Contemporary Astronomy (PHYS*1600)
Code and section: PHYS*1600*DE
Term: Fall 2020
Instructor: Elisabeth Nicol
This course is designed for non-science students. Emphasis will be on the interdisciplinary and contemporary aspects of astronomy with the object of providing a perspective of our place in the physical universe. Topics will include the solar system, stars and stellar evolution, pulsars, black holes, quasars and cosmology. Students are encouraged to suggest and participate in discussion on items of special interest.
Restriction(s): Students with standing in any other 1000 level course credit in physics (except (PHYS*1020 or PHYS*1300), PHYS*1810) may not use this course for credit. B.Sc. Students may not take this course for credit.
Method of Delivery: Online
Date: Monday, December 7
Time: 11:30am ET to 1:30pm ET
Location: Online via the Quizzes tool in CourseLink using Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor
Title: Discovering the Universe
Author(s): Neil F. Comins Edition / Year: 11th Edition, 2019
Publisher: W. H. Freeman and Co.
ISBN (print): 1319055394
ISBN (ebook): 9781319235475
You may purchase the print version of the textbook at the Guelph Campus Co-op Bookstore or the University of Guelph Bookstore. Please note that DE textbooks are located in the Distance Education section of the University of Guelph Bookstore. Alternatively, you may purchase an e-text version of the textbook from the publisher.
CourseLink (powered by D2L’s Brightspace) is the course website and will act as your classroom. It is recommended that you log in to your course website every day to check for announcements, access course materials, and review the weekly schedule and assignment requirements.
Course Learning Outcomes
Contemporary Astronomy, as its title suggests, is designed to present a survey of the vast subject of astronomy with the object of leaving the student with an appreciation of the contemporary view of the constitution of the universe. Astronomy, unique among the physical sciences, does not perform experiments on its object of study, but can only observe. Also, and almost as unique, it relies on the accumulation of observations conducted over long periods of time. A snapshot observation of the universe will yield a lot of information, but a series of them taken over many persons' lifetimes yields so much more.
It is, therefore, difficult to perform meaningful practical exercises in the short span of a one-semester course and so we will not do so. Rather we will merely appreciate the work of astronomers and the body of knowledge that they have provided to us.
The course requires no expertise in college-level mathematics but will require a level of numeracy. The properties of astronomical objects and the state of the universe cannot be comprehended without the use of numbers! There will, however, be many new ideas and concepts requiring close reading of the textbook and the acquisition of an extensive new vocabulary.
We hope that you will find this survey of the universe both enjoyable and informative, providing an appreciation of your surroundings that will continue throughout your life.
By the end of this course, you should:
- Acquire an appreciation of the construction of the solar system and how its internal motions are the result of simple laws;
- Understand the similarities and differences in the structure of the planets and their satellites and some of the things this tells us about the origin of the solar system;
- Understand the constitution of stars, their distances, energy source and evolution; and
- Learn how stars are aggregated into galaxies and how the distribution of galaxies and other entities lead to a cosmological view of the nature and evolution of the universe as a whole.
Teaching and Learning Activities
This course is organized into twelve units:
- Unit 01: The Planets of the Solar System and their Motions
- Unit 02: The Earth and its Moon
- Unit 03: The Terrestrial Planets
- Unit 04: The Jovian Planets
- Unit 05: The Minor Constituents and the Origin of the Solar System
- Unit 06: Light and Spectra
- Unit 07: The Sun
- Unit 08: The Properties of the Stars
- Unit 09: The Birth and Evolution of Stars
- Unit 10: Globular Clusters, Variable Stars, and the Death of Stars
- Unit 11: Galaxies
- Unit 12: Cosmology
Unit 01: The Planets of the Solar System and their Motions
Week 1 – Thursday, September 10 to Sunday, September 20
- Unit 01 Content
- Textbook: Ancient Greeks and the Geo-centric view of the Universe
o Guided Discovery (p. 49)
- Textbook: Heliocentric Revolution o §2-3 to 2-6, §2-8, §2-10
o Guided Discovery (p. 52)
o Astronomer’s Toolbox 2-3
- Familiarize yourself with the course website by reviewing the Start Here section of the course.
- Review the Outline and Assessments sections on the course website to learn about course expectations, assessments, and due dates.
