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Blinn College • Bryan • Natural Science • Physics - PHYS

Stars And Galaxies PHYS-1403

  • Spring 2013
  • Section SECTION_302 CRN-21102
  • 4 Credits
  • 01/14/2013 to 05/07/2013
  • Modified 01/12/2013

Meeting Times


  • Tuesday, Thursday, 10:35 AM to 11:50 AM, G213


  • Tuesday, Thursday, 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM, G233

Contact Information

Dr. James Freeman

Office Hours

  • Monday, Wednesday, 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM, G202
  • Tuesday, Thursday, 1:45 PM to 4:45 PM, G202


A survey of astronomy. Topics include the techniques and methods of modern astronomy, our solar system, the stars, our galaxy and other galaxies, the large-scale structure of the Universe and cosmology (the origin and evolution of the Universe). Also included are aspects and applications of spectroscopy, atomic structure, optics, mechanics, gravitation and relativity. The class is mostly descriptive in nature, with a minimum of mathematics. Three class hours and three laboratory hours per week. Credit: Four semester hours.


Prerequisites: None

Core Curriculum Statement

This is a Core Course in the 42-Hour Core Curriculum of Blinn College. As such, students will develop proficiency in the appropriate Intellectual Competencies, Exemplary Educational Objectives, and Perspectives.


1. Apply the principles of science to describe the position and motion of celestial objects.

2. Compare and contrast models from physics that have led to our current understanding of the physical universe.

3. Recognize and apply basic concepts of physics as they apply to astronomy.

4. Identify the common features of telescopes and instrument applications to the different regions of the spectrum.

5. Discuss the intrinsic properties of stars determining energy production, energy transport and stellar lifetimes.

6. Demonstrate an understanding of the luminosity temperature (HR) diagram by applying the HR diagram to the life cycles of stars.

7. Characterize normal and active galaxies.

8. Summarize the observational evidence leading to current theories of the origin, physical evolution, and ultimate fate of the Universe.



The text for this course is The Cosmic Perspective, Sixth Edition, Bennett, Donahue, Schneiter, Voit. The text may be purchased in the Blinn College bookstore.

Planetarium Software

Students are also required to obtain a key for SkyGazer 5.0 software which will be used for some of the laboratory exercises. The software comes bundled with the text in the Blinn College Bookstore. A license may also be purcharsed from the publisher at

Homework system

Students must purchase an access key to Mastering Astronomy, the textbook publisher's online homework system.  This key is bundled with the textbook at the Blinn bookstore. Alternatively, you can purchase the access key online at Be sure to select the Bennett text above to pair with Mastering Astronomy.  The Mastering Astronomy Course ID for this section is PHYS1403302SP13. ***Be sure to enter it exactly as it is given here.***

Laboratory Manual

We will use for some labs sections of the Astronomy Media Workbook that accompanies the SkyGazer software. These sections can be downloaded from the Study Area section of Mastering Astronomy. Students are responsible for downloading a copy of the appropriate material and bringing it to lab when indicated.

Scientific Calculator

Inexpensive scientific calculators (<$5.00) are available at various retail stores such as Walmart, Dollar General, etc.

Course Requirements

Major Exams

There will be three exams and a comprehensive final. There are no make-up exams.

The three exams given during the semester each have two parts: a closed-book part and a pyramid exam. During the pyramid exam, students will retake the exam, this time with open books and notes, and they may collaborate with their fellow students.

The overall grade on the exam is a combination of the grade on the closed-book part and the grade on the pyramid exam according to the following formula:

ExamGrade = 0.8(Closed-book Exam Score) + 0.2(Pyramid Exam Score)

The comprehensive final exam will be closed-book and closed-notes. There is no pyramid exam for the final.


Lab time will be used to collect data. Students should expect to complete calculations outside of class. Lab reports are due the class following when the lab was completed.

Some labs are video labs. For a video lab, the report willbe a 12-bullet summary of importants points from the video compiled during the video. Video lab reports are due immediately at the conclusion of the video.

You must be present the day the lab is assigned in order to get credit for it.



Quizzes are unannounced exercises generally given during laboratory periods. A quiz may be closed-book or open-book depending on the nature of the exercise.


