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Course Syllabus

Course: PHYS 1060

Division: Natural Science and Math
Department: Physics
Title: Astronomy: Stars and Galaxies

Semester Approved: Fall 2016
Five-Year Review Semester: Fall 2021
End Semester: Fall 2022

Catalog Description: This is an introductory course designed to acquaint students with the night sky and the laws of science that govern heavenly bodies. The question How do we know? will lead students to learn more about stars, galaxies, and the universe itself. Application of physical laws and mathematical solutions to a variety of problems will lead to an understanding of how we know. Regularly scheduled night observations will be held each week. Naked eye observation and binocular observation will be emphasized with some use of telescopes. (Lab fee required)

General Education Requirements: Physical Science (PS)
Semesters Offered: Fall
Credit/Time Requirement: Credit: 3; Lecture: 3; Lab: 0

Prerequisites: MATH 0850 or MATH 0900 (or equivalent) with a C or better, ACT math score 23 or higher (or equivalent), or appropriate placement test score.

Justification: PHYS 1060 is a fundamental astronomy course traditionally taught in a Physics curriculum. This course is an option to satisfy the physical science component of the general education requirements. Almost everyone has looked at the sky during the day and night and has noticed some of the phenomena that occur there. This course is meant to help students relate what they see to the physical laws that govern what they see. Similar courses are offered throughout the USHE system.For the natural sciences, science is the systematic inquiry into natural phenomena, organizing and condensing those observations into testable models and hypotheses, theories or laws. The success and credibility of science is anchored in the willingness of scientists to: 1) expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by other scientists which requires the complete and open exchange of data, procedures, and materials; 2) abandon or modify accepted conclusions when confronted with more complete or reliable experimental evidence. Adherence to these principles provides a mechanism for self-correction that is the foundation of the credibility of science. (Adapted from a statement by the Panel on Public Affairs of the American Physical Society which was endorsed by the Executive Board of the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1999.)

General Education Outcomes:
1: A student who completes the GE curriculum will have a fundamental knowledge of human cultures and the natural world, with particular emphasis on American institutions, the social and behavioral sciences, the physical and life sciences, the humanities, the fine arts and personal wellness.  A primary purpose of this course is to give students a strong conceptual understanding of physics, and to show how physical scientists apply scientific methods to increase their knowledge about the natural world. Students will be able to display concept mastery through homework, quizzes, exams, writing assignments, or participation in class.

2: A student who completes the GE curriculum can read, retrieve, evaluate, interpret, and deliver information using a variety of traditional and electronic media. Students must be able to carefully examine a given problem then determine and execute a plan for solving the problem. Often the information given is presented in words, symbols and variables, or in a diagram. The student must be able to read and interpret the given problem then translate that problem into a mathematical statement which they can then solve. In addition to learning new concepts, Physics students are taught ways to express their new understanding using various mathematical symbols. This ability to read, retrieve, evaluate, interpret, and deliver information will be evaluated using homework, quizzes, or exams.

6: A student who completes the GE curriculum can reason analytically, critically, and creatively about nature, culture, facts, values, ethics, and civic policy. To be able to solve a physics problem a student must first examine what information is given, determine what information is needed, decide what process will best fit the problem to arrive at a conclusion, and then finally decide if the answer reached is reasonable. Through this course students are taught to reason analytically, critically and creatively about various physical phenomena and how they can be used to reach the desired solution. This ability is assessed through homework, quizzes, exams, writing assignments, or participation in class.

Student Learning Outcomes:
Apply scientific reasoning in a variety of contexts.

Students will be able to solve various problems using the laws of nature. For example they will learn Kepler's laws of planetary motion and be able to apply these laws to understand and calculate the motion of planets and satellites. A student's ability to apply scientific reasoning will be assessed using homework, quizzes, or exams. 

Use the concepts of physical science to solve daily problems.

Topics learned, such Newton's laws of motion, gravity and planetary motion, energy and the conversation laws, etc., are the laws that govern the universe around us. Students will be able to apply these topics to daily problems such as predicting the force exerted on an object. A student's ability to use these concepts to solve daily problems will be assessed using homework, quizzes, and exams. 

Understand how physical scientists think and form judgments about the physical world.

Students will learn about the various laws physical scientists use to analyze and form judgments about the physical world. After learning about these laws students will be able to think like scientists by approaching problem-solving in a scientific manner. For example, after learning about Kepler's laws of planetary motion students will be able to analyze a problem scientifically to determine the characteristics of the orbit of an object. Students will demonstrate their ability to think scientifically on homework, quizzes, exams, and through participation in class. 

Assess the credibility of scientific information.

Students will be taught how to determine the credibility of scientific information as it relates to physical science. The course will include in-class discussion on the credibility of the science contained in various kinds of articles. Students will also need to assess the credibility of a source for a term paper. Students will be assessed using participation in class, homework, exams, and writing assignments.  

Recognize the manifestations of physical science in phenomena of the everyday world.

Students will be able to recognize physical science phenomena in their own lives. For example, students might notice leaves falling from trees in the fall and think of gravity or see a rainbow in the sky and think of refraction and reflection of light. They might also see stars at night and think about how we know their temperature, distance, composition, size, and age. Students will demonstrate their ability to recognize physical science phenomena on homework, exams, and participation in class. 

Acquire the tools necessary for life-long learning in physical science.

Students will be able to engage in life-long learning in physical science by having a basic understanding of fundamental laws of nature, being able to think like a scientist, knowing where scientific information is available and how to assess its credibility, seeing the ubiquity of science in their daily lives, and having passion and curiosity to motivate them to continue learning. Students will demonstrate their ability to use these tools necessary for life-long learning on homework, quizzes, writing assignments, and exams. 

Identify something acquired in the course about which he/she has become passionate.

Students will be able to identify a topic about which they have become passionate. Students will demonstrate that they have become passionate about a scientific topic by their choice of topic and fulfillment of the term paper assignment. 

Using lectures and class discussions this class will include:
• familiarity with the nighttime sky
• understanding the birth, life, and death of stars
• the strange beasts
• white dwarfs
• neutron stars
• black holes
• the universe of galaxies
• the past and future of the universe
• life in the universe
• regular observations of the evening sky
Students will participate in class lecture sessions, small group activities, small study groups, and have regular homework assignments. Students will be expected to keep a journal of their own nightly observations through the semester. Exams will be given on each unit and quizzes will be given on reading, observations, and previous lectures.

Key Performance Indicators:
Students will be assessed by a combination of the following:

chapter homework (10%-50%) 

quizzes (10%-50%) 

tests (20%-55%) 

final exam (15%-40%) 







Representative Text and/or Supplies:
Example: Universe, Freedman, Geller, and Kauffman. New York: Freeman. Current edition.

Pedagogy Statement:

Maximum Class Size: 25
Optimum Class Size: 20