- Unit 01 Quiz (ungraded) Opens: Thursday, September 10 at 12:00 am ET Closes: Sunday, September 20 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 02: The Earth and its Moon
Week 2 – Monday, September 21 to Sunday, September 27
- Unit 02 Content
- Textbook: Motions of Earth
o §1-5 to 1-8
- Textbook: The Earth’s Moon
o §1-11 to 1-14
- Unit 02 Quiz
Opens: Monday, September 21 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, September 27 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 03: The Terrestrial Planets
Week 3 – Monday, September 28 to Sunday, October 4 Readings
- Unit 03 Content
- Textbook: The Earth
o §7-2 to 7-4
- Textbook: The Earth’s Moon
o § 7-5 to 7-7, 2-9, 7-8 (and Guided Discovery about Tides)
- Textbook: Mercury, Venus, Mars
o Chapter 8
- Unit 03 Quiz
Opens: Monday, September 28 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, October 4 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 04: The Jovian Planets
Week 4 – Monday, October 5 to Sunday, October 11
- Unit 04 Content
- Textbook: The Jovian Planets
o Chapter 9
Note: Look at Summary Tables regarding characteristics of the planets (Table 8-1 p260, Table 9-1 p311)
- Unit 04 Quiz
Opens: Monday, October 5 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, October 11 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 05: The Minor Constituents and the Origin of the Solar System
Week 5 – Monday, October 12 to Sunday, October 18
- Unit 05 Contents
- Textbook: Satellites & Rings
o Jupiter: §9-4 (with its intro) to 9-8
o Saturn: §9-10, 9-11
o Uranus: §9-15
o Neptune: §9-17
- Textbook: The Minor Planets
o Chapter 10 Introduction
o §10-1 to 10-3
o Comets: §10-6(with its intro) to 10-9
o Meteors: §10-10 (with intro) to 10-13
- Textbook: Origins of the Solar System
o Chapter 5 and 6
- Unit 05 Quiz
Opens: Monday, October 12 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, October 18 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 06: Light and Spectra
Week 6 – Monday, October 19 to Sunday, October 25
- Unit 06 Content
- Textbook: The Nature of Light:
o §3-1, 3-2 and 3-4
- Textbook: Atomic Physics and Spectra
o §4-1 to 4-4 (with intros 4-3, 4-4), §4-7
o Astronomer’s Toolbox 4-1 and 4-3
- Unit 06 Quiz
Opens: Monday, October 19 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, October 25 at 11:59 pm ET
- Midterm 1
Opens: Wednesday, October 21 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Wednesday, October 21 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 07: The Sun
Week 7 – Monday, October 26 to Sunday, November 1
- Unit 07 Content
- Textbook: The Sun
o §11-1 to 11-11
o Astronomer’s Toolbox 11-1
- Unit 07 Quiz
Opens: Monday, October 26 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, November 1 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 08: The Properties of the Stars
Week 8 – Monday, November 2 to Sunday, November 8
- Unit 08 Content
- Textbook: Properties of Stars
o §12-1 to 12-12
o Astronomer’s Toolbox 12-1, 12-2, 12-4
- Unit 08 Quiz
Opens: Monday, November 2 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, November 8 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 09: The Birth and Evolution of Stars
Week 9 – Monday, November 9 to Sunday, November 15
- Unit 09 Content
- Textbook: Evolution of Stars
o Introduction, §13-1 to 13-4, §13-6, 13-7, §13-9 to 13-11
- Unit 09 Quiz
Opens: Monday, November 9 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, November 15 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 10: Globular Clusters, Variable Stars, and the Death of Stars
Week 10 – Monday, November 16 to Sunday, November 22
- Unit 10 Content
- Textbook: Variable Stars
o §13-12 to 13-14
- Textbook: Death of Stars
o Introduction, §14-1 to 14-8
o §14-10 to 14-11, and §14-13
- Textbook: Black Holes
o §15-1 to 15-5, 15-7, 15-8
o Astronomer’s Toolbox 15-1
- Unit 10 Quiz
Opens: Monday, November 16 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, November 22 at 11:59 pm ET
- Midterm 2
Opens: Wednesday, November 18 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Wednesday, November 18 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 11: Galaxies
Week 11 – Monday, November 23 to Sunday, November 29 Readings
- Unit 11 Content
- Textbook: Our Galaxy
o Introduction, §16-1 to 16-8
- Textbook: Other Galaxies
o §17-1 to 17-6, §17-8 to 17-12 (with intro), §17-13
o Astronomer’s Toolbox 17-1
- Unit 11 Quiz
Opens: Monday, November 23 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Sunday, November 29 at 11:59 pm ET
Unit 12: Cosmology
Week 12 – Monday, November 30 to Friday, December 4 Readings
- Unit 12 Content
- Textbook: Quasars
o Introduction, §18-1 to 18-5
- Textbook: Other Galaxies
o §19-1 to 19-4, §19-6 to 19-15
o Astronomer’s Toolbox 19-1
- Unit 12 Quiz (ungraded)
Opens: Monday, November 30 at 12:00 am ET
Closes: Friday, December 4 at 11:59 pm ET
The grade determination for this course is indicated in the following table. A brief description of each assessment is provided below. Select Content on the navbar to locate Assessments in the table of contents panel to review further details of each assessment. Due dates can be found under the Schedule heading of this outline.
