rules for Remote Instruction Exams/Quizzes.

  16. Exam Schedule: There will be 2 in-class exams and a 2-hour COMPREHENSIVE FINAL. The Exam Schedule below is ONLY for regular semesters. For summer semesters, see IAL Contents.

    EOF

    Notes on Exams:

    1. In-Person Instruction Exams:

      Students are required to supply their own scantrons with spaces for at least 100 questions for all exams. See also the note on Device Use during tests.

    2. Remote Instruction Exams:

      See Rules for Remote Instruction Exams/Quizzes.

    3. Makeup Exams:

      Makeup exams are given for valid reasons, but students must ask for them promptly.

      Valid reasons include religious holidays, official extracurricular activities, illnesses, emergencies, special education/career occasions, unavoidable absences, etc.

      Simply being unprepared for an exam is NOT a valid reason. Students are expected to organize their time appropriately for writing exams at the scheduled times.

      Of course, if you are unprepared because of illness that is a valid reason.

      Students requiring a makeup for IPI courses should check my schedule and suggest a time for it---you know when I'm likely to be free---I don't know when you are likely to be free---EXTREME EMPHASIS: you should suggest a time.

      There are NO retakes. Makeups are for people who CANNOT do the exam at the regular time.

    4. All students must AVOID knowing about given exams if they are doing a makeup and must AVOID giving out information to other students who have NOT yet done an exam.

      A makeup exam is NOT necessarily the same exam given in the exam period. If it is NOT the same exam, it will be a similar exam.

  17. Evaluation & Grading:

    1. Evaluation for In-Person Instruction (IPI):

      The 5 marked items, their weightings, and their drops are given in the table below:

            __________________________________________________________________________
            Table:  Evaluations Items
            __________________________________________________________________________
            Item                  Percentage  Drops     Comment
                                   of grade
            __________________________________________________________________________
            readings-hm-self-tg     10 %      no drops 
            group activities        10 %      7 drops   The group activity item will 
                                                        be dropped at student request.
            interview                0 %      no drops  Suspended since 2020 spring. 
            2 in-class exams        40 %      no drops
            comprehensive final     40 %      no drops
            extra credit             0 %                There is NO extra credit 
            __________________________________________________________________________
            
    2. Evaluation for Remote Instruction (RMI):

      The 3 marked items, their weightings, and their drops are given in the table below:

            __________________________________________________________________________
            Table:  Evaluations Items
            __________________________________________________________________________
            Item                  Percentage  Drops     Comment
                                   of grade
            __________________________________________________________________________
            readings-hm-self-tg     10 %      no drops 
            2 in-class exams        40 %      no drops
            comprehensive final     50 %      no drops
            extra credit             0 %                There is NO extra credit
            __________________________________________________________________________
            
    3. Notes on Evaluation & Grading:

      1. For IPI courses and RMI courses with synchronous sessions, good attendance is recommended, but NOT marked.

        From the front an audience looks like in the figure below (local link / general link: audience.html): some are attentative, some are asleep.


        In any course, just showing for class keeps the
        student at least partially up to date just in itself.

        It's hard to fall completely behind if you attend class.

        And there is lots of evidence that good attendance correlates with achievement---but don't ask me to produce this evidence---it's what deans tell me---and Kenneth Sufka too.

      2. Letter grades will be assigned per the Academic Policies: Grades---which allow instructors some freedom of interpretation on how to determine "average".

      3. During classes, yours truly uses a simplified fixed scale for grades:

        1. Above 50 %, S. This just means satisfactory or better.
        2. 47--50 %, D+.
        3. 43--47 %, D.
        4. 40--43 %, D-.
        5. Below 40 %, F.

        The rationale for the simplifed scale is that it is unfair to use a complete fixed scale when the difficulty of tests varies and people report reading-homework-self-testings at various times, some report quite late. So trying to distribute letter grades above satisfactory in a consistent way becomes difficult. But final grades are on the 12-point scale as discussed in the next item.

      4. Final grades are always set by yours truly drawing grade lines by personal judgment in order to get a fair distribution.

        The particular needs of individual students CANNOT influence the grade line choice

        Usually, yours truly uses the 12-point scale: A,A-,B+,B,B-,C+,C,C-,D+,D,D-,F.

          However, yours truly may use the 5-point scale (A,B,C,D,F) if the 12-point scale seems unfair which can happen when the class becomes small and some of the 12-point categories become unpopulated.

      5. The final grade line choice, among other things, sets the class GPA to be what yours truly thinks is fair for the overall class achievement. A good class should get about B- (i.e., about 2.7) and poor class will be a bit lower.

        So the grades are NOT all A's and B's. There will be C's. And note that yours truly is rather parsimonious about A's---just being in the upper third of the class is NOT enough.

        However, there do NOT have to be any D's or F's necessarily. But they can happen.


  18. Submission of Grades to the Registrar:

    Yours truly will submit MIDTERM GRADES (by whatever name they are called) when they are due and final grades by their due date---which is always the Tuesday at 4:00 pm after finals week or, for summer semesters, the last Friday of the semester.

    As mentioned above, the absolute DEADLINE for the reading-homework-self-testings is when final grades are due.


    Remember that after an instructor has submitted
    final grades, any adjustments (except for purely clerical errors) are NOT easy.

    This is true for any course.

    Students should make any queries about their final grades or requests for reweighing of items before the instructor submits final grades.

  19. Posted Grade Records and Anonymous Aliases:

    Yours truly posts grade records (which includes current letter grades) under anonymous aliases.


    Grade postings under
    anonymous aliases are allowed by FERPA and UNLV policy. See UNLV Faculty Policies: Grading.

    Yours truly usually informs a student of what their anonymous alias is when yours truly replies to the first email from a student which is often on their first report of reading-homework-self-testings.

    If you send me a request for your current grade record or letter grade, I will usually simply tell/remind you of your anonymous alias and point to the appropriate grade directory from the list below (local link / general link: ast_grade_records.html).

    The grade records are just files whose names are the student anonymous aliases.

    The grade records are essentially self explanatory. Every graded item in order with marking/correct answers as appropriate and cummulative marks and current letter grade at the bottom.

    If you wish to choose your own anonymous alias, just tell me your choice by email or on a group activity slip folded to conceal the anonymous alias. You can make the request at anytime in the semester.

    The anonymous alias should be known to you alone and it should NOT be guessable as you or anyone else and NOT be objectionable in an academic context. Also it CANNOT be an astronomical object since all the common ones are already all used.

    The anonymous aliases must be 15 characters or less and can consist of characters from an extended alphabet:

          %0123456789@ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
          where the first character is the blank.
          

    The posting order will be in the extended alphabetic ordering (as above) used by Unix directories.


  20. Questions About Anything at All:

    Yes/no? 15-second wait at least.


    You can, of course, email me questions about anything at anytime.

    But if it is something just specified in the Course Website / Extended Syllabus (i.e., on this site), I'm likely to reply just with the URL to the relevant item above.

  21. On With the Show:

    On with the show: Introductory Astronomy Lectures (IAL)---or Today's Group Activity (if this is an in-person instruction course) and then on with the show.

  22. Today's Group Activity:

  23. Course Mottos:

    Don't Panic.
    This is so cool.
    Unchain your inner nerd.
    In science, we are slaves to the truth---only error can set us free.
    "Basta. Cuando la ciencia ha hablado, no se puede replicar."---Prof. Lidenbrock: Viaje al centro de la Tierra (1864)

    Very reassuring I think.

    Also my favorite Einstein quote: