PHYS 1304 Syllabus - Solar System
Instructor of Record: John L. McClain, Ph.D.
Office Location: MBS 1153
Office Phone: 254.298.8406
Office Hours: posted on office door
Mailing Address: 2600 South First Street, Temple, Tx 76504

Course Description:
An introductory astronomy course focusing on objects inside our solar system. Topics include the origin, life, and fate of the solar system, the various bodies in the solar system (planets, satellites, meteors, comets, and asteroids), the solar system mechanics, the exploration of the solar system by astronomers, and the understanding of the principles that lie behind the functioning of the solar system such as gravitational forces, nuclear forces, atomic spectra, and astronomical tools as they provide knowledge about distant objects. Recent developments and discoveries will be emphasized.
State Approval Code: 40.0201.52 03
Lab Hours per Week: 0
Lecture Hours per week: 3

Core Curriculum: State Criteria
Basic Intellectual Competencies: Those marked with a reflect the State-mandated competencies taught in this course.
Critical Thinking
Computer Literacy
Perspectives: Those marked with a reflect the State-mandated perspectives taught in this course.
Establish broad and multiple perspectives on the individual in relationship to the larger society and world in which he/she lives, and to understand the responsibilities of living in a culturally and ethnically diversified world.
Stimulate a capacity to discuss and reflect upon individual, political, economic, and social aspects of life in order to understand ways in which to be a responsible member of society.
Recognize the importance of maintaining health and wellness.
Develop a capacity to use knowledge of how technology and science affect their lives.
Develop personal values for ethical behavior.
Use logical reasoning in problem solving.
Integrate knowledge and understand the interrelationships of the scholarly disciplines.
Natural Sciences Exemplary Objectives: The objective of the study of a natural sciences component of a core curriculum is to enable the student to understand, construct, and evaluate relationships in the natural sciences, and to enable the student to understand the bases for building and testing theories. Those marked with a reflect the State-mandated perspectives taught in this course.
1. To understand and apply method and appropriate technology to the study of natural sciences.
2. To recognize scientific and quantitative methods and the differences between these approaches and other methods of inquiry and to communicate findings, analysis, and interpretation both orally and in writing.
3. To identify and recognize the differences among competing scientific theories.
4. To demonstrate knowledge of the major issues and problems facing modern science, including issues that touch upon ethics, values and public policies.
5. To demonstrate knowledge of the interdependence of science and technology and their influence on, and contribution to, modern culture.

Course Objectives
Successful completion of this course will promote the general student learning outcomes listed below. Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able:
1. To become acquainted with the basic fundamental physical laws and principles which govern and give meaning to our solar system.
2. To develop an understanding of scientific methods and the evolution of scientific thought.
3. To explain physical phenomena in proper, clear, technical terms.
4. To correctly identify basic physical principles and specify the procedural knowledge to arrive at a solution for some desired unknown, when presented with problem situations.
5. To demonstrate mathematical skills necessary to carry an argument from the "givens" to the "to finds" alluded in (4) above.
Successful completion of this course will promote the specific student learning outcomes listed below. Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able:
1. To explain changes in the definition of astronomy.
2. To develop appreciation of the early history of astronomy.
3. To develop a general idea of the basic structure of the universe.
4. To define fundamental astronomical terms.
5. To explain the evolution of and notion of the earth-moon system.
6. To discuss evidence of the earthís motion.
7. To explain the relationship between the earthís rotation and celestial coordinates.
8. To discuss the earthís age, origin, evolution, and structure.
9. To describe gravitational force.
10. To describe the general structure of the solar system.
11. To describe the structure of the sun and how it produces energy.
12. To describe the arrangement, structure, and compositions of the solar system, including the sun, planets, and non-planetary bodies.

Course Content
This course convers the following topics:
Unit 1 - Introduction
 •   Describe the solar system and name its components.
 • Discuss the nature of the differences between the Sun and the planets.
