Physics 105 / 105 H – Ideas in Astronomy  -  Spring 2007 Catalog # 4391 and 4392

Instructor - Dr. Tracey Jane Turner



The Essential Cosmic Perspective, Media Update, 4/E

by Jeffrey Bennett, Megan Donahue, Nicholas Schneider, Mark Voit

Publisher: Addison Wesley Publishing Company ISBN:


Math Background Needed:

Elementary arithmetic/algebra (very little used in the course)


Format: Attendance at lectures is mandatory and homework is set every week

using the online homework system at Students are encouraged to work together to do well on homework but each must enter their own final homework solutions via the electronic web site. 


Grade Breakdown is as follows:

Final Exam 25%

2 Mid term exam 15% each

Homework 30%

Attendance 15%


Attendance will be taken frequently during the course and only students with a good attendance record will receive the 15% attendance credit

105 H students will meet for 1 hour approximately once/week for additional discussion sessions, and these discussions will give an opportunity for 15% extra credit for 105 H students only



There will be two classes taken at the telescope, students must attend one of two dates offered during early March.



Students will take two  mid-term exams plus a final exam. Mid-term exams each test material covered since the previous exam. Only the final exam is comprehensive.


There are no makeup exams

There are no early or late exams


Mid-term exam dates will be announced  two weeks into the semester, when the instructor has all student athlete schedule information.



Material to be covered:


Our Place in the Universe

Understanding size-scales, overview of basic astronomy terminology

Key Events in the history of the Science of Astronomy

The ancient roots of astronomy, the Copernican revolution; orbits and Keplers laws

Matter and Energy

Basics of atomic structure; kinetic, potential & thermal energy; E=mc2; conservation of energy.

The Laws of Motion

What is speed versus velocity and what is acceleration; Newtons laws; gravity; tides; orbital energy; escape velocity, acceleration of gravity


Energy versus power; wave/particle duality of light; understanding wavelength, frequency and energy; the electromagnetic spectrum; emission and absorption lines; Doppler shift


Class at the UMBC telescope, viewing the night sky and understanding how optical telescopes work and their different types; how a lens forms an image; refractors versus reflectors; telescopes across the spectrum

The Solar System and its formation

The Nebular theory; gravitational collapse; types of planets; asteroids/comets; age of the solar system; other planetary systems

The Sun

Nuclear fusion; structure of the Sun; sunspots


Stellar characteristics/luminosities/temperature/mass; the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram; Star clusters

The Stellar Graveyard

How stars evolve; movement on the H-R diagram; low versus high-mass stars; Binary systems; fate of a star; white dwarfs; neutron stars; black holes; gamma-ray bursts

Our Galaxy

Structure of the Milky Way; star-gas-star cycle; Galctic environments; motion in the Milky Way; the mysterious Galactic Center

Other Galaxies and their Evolution

Galaxy types/evolution; measuring cosmic distances/cosmic ages

Dark Matter and the Fate of the Universe

What is the evidence for dark matter and what do we mean by this; DM in galaxies/clusters; the nature of DM; structure formation; the fate of the Universe

The Beginning of Time

Conditions in the early universe; the Big Bang; discovery of the cosmic microwave background



The precise content of each exam will depend on how far the course has progressed at the appropriate time, and students will be briefed in class as to exactly what will be covered.