Online homework assignments are due at midnight the day before the exam covering the same material.

Telescope Observation Exercise

Each student is required to complete a telescope observation exercise, either alone or with a group of not more than two other students. Telescopes are available from the physics department. The requirements for this exercise can be found on eCampus under the Lessons -> Handouts -> Telescope Observation Exercise.



Types of evaluations and related weights
Type Weight Topic Notes
Exams 50

I do not drop your lowest exam. Instead, the exam average is calculated according to the following formula:

(ExamAverage) = 0.1(Lowest Exam Score) + 0.9(Average of two Highest Scores)

Final Exam 20
Daily Grade 10

The Daily Grade is a combination of the Lab and Quiz grades.

Homework 10
Observation Exercise 10


Resulting grade and related performance levels
Grade Range Notes
A 90 - 100
B 80 - 89
C 70 - 79
D 60 - 69
F < 60

Blinn College Policies

Blinn College policies on civility, class attendance; scholastic integrity; students with disabilities; final grade appeals; and electronic devices as stated in the Blinn College Student Handbook, Faculty Handbook, Blinn College Catalog and specific technical program handbooks. All policies, guidelines and procedures in the Student and Faculty Handbook and the Board and Administrative Policy Manuals are applicable to this course

Civility Statement

Members of the Blinn College community, which includes faculty, staff and students, are expected to act honestly and responsibly in all aspects of campus life. Blinn College holds all members accountable for their actions and words. Therefore, all members should commit themselves to behave in a manner that recognizes personal respect and demonstrates concern for the personal dignity, rights, and freedoms of every member of the College community, including respect for College property and the physical and intellectual property of others.

      Civility Notification Statement. If a student is asked to leave the classroom because of uncivil behavior, the student may not return to that class until he or she arranges a conference with the instructor; it is the student’s responsibility to arrange for this conference. 

      This statement reflects step one in a possible four step process.  The Incivility Protocol is detailed in the Blinn College Student Handbook,

Attendance Policy

The College District believes that class attendance is essential for student success; therefore, students are required to promptly and regularly attend all their classes. A record of attendance will be maintained from the first day of classes and/or the first day the student’s name appears on the roster through final examinations. If a student has one week’s worth of unexcused absences during the semester, he or she will be sent an e-mail by the College District requiring the student to contact his or her instructor and schedule a conference immediately to discuss his/her attendance issues. Should the student accumulate two weeks’ worth of unexcused absences, he or she will be administratively withdrawn from class.

There are four forms of excused absences recognized by the institution:

  1. observance of religious holy days—The student should notify his or her instructor(s) not later than the 15th day of the semester concerning the specific date(s) that the student will be absent for any religious holy day(s);
  2. representing the College District at an official institutional function;
  3. high school dual credit students representing the independent school district at an official institutional function; and
  4. military service.

Other absences may be considered excused at the discretion of the faculty

member with appropriate documentation.  A student enrolled in a developmental course is subject to College District-mandated attendance policies. Failure to attend developmental classes shall result in removal from the course as defined by the College District.

It is the student’s responsibility to officially drop a class he or she is no longer attending.  To officially drop a class the student must obtain the class withdrawal form from Enrollment Services, complete the class withdrawal form, secure the required signatures, and return the completed form to Enrollment Services. The last day to drop with a Q is according to the Academic Calendar.

Scholastic Integrity

Blinn College does not tolerate cheating, plagiarism, or any other act of dishonesty with regard to the course in which you are enrolled.  The following text defines the faculty member’s responsibility with regard to the scholastic integrity expectation for this and all courses at Blinn College.

It is the responsibility of faculty members to maintain scholastic integrity at the College District by refusing to tolerate any form of scholastic dishonesty.  Adequate control of test materials, strict supervision during testing, and other preventive measures should be utilized, as necessary, to prevent cheating or plagiarism.  If there is compelling evidence that a student is involved in cheating or plagiarism, the instructor should assume responsibility and address the infraction.  Likewise, any student accused of scholastic dishonesty is entitled to due process as outlined in Blinn College Board Policy FLB (Local).  The Scholastic Integrity Policy is located in the Blinn College Student Handbook,  In a case of scholastic dishonesty, it is critical that written documentation be maintained at each level throughout the process.