 • Explain the difference between a solar system and a galaxy.
 • Describe the forces involved in holding together atoms, components of solar systems and galaxies and galaxy clusters.
Unit 2 - History of Astronomy
 •   Explain the reasons why Earth experiences seasons.
 • Explain the logic involved in the early Greek belief that the earth was a sphere.
 • Explain how Eratosthenes determined the size of the earth.
 • Explain how Eratosthenes determined the relative sizes of and distances to the earth, moon, and sun.
 • Discuss the significance of Galileoís telescopic observations of the moon, Jupiter, Venus and the sun relative to the debate pitting the heliocentric and geocentric models against one another.
 • Explain Keplerís three laws pertaining to the planetary orbits.
Unit 3 - Gravity and Motion
 •   Explain the meaning of each of Newtonís laws of motion and give an example where each is used.
 • Explain how the mass and radius of a body influences its surface gravity.
 • Determine the orbital velocity of a planet knowing the sunís mass and the planetís distance from the sun.
Unit 4 - Light and Atoms
 •   Describe the wave and particle nature of light.
 • Describe the electromagnetic spectrum.
 • Explain how the Stefan-Boltzmann law and Wienís law influences the appearance of stars and enables astronomers to distinguish among stars.
 • Distinguish between absorption, emission and continuous spectrums.
 • Describe the structure of an atom and explain how spectral lines are related to the movement of electrons from one energy level to another.
 • Describe the Doppler effect and explain its significance in the spectrum of a star.
Unit 5 - The Earth
 •   Describe the size and shape of the earth.
 • Describe the internal structure of the earth.
 • Describe the changes in composition and density of the earthís interior zones.
 • Discuss what plate tectonics is and the importance of it in shaping the geology of the earth.
 • Describe the chemical makeup of the earthís atmosphere and its origin.
 • Describe the structure of the earth atmosphere and the importance of the ozone layer.
Unit 6 - The Moon
 •   Describe the moonís surface features.
 • Contrast the moon with the earth in terms of its mass, volume, density and geologic activity.
 • Contrast the rocks which are found in the lunar highlands with those of the lunar maria.
 • Describe the current theory for the moonís origin.
 • Explain the conditions under which eclipses of both the sun and moon occur and their frequency.
 • Explain the relationship between lunar phases and tides.
Unit 7 - Survey of the Solar System
 •   Describe and discuss the two classes of planets found in the solar system.
 • Describe the formation of the solar system from a solar nebula.
 • Discuss the effect that the distance from the sun has on the characteristics of the planets as they formed out of the solar nebula.
 • Describe the kind of world one would have experienced on Earth or any other planet during the first billion years of the solar system.
Unit 8 - The Terrestrial Planets
 •   Describe the location of Mercury and Venus in the solar system and explain how this impacts on when and where they are best observed from Earth.
 • Contrast Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars in terms of their mass, size, density, temperature, atmosphere, and geologic activity.
 • Describe Mars location in the solar system and explain how this impacts on when and where it is best observed from Earth.
Unit 9 - The Jovian Planets
 •   Contrast the Jovian planets with the terrestrial planets in terms of their compositions, the state of their matter, masses, densities, sizes, presence of moons, and temperatures.
 • Describe the visible features of Jupiter and explain the variations in color of these features.
 • Explain the source of the strong magnetic fields associated with both Jupiter and distinctive surfaces.
 • Contrast the geology of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter as revealed by their distinctive surfaces.
 • Describe the makeup of the rings of Saturn.
 • Contrast Neptune and Uranus with Jupiter and Saturn.
Unit 10 - Meteors, Asteroids, and Comets
 •   Describe the location of the majority of asteroids in the solar system and discuss the nature of these objects.
 • Describe the role that an asteroid may have played in the evolution of live on Earth about 65 million years ago.
 • Discuss the makeup and origin of comets and describe their orbits within the solar system.