|Midterms (2 @ 15% each)||30%|
This course will have an online quiz to be taken each week, 10 of these (Weeks 2-11) will contribute to your overall course grade. The other 2 quizzes (Weeks 1 & 12) are to be used for your own practice and self-assessment.
The questions on the quizzes are mostly multiple choice and are strictly on the assigned readings of the week in question. They are intended to direct your attention to the important points in the reading and their strict timetable is to keep you from falling behind in the course. Quizzes will usually consist of 10 questions designed to test your grasp of the basic concepts in the unit and are typical of questions that may appear on the midterms or final exam.
There will be two online midterm tests of 30 multiple choice questions to be completed in 30 minutes. Midterm 1 will cover material from Units 01-05 and Midterm 2 will cover material from Units 06-09.
This course requires the use of Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor (webcam) to proctor your online final exam within CourseLink. Use of Lockdown Browser with a webcam has been implemented to maintain the academic integrity of the final exam. You must download and install LockDown Browser and Monitor to complete the practice test and final exam. While writing the practice test and final exam, you must show your university issued identification card during the Respondus Startup Sequence.
The exam will consist of multiple-choice questions similar to those seen in the weekly quizzes. There may also be some matching or short answer questions which may require you to interpret or label diagrams.
The final exam will be delivered online via the Quizzes tool. The exam is 2 hours in length and will be held on Monday, December 7. To accommodate students who may be located in various time zones, the exam will be available beginning at 11:30am to 12:30pm Eastern Time (ET). You can enter the exam at any point during this window of time but will only have 2 hours to complete it from when you start writing. For example, if you start writing the exam by 12:00 pm, you will have until 2:00 pm to complete it. After12:30 pm ET you will no longer be able to enter the exam environment.
Similar to a sit-down exam where you must arrive prior to the start of the exam, it is highly recommended that you enter the online exam environment in Respondus at least 20-30 minutes before the end of the available window to allow enough time for you to complete the Respondus Startup Sequence and ensure that you have the full two hours for the exam.
Please be sure to review the Using Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor instructions by selecting Content on the navbar to locate Assessments in the table of contents panel.
Important Note: There is a mandatory practice test that you are required to take before the online exam. The purpose of the practice test is to ensure that Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor is set up properly and that you are comfortable using the software.
If you have any questions regarding the use of Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor or if you encounter any technical issues during the practice test or final exam, please contact CourseLink Support at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-824-4120 ext. 56939.
University of Guelph degree and associate diploma students must check WebAdvisor for their examination schedule. Open Learning program students must check the Open Learning Program Final Examination Schedule for their examination schedule.
Course Technology Requirements and Technical Support
CourseLink System Requirements
You are responsible for ensuring that your computer system meets the necessary system requirements. Use the browser check tool to ensure your browser settings are compatible and up to date. (Results will be displayed in a new browser window).
Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor System Requirements
This course will use the Respondus tool to invigilate one or more exams. In order to use Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor, you must meet the following technical requirements:
- Operating Systems: Windows 10, 8, 7; Mac OS X 10.10 or higher.
- Memory: Windows 2 GB RAM; Mac 512 MB RAM.
- For Mac users: Safari must function properly on the computer.
- Mac users must have Adobe Flash Player installed to Safari, even if a different browser is normally used.
- Functioning webcam and microphone. The webcam and microphone can be built into your computer or can be the type that plugs in with a USB cable. (You will be required to do an environment scan of your room, so please ensure you can move your computer, laptop or webcam for this scan.)
