Syllabus: ASTR 2310: Spring 2010


Instructor:                     Michael Brotherton

Office:                          217 Physical Sciences

Phone:                          766-5402

E-mail:                (best way to contact me)

Websites:            (course materials here under ASTR 2310 link!)

Office Hours:               TR 11:00AM-Noon, Wed. 3-4pm, or by appointment

Lectures:                      9:35 am - 10:50 am TR Classroom Building 141

Lab/Discussion: Led by Jessie Runnoe (, separate syllabus, starts week 2

Text:                            Foundations of Astrophysics, by Barbara Ryden and Brad Peterson

Course Content

This course is intended as a first of two parts, taught in alternate years with ASTR 2320, that constitutes a broad introduction to astronomy at a level appropriate for Freshman and Sophomore astronomy/physics majors. There will be calculus in the course, but kept to a minimal level as necessary. Everyone should be at least enrolled in Calculus 1 or have already had the course.


I expect regular attendance at lectures. Sometimes things come up, I know, but for astronomy majors at least this course should be primary. We'll primarily use powerpoint, supplemented with other methods and discussion, in class. These lecture slides will be places on the course webpage (usually before class, but not guaranteed).

Labs and Discussion

In addition to lecture, there will be a scheduled discussion section led by teaching assistant Jessie Runnoe. This will primarily be an opportunity to discuss homework, review for exams, and discuss any other topics you or Jessie feels will enhance the course. She will also run labs. There will be a separate syllabus for these topics, and these sections will begin during the second week of classes.

Homework and other Assignments

There will be regular problem sets due approximately every week. Everyone should read the textbook as directed in class. There may also be preparation or write ups for labs.


There will be three exams (two during the semester plus the final). These will each cover about 4 chapters of the textbook. They will be in class, closed book, and scheduled 1-2 weeks in advance.


The grading scheme will be:

A = 90+

B= 80-90

C = 70-80

D= 60-70

F= Below 60

I tend to round up, and I may curve final grades. The exams will count equally, and total 50% of your grade. Homework will count for 25%, so do your homework well! Lab will count for 25%.

Special Accommodations

If you have a physical, learning, or psychological disability and require accommodations, please let me know as soon as possible.  You will need to register with, and provide documentation of your disability to, University Disability Support Services (UDSS) in SEO, room 330 Knight Hall, 766-6189, TTY: 766-3073

About Me

I am an observational astronomer specializing in the study of quasars and other types of active galaxies thought to be powered by super-massive black holes.  I received my PhD from the University of Texas at Austin and have previously worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Kitt Peak National Observatory.  I've really used the Very Large Array (the "VLA", a radio telescope in New Mexico featured in the movie Contact), the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, so I can provide you with first-hand details not found in textbooks.  I'm also a science fiction writer — my first novel Star Dragon is about an expedition to a distant binary star system.  My second novel Spider Star, March 2008, features a dark matter planet.


Course Topics in order

The textbook is good, the right length, and we will cover the first 12 chapters. ASTR 2320 will cover the final 12 chapters in the Spring semester next year, probably taught by Mike Pierce. We will spend approximately one week per chapter.

1. Early Astronomy

2. Emergence of Modern Astronomy

3. Orbital Mechanics

4. The Earth-Moon System

5. Interaction of Radiation and Matter

6. Astronomical Detection of Light

7. The Sun

8. Overview of the Solar System

9. Earth and Moon

10. The Planets

11. Small Bodies in the Solar System

12. The Solar System in Perspective