 • Explain how and why the appearance of a comet changes as it orbits the sun.
 • Explain the relationship of comets to meteor showers on Earth.
 • Explain the significance of the Kuiper belt of comets and the Oort cloud.
 • Contrast meteoroids and asteroids and comets and explain where most of them probably come from.
Unit 11 - The Sun
 •   Describe the structure of the internal sun.
 • Explain the significance of the granular structures observed in the sunís photosphere.
 • Describe the structure of the sunís atmosphere.
 • Describe the appearance of a sunspot and explain what its appearance tells about the temperatures near such a spot.
 • Explain how sunspots change over 11 and 22 year cycles.
 • Explain the source of the energy flowing out from the sun and why this energy is generated only in the sunís core.
 • Describe the flow of energy from the sunís core, through the body of the sun and out into space.
 • Explain what hydrostatic equilibrium in a star is and why it is important.

Measurable Learning Outcomes
  1. Apply the relationship between the apparent brightness, luminosity and distance of a star.
  2. Apply the relationship between the observed parallax angle and the distance to a nearby star.
  3. Apply the scientific method in lab experiences to interpret information and draw conclusions.
  4. Arrange in increasing order the average density of matter in the form of stars, the average density of dark matter, and the average density of matter needed for gravity to stop the expansion.
  5. Arrange star clusters in order of increasing age based on H-R diagrams of their stars.
  6. Arrange the four fundamental forces in order of increasing strength.
  7. Arrange the major bands of the electromagnetic spectrum in order of wavelength, frequency, or photon energy.
  8. Arrange the major layers of the Sun in order of increasing distance from the center.
  9. Arrange white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes and other astronomical objects by mass or size.
  10. Classify galaxies as either spiral, elliptical, or irregular.
  11. Construct an H-R diagram from a data set listing the luminosities and surface temperatures, spectral types, or colors of stars.
  12. Define the terms dark matter and dark energy.
  13. Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of scientific inquiry.
  14. Demonstrate the ability to make connection between concepts across astronomy.
  15. Demonstrate the ability to think critically and employ critical thinking skills.
  16. Demonstrate the quantitative skills needed to succeed in an astronomy course for non-scientists.
  17. Describe how a black hole distorts space-time as it appears to something falling into it or to a distant observer.
  18. Describe how a high mass star evolves after fusion exhausts the hydrogen in its core.
  19. Describe how a Sun-like star evolves after fusion exhausts the hydrogen in its core.
  20. Describe how conservation of angular momentum affects the formation of stars.
  21. Describe how different types of galaxies tend to be grouped in space.
  22. Describe how Earth rotates and moves through space.
  23. Describe how gravitational contraction eventually triggers nuclear fusion in a star-forming cloud.
  24. Describe how inflation provides explanations for the universe, flatness, and structure of the universe.
  25. Describe how mass transfer in a close binary system can alter the life histories of its stars.
  26. Describe how our galaxy recycles from dying stars into new stars.
  27. Describe how solar activity affects humans.
  28. Describe how solar activity varies with time.
  29. Describe how the age of the universe is related to Hubble's constant.
  30. Describe how the average distances between galaxies are changing with time.
  31. Describe how the curvature of spacetime near an object is related to its mass divided by its radius.
  32. Describe how the early universe produced the particles of matter of which make up everything we now observe.
  33. Describe how the energy released by fusion travels to the Sun's surface.
  34. Describe how the major events leading from the Big Bang to the appearance of humans on Earth are related in time.
  35. Describe how the time required for star formation depends on a star's mass.
  36. Describe the basic levels of structure in the Universe and arrange them in order of increasing size.
  37. Describe the chain of methods used to determine the distances to galaxies.
  38. Describe the evidence for a supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy.
  39. Describe the evidence for dark matter.
  40. Describe the evidence indicating that some X-ray binary systems contain black holes.
  41. Describe the evidence indicating that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
  42. Describe the evidence supporting the existence of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies.
  43. Describe the evidence that supports our understanding of the Sun's interior.
  44. Describe the evidence that supports the theory of general relativity.
  45. Describe the four fundamental forces of nature.
  46. Describe the major epochs of the early universe.
  47. Describe the major patterns we find among the objects orbiting the Sun. Distinguish between reflecting and refracting telescopes.