Students with Disabilities

Blinn College is dedicated to providing the least restrictive learning environment for all students. Support services for students with documented disabilities are provided on an individual basis, upon request. Requests for services should be made directly to the Office of Special Populations serving the campus of your choice.  For the Bryan campus, the Office of Special Populations (Administration Building) can be reached at (979)209-7251.  The Brenham, Sealy and Schulenburg campuses are served by the Office of Special Populations on the Brenham campus (Administration Building Room 104) and can be reached at (979)830-4157.  Additional information can be found at

Final Grade Appeal

If a student wishes to appeal a final grade in a course, Blinn College Board Policy FLDB (Local), Course Grade Complaints, outlines the timeline for the appeal and the four steps in the appeal.  This policy is located in the Blinn College Student Handbook,

Electronic Devices

All the functions of all personal electronic devices designed for communication and/or entertainment (cell phones, pagers, beepers, iPods, and similar devices) must be turned off and kept out of sight in all College District classrooms and associated laboratories.  Any noncompliance with this policy shall be addressed in accordance with the College District civility policy (administrative policy).  This information is contained in Blinn College Board Policy FLB (Local).

Course Policies


The eCampus system will be our primary means of communication outside of class. Each student will be enrolled in the appropriate eCampus course. Access the course at The following items will be available online:


  • Important announcements
    • Students should check daily for new announcements
  • Email
    • Note: All official course email between the instructor and students will be via eCampus email. Emails sent through the regular Blinn email will be answered, “Please resend through eCampus.”
  • Copies of Power Point lecture slides
  • Copies of all handouts
  • Grades
  • Links to external resource material
  • Discussion forums/Blogs
  • This syllabus

Problem Resolution

If you have a complaint about your class, you should first request a conference with your instructor to try and resolve the problems or issues. If the problems or issues cannot be resolved at the instructor level, you should request a conference with the Division Chair, Mr. Dwight Bohlmeyer, Science 241, [email protected]





Lecture   Topic

1    Jan. 15

      Jan. 17

Intro   and 1


Scale   of the Universe

Spaceship   Earth; Optical Telescopes

2    Jan. 22

      Jan. 24




Patterns   in the Sky

Seasons;   Sun; Moon; Eclipses; Ancient Astronomy

3    Jan. 29

      Jan. 31




Copernican   Revolution; Kepler’s Laws; Astronomical Time; Celestial Coordinates; Newton’s   Laws

4    Feb. 5

      Feb. 7


Exam 1

Conservation   Laws; Law of Gravity;

5    Feb. 12

      Feb. 14



Properties   of Light and Matter

Types   of Spectra; Non-optical Telescopes

6    Feb. 19

      Feb. 21



Atmospheric   Effects; The Planetary System

The Planetary   System

7    Feb. 26

      Feb. 28



Asteroids;   Comets; Dwarf Planets

Sun’s   Structure; Nuclear Fusion

8    Mar. 5

      Mar. 7


Exam 2

Solar   Activity;

9    Mar. 12

      Mar. 14




10  Mar. 19

      Mar. 21



Stellar   Luminosity; Stellar Temperature

Stellar   Mass; Star Birth;

11  Mar. 26

      Mar. 28



Mass of   Newborn Stars

Life of   Low-/High-mass Stars

12  Apr. 2

      Apr. 4



Mass   Exchange; White Dwarfs; Neutron Stars

Black   Holes; Gamma-ray Bursts

13  Apr. 9

      Apr. 11


Exam 3




The   Milky Way

Last   day to drop with a Q

14  Apr. 16

      Apr. 18



Hubble   Law; Formation of Galaxies

Life of   Galaxies; Quasars;

15  Apr. 23

      Apr. 25



Active   Galactic Nuclei; Evidence for Dark

Matter   Fate of the Universe; The Big Bang;

16  Apr. 30

      May 2


Final Exam

10:15 – 12:15

Inflation;  Life on Earth; Life Around Other Stars;   SETI