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Blinn College • Bryan • Natural Science • Physics - PHYS

Stars And Galaxies PHYS-1403

  • Fall 2013
  • Section SECTION_303 CRN-10772
  • 4 Credits
  • 08/26/2013 to 12/13/2013
  • Modified 08/23/2013

Meeting Times


  • Tuesday, Thursday, 1:25 PM to 2:40 PM, G213


  • Tuesday, Thursday, 2:50 PM to 4:05 PM, G233

Contact Information

Professor: Dr. James Freeman

  • Office: G202
  • Phone: 979.209.7451
  • Website:

Office Hours

  • Monday, Wednesday, 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM, G202
  • Tuesday, Thursday, 12:00 PM to 1:15 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 Cosmic Perspective

  • Author: Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, Voit
  • Publisher: Addison Weslen
  • Edition: 6th

Laboratory Manual and Writeups

Available on eCampus under the Lessons -> Phys 1403 Labs tab. Students are required to print the appropriate lab materials and bring them to class on the day of the lab. Consult the detailed schedule.

Scientific Calculator

The calculator must be able to perform basic trigonometric and logrithmic functions and display values in scientific notation. A programmable or graphing calculator is NOT required.

Homework System

Students are required to purchase a key to Mastering Astronomy. The key comes bundled with the text if purchased at the Blinn bookstore. Otherwise, you can obtain a key from the Mastering Astronomy website:

Planetarium Software

We will use SkyGazer planetarium software for several of the labs. The software resides on the laboratory computers, but also comes bundled with the text if purchased at the Blinn bookstore. You may load this software on your personal computer for use away from the laboratory.

Course Requirements


There are three exams during the semester and a comprehensive final. I will give a make-up exam IF you have a valid excused absence recognized by the college.

Exams generally comprise multiple-choice questions and short-answer questions. The exams are given in two stages: First, the entire exam is given closed-book. Following the closed-book exam students retake the multiple-choice portion open book. This exam is called a pyramid exam. The overall exam grade is a combination of the closed-book and pyramid portions.


The lab schedule is provided in the detailed schedule on eCampus under the Phys 1403 -> Handouts tab. Laboratory time will be used primarily for collecting data. Students should expect to complete questions and calculations outside of lab. Labs are generally due the by the end of the next laboratory period.

If you miss a lab, you may complete it outside of class, but in order to get credit for it, you must submit it on the due date. 


There is an online home work assignment for each chapter. Homework utilizes the Mastering Astronomy homework system. Homework assignments are due at ll:59 pm on the evening before the exam covering the relavent chapters.

Optional Service Learning/Telescope Observation

Students may opt to complete a Service Learning project involving community outreach, coupled with a telescope observation exercise. Details are available on eCampus under the Phys 1403  -> Handouts tab.



Types of evaluations and related weights
Type Weight Topic Notes
Exams 1-3 40% Plan A

If the student chooses to do a Service Learning/Observation project.

The overall exam grade is calculated according to the following:

Overall Grade = 0.9 (closed-book score) + 0.1 ( pyramid exam score).

Service Learning/Observation 15% Plan A Only
Exams 1-3 55% Plan B

If the student does not do a Service Learning/Observation project.

The overall exam grade is calculated according to the following:

Overall Grade = 0.9 (closed-book score) + 0.1 ( pyramid exam score).


Homework 12.5%

Homework is graded automatically by the Mastering Astronomy system.

  • Each assignment will has a due date. You will receive a 10% grade deduction for every day the homework is late. Due dates will typically be midnight on the day before I give an exam covering the material.
  • You have a maximum of 6 attempts to answer any problem.
  • For multiple-choice questions don’t just guess at the answer until you find the correct one. If you guess wrong, you will be penalized according to the number of possible answers. For example, if there are four possible answers and you guess wrong once, the maximum possible score on that problem will drop to 75%.
  • You can ask for a hint. If you ask for a hint, you will be penalized 1% for each hint you receive.
  • If you answer a question incorrectly, you receive a deduction of 3% per incorrect answer.
Labs 12.5%

Labs are grades according to the policy set forth in the document on eCampus on laboratory policies and procedures. That document can be found under the Phys 1403 -> Handouts tab, titled Phys 1403 Lab Policies and Procedures.

Final Exam 20%

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    Aug. 27

      Aug. 29

Intro and 1


Scale of the Universe; Spaceship Earth

Optical Telescopes

2    Sep. 3

      Sep. 5



Patterns in the Sky; Seasons

Sun; Moon; Eclipses; Ancient Astronomy

3    Sep. 10

      Sep. 12



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

4    Sep. 17     

      Sep. 19


Exam 1

Gravity; Conservation Laws

5    Sep. 24

      Sep. 26



Properties of Light and Matter

Spectra; Non-optical Telescopes; Atmospheric  Effects

6    Oct. 1

      Oct. 3



The Planetary System

Solar System Exploration; Formation of the Solar System

7    Oct. 8

      Oct. 10



Asteroids; Comets

 Dwarf Planets; Sun’s Structure; Nuclear Fusion

8    Oct. 15      

      Oct. 17


Exam 2

Solar Activity

9    Oct. 22

      Oct. 24



Stellar Luminosity; Stellar Temperature

Stellar Mass; Star Birth;

10  Oct. 29

      Oct. 31



Mass of Newborn Stars

Life of Low-/High-mass Stars

11  Nov. 5

      Nov. 7



Mass Exchange; White Dwarfs; Neutron Stars

Black Holes; Gamma-ray Bursts


12  Nov. 12

      Nov. 14

      Nov. 15


Exam 3

The Milky Way


Last day to drop with a Q

13  Nov. 19

      Nov. 21



Hubble Law; Formation of Galaxies

Evolution of Galaxies; Quasars;

14  Nov. 26

      Nov. 28



Active Galactic Nuclei; The Big Bang; Inflation


15  Dec. 3

      Dec. 5



Dark Matter; Dark Energy

Fate of the Universe;  Life Around Other Stars; SETI

16  Dec. 10  

Final Exam

302(7:45 – 9:45) ; 303(12:45 – 2:45)