AST 202

Einstein's Universe: High-Energy Astronomy

Spring 2017 Course Outline

Instructor: Philip S. Harrington

CRN: 29643

Office (off-campus): (631) 344-5669 (Monday-Friday, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm)

Office hours: By appointment

Textbook (required): The Cosmic Perspective: Stars, Galaxies, & Cosmology (8th edition, ISBN: 9780134073828)

Lab booklets: Astronomy Through Practical Investigation  Click to go to the Ammerman bookstore listing

Course hours:  Tuesdays 6:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M.; Thursdays 6:00 P.M. - 9:00 P.M.

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Understand the scientific method and how it applies to astronomy. This will provide an understanding of how our ideas about the universe have evolved over the ages, especially during the past century using technological advances. 

  2. Know the origins and trace the development of astronomy and classical physics. 

  3. Discuss the effect and influence of Albert Einstein, his views on the scientific world, and the world's view of Albert Einstein. 

  4. Have a basic understanding of the development and implications of Special Relativity. Topics will include; the limit of the speed of light, time dilation and length contraction, and realistic space travel. 

  5. Have a basic understanding of the development and implications of General Relativity. Topics will include; the curvature of space-time, the bending of light, and the apparent slowing down of time around black holes. 

  6. Understand the various end results of stellar evolution, and how stellar mass influences a star's death. Topics discussed will include; white dwarfs, neutron stars, supernovae and black holes. 

  7. Discuss the observational characteristics of Active Galaxies and their implications for galactic evolution. 

  8. Understand how distance measurements are made in galactic astronomy and the limitations therein. 

  9. Understand the implications of modern cosmology from an observational viewpoint and discuss the various future scenarios for the fate of the universe. 

  10. Gain a sufficient understanding of astronomical phenomena in order to have an appreciation for recent developments in the field.

Student Requirements for Completion of Course 

To pass this course successfully, each student must complete the following: 

  1. Complete all homework, lab assignments, and term project to the best of your ability and ON TIME. 

  2. Maintain good attendance, as stated in the College Catalog. 

  3. Ask questions and participate in discussions. 

  4. Pass all tests. No test grades are dropped. 

  5. Check your school e-mail regularly for supplementary materials. 

  6. Standing assignment.  Astronomy and space exploration are in the news all the time.  Your assignment across the semester is to submit ten news articles from bona fide sources that discuss some aspect of astronomy or space exploration.  Articles must be no more than one year old.  You are to read each article and then write a brief summary/discussion of the content on this article submission form.  Attach a copy of the article to the form and submit both to the instructor.  If approved, you will receive 10 points toward a test grade.  Ten approved articles equals a score of 100 on a test.  You may hand in all ten at once, or submit them weekly, BUT you must have handed in at least five articles by the midterm.  After the midterm, no more than five will be accepted for the rest of the semester.  This assignment counts the same as a test grade.

    • If you would prefer to type your article submission, the submission form may be downloaded here.

Grading Practices

The following grading practices will be strictly adhered to throughout the semester:

  1. All homework assignments and lab reports must be handed in on time.  Any that are handed one class session late will receive a grade 20 points lower than it would have received had it been handed in on time, while two sessions late will result in a deduction of 30 points.  After that, an assignment will receive a grade of 0.
  2. Neatness counts!  You are required to type your homework. Sloppy assignments will be rejected.
  3. The lowest grade received on a homework/lab assignment will be dropped when calculating a student’s final grade.
  4. No make-up tests will be allowed except for extraordinary circumstances, to be judged on an individual basis.
  5. All tests are “closed book, closed notes” and will be based on class lectures, homework assignments, videos, and reading assignments.
  6. Your grade will be determined as follows:

Class attendance/participation: 


Homework/Lab assignments:  




Term project: 20%

Final exam: 





Extra Credit

You may earn up to 10 points extra credit during the semester.  Each submitted project is worth between 1 and 4 extra-credit points depending on level of effort and quality.  Here are some suggestions:




revised 22 March 2017





Key dates

(also see the Homework and Lab pages for additional assignment due dates)




Chapter 1: A Modern View of the Universe





Chapter 3: The Science of Astronomy

2/9: Snow day!


2/16 2/21

Chapter 4: Making Sense of the Universe

Chapter 5: Light and Matter

Practice test 1 answer key

2/21: Term project topic due


2/23 2/28

S2: Space and Time

S3: Spacetime and Gravity

2/23: Exam 1




Chapter 15: Surveying the Stars




Chapter 16: Star Birth

Chapter 17: Star Stuff

3/23: Term project outline due

Practice test 2 answer key


3/28 3/30

Chapter 18: White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars and Black Holes

3/28: Exam 2 (chapters S2, S3, 15, 16)

3/28: 5+ news articles due




Chapter 19: The Milky Way



4/11 4/13

Chapter 20: Galaxies and the Foundation of Modern Cosmology



4/18 4/20

Chapter 21: Galaxy Evolution


Practice test 3 answer key


4/25 4/27

Chapter 22: The Birth of the Universe

4/25: Exam 3  

4/27: Term project due




Chapter 23: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Fate of the Universe

5/2: Last night to hand in articles, late assignments



Review for final exam: Einsteinian Jeopardy

Final exam part 1: Star ID in planetarium

5/9: Final exam part 1



Final exam part 2: Comprehensive test

5/11: Final exam part 2



Final grades, return homeworks, etc.



CLASS WILL NOT MEET ON Mar 7, 14, and 16

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