- A broadband Internet connection. It is recommended that you access the Internet via a wired connection.
Zoom System Requirements
This course uses Zoom as a video communication tool. A Webcam, a microphone to record video, and headphones/speakers to play back the recording are also needed. In order to use Zoom, you must meet the following technical requirements:
- An internet connection – broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
- Speakers and a microphone – built-in or USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth
- A webcam or HD webcam -built-in or USB plug-in
As part of your online experience, you are expected to use a variety of technology as part of your learning:
- Manage files and folders on your computer (e.g., save, name, copy, backup, rename, delete, and check properties);
- Install software, security, and virus protection;
- Use office applications (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or similar) to create documents;
- Be comfortable uploading and downloading saved files;
- Communicate using email (e.g., create, receive, reply, print, send, and download attachments);
- Navigate the CourseLink learning environment (the instructions for this are given in your course);
- Communicate using a discussion board (e.g., read, search, post, reply, follow threads) in the CourseLink website;
- Access, navigate, and search the Internet using a web browser (e.g., Firefox, Internet Explorer); and
- Perform online research using various search engines (e.g., Google) and library databases.
If you need any assistance with the software tools or the CourseLink website, contact CourseLink Support.
University of Guelph
Day Hall, Room 211
Tel: 519-824-4120 ext. 56939
Toll-Free (CAN/USA): 1-866-275-1478
Walk-In Hours (Eastern Time):
Monday thru Friday: 8:30 am–4:30 pm
Phone/Email Hours (Eastern Time):
Monday thru Friday: 8:30 am–8:30 pm Saturday: 10:00 am–4:00 pm Sunday: 12:00 pm–6:00 pm
Course Specific Standard Statements
The University of Guelph has an Acceptable Use Policy, which you are expected to adhere to. https://www.uoguelph.ca/ccs/infosec/aup
Communicating with Your Instructor
During the course, your instructor will interact with you on various course matters on the course website using the following ways of communication:
- Announcements: The instructor will use Announcements on the Course Home page to provide you with course reminders and updates. Please check this section frequently for course updates from your instructor.
- General Astronomy (Main Class) Discussion: Use this discussion forum to ask questions of your instructor about content or course-related issues with which you are unfamiliar. If you encounter difficulties, the instructor is here to help you. Please post general course-related questions to the discussion forum so that all students have an opportunity to review the response. To access this discussion forum, select Discussions from the Tools dropdown menu.
- Email: If you have a conflict that prevents you from completing course requirements, or have a question concerning a personal matter, you can send your instructor a private message by email. The instructor will respond to your email within 48 to 72 hours.
- Skype or Zoom: For questions about the course material, please post them in the discussion forum for the course and your instructor will answer you there. It allows others to benefit from your question and the answer -much like asking questions in a traditional classroom session. Should you still not understand a point after using the discussion forum, it may be possible to discuss a complex question further in a Skype or Zoom meeting with the instructor.
For Distance Education courses, the course website is considered the classroom and the same protections, expectations, guidelines, and regulations used in face-to-face settings apply, plus other policies and considerations that come into play specifically because these courses are online.
Inappropriate online behaviour will not be tolerated. Examples of inappropriate online behaviour include:
- Posting inflammatory messages about your instructor or fellow students;
- Using obscene or offensive language online;
- Copying or presenting someone else's work as your own;
- Adapting information from the Internet without using proper citations or references;
- Buying or selling term papers or assessments;
- Posting or selling course materials to course notes websites;
- Having someone else complete your quiz or completing a quiz for/with another student;
- Stating false claims about lost quiz answers or other assignment submissions;
- Threatening or harassing a student or instructor online;
- Discriminating against fellow students, instructors, and/or TAs;
- Using the course website to promote profit-driven products or services;
- Attempting to compromise the security or functionality of the learning management system;
- Sharing your username and password; and
- Recording lectures without the permission of the instructor.
Extensions will be considered for medical reasons or other extenuating circumstances. If you require an extension, discuss this with the instructor as soon as possible and well before the due date. Barring exceptional circumstances, extensions will not be granted once the due date has passed. These rules are not designed to be arbitrary, nor are they inflexible. They are designed to keep you organized, to ensure that all students have the same amount of time to work on assignments, and to help to return marked materials to you in the shortest possible time.
Obtaining Grades and Feedback
Unofficial assessment marks will be available in the Grades tool of the course website.
Your instructor will have grades posted online within 2 weeks of the submission deadline, if the assignment was submitted on time. Once your assignments are marked you can view your grades on the course website by selecting Grades from the Tools dropdown menu on the navbar. Your course will remain open to you for seven days following the last day of the final exam period.
University of Guelph degree students can access their final grade by logging into WebAdvisor (using your U of G central ID). Open Learning program students should log in to the OpenEd Student Portal to view their final grade (using the same username and password you have been using for your courses).
Rights and Responsibilities When Learning Online
For Distance Education (DE) courses, the course website is considered the classroom and the same protections, expectations, guidelines, and regulations used in face-to-face settings apply, plus other policies and considerations that come into play specifically because these courses are online.
For more information on your rights and responsibilities when learning in the online environment, visit Rights and Responsibilities.
Storage and Retention of Exam Videos
Only authorized University of Guelph faculty or staff will have access to the video of your exam. Videos will be retained for a period of one year following the completion of the course.
University Standard Statements
University of Guelph: Undergraduate Policies
As a student of the University of Guelph, it is important for you to understand your rights and responsibilities and the academic rules and regulations that you must abide by.
If you are a registered University of Guelph Degree Student, consult the Undergraduate Calendar for the rules, regulations, curricula, programs and fees for current and previous academic years.
If you are an Open Learning Program Student, consult the Open Learning Program Calendar for information about University of Guelph administrative policies, procedures and services.
As per university regulations, all students are required to check their uoguelph.ca e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.
When You Cannot Meet Course Requirements
When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement due to illness or compassionate reasons, please advise your course instructor in writing, with your name, ID number and email contact.
University of Guelph Degree Students
Consult the Undergraduate Calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration.
Open Learning Program Students
Please refer to the Open Learning Program Calendar for information on regulations and procedures for requesting Academic Consideration.
University of Guelph Degree Students
Students will have until the last day of classes to drop courses without academic penalty. Review the Undergraduate Calendar for regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses.
Open Learning Program Students
Copies of Assignments
Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.
The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment.
University of Guelph Degree Students
Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible.
Open Learning Program Students
If you are an Open Learning program student who requires academic accommodation, please contact the Academic Assistant to the Director. Please ensure that you contact us before the end of the first week of your course (every semester) in order to avoid any delays in support. Documentation from a health professional is required for all academic accommodations. Please note that all information provided will be held in confidence.
If you require textbooks produced in an alternate format (e.g., DAISY, Braille, large print or eText), please contact the Academic Assistant to the Director at least two months prior to the course start date. If contact is not made within the suggested time frame, support may be delayed. It is recommended that you refer to the course outline before beginning your course in order to determine the required readings.
The provision of academic accommodation is a shared responsibility between OpenEd and the student requesting accommodation. It is recognized that academic accommodations are intended to “level the playing field” for students with disabilities.
The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community – faculty, staff, and students – to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection.
Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.
The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.
Content within this course is copyright protected. Third party copyrighted materials (such as book chapters and articles) have either been licensed for use in this course, or have been copied under an exception or limitation in Canadian Copyright law.
The fair dealing exemption in Canada's Copyright Act permits students to reproduce short excerpts from copyright-protected materials for purposes such as research, education, private study, criticism and review, with proper attribution. Any other copying, communicating, or distribution of any content provided in this course, except as permitted by law, may be an infringement of copyright if done without proper license or the consent of the copyright owner. Examples of infringing uses of copyrighted works would include uploading materials to a commercial third party web site, or making paper or electronic reproductions of all, or a substantial part, of works such as textbooks for commercial purposes.
Students who upload to CourseLink copyrighted materials such as book chapters, journal articles, or materials taken from the Internet, must ensure that they comply with Canadian Copyright law or with the terms of the University’s electronic resource licenses.
For more information about students’ rights and obligations with respect to copyrighted works, review Fair Dealing Guidance for Students.
Plagiarism Detection Software
Students should be aware that faculty have the right to use software to aid in the detection of plagiarism or copying and to examine students orally on submitted work. For students found guilty of academic misconduct, serious penalties, up to and including suspension or expulsion from the University can be imposed.
Recording of Materials
Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.
Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via CourseLink and/or class email. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website and circulated by email.
The University will not require verification of illness (doctor's notes) for the Fall 2020 or Winter 2021 semesters.