  48. Describe the observations of gamma-ray bursts and their possible formation mechanisms.
  49. Describe the origin of cosmic microwave background.
  50. Describe the physical characteristics of normal and barred spiral galaxies, lenticular galaxies, elliptical galaxies and irregular galaxies.
  51. Describe the processes of pair production and pair annihilation.
  52. Describe the two kinds of balance that regulate the Sun's fusion rate.
  53. Describe three methods for measuring the amount of matter in a cluster of galaxies.
  54. Describe what can happen on the surface of a neutron star that is accreting matter from a companion star.
  55. Describe what can happen to a white dwarf that is accreting matter from a companion star.
  56. Describe what ultimately happens to a star with an iron core.
  57. Determine the lookback time to a galaxy from its distance in light years and estimate its maximum age at the time it emitted the light we are now observing.
  58. Determine the relative distances of galaxies using a standard candle technique.
  59. Discuss how the initial conditions in protogalactic clouds or later collisions with other galaxies may explain observed differences between galaxies.
  60. Distinguish between a white dwarf supernova and a massive star supernova.
  61. Distinguish between an H-R diagram showing how a single star changes with time and an H-R diagram depicting stars of different life stages in a single star cluster.
  62. Distinguish between flat, spherical, and saddle-shaped geometries for space.
  63. Distinguish between recollapsing, coasting, critical, and accelerating models for the expansion of the universe.
  64. Distinguish between scientific theories, hypotheses, and observations.
  65. Distinguish between stars belonging to the disk population of our galaxy from those belonging to the spheroidal population.
  66. Estimate the lifetime of a main-sequence star from its mass and luminosity.
  67. Estimate the mass of a main sequence star from its location in an H-R diagram.
  68. Explain how electron degeneracy pressure is related to the behavior of electrons in atoms.
  69. Explain how H-R diagrams of star clusters support our models of how stars evolve.
  70. Explain how one can measure the surface temperature of a star from observations of its spectrum.
  71. Explain how the composition of an astronomical object can be determined from its spectrum.
  72. Explain how the consequences of special relativity follow from the constancy of the speed of light.
  73. Explain how the shape and color of our galaxy arise from the orbital motions and ages of its stars.
  74. Explain how the speed of an object can be determined from shifts in the wavelengths of its spectral lines.
  75. Explain Hubble's law in terms of the expansion of the Universe.
  76. Explain the advantages of placing telescopes in space.
  77. Explain the difference between luminosity and apparent brightness.
  78. Explain why a star's luminosity increases with time if it is powered by shell fusion around an inert, contracting core.
  79. Explain why contracting gas clouds with masses less than 0.08 solar masses or greater than a few hundred solar masses fail to achieve energy balance through steady nuclear fusion.
  80. Explain why Earth's orbital motions should cause small shifts in the apparent positions of nearby stars.
  81. Explain why fusion does not release energy in a star with a core composed of iron.
  82. Explain why fusion in stars of greater mass can produce elements with more protons in their nuclei.
  83. Explain why larger telescopes gather more light.
  84. Explain why multiwavelength observations are useful for studying our Galaxy.
  85. Explain why neither chemical nor gravitational potential energy can account for the Sun's power output today.
  86. Explain why scientists think the early universe was much hotter and denser than it is now.
  87. Explain why stars form most easily in interstellar gas clouds that are both cold and dense.
  88. Explain why stellar mass measurements are particularly accurate in eclipsing binary systems.
  89. Explain why the discovery of pulsars provided strong evidence for the existence of neutron stars.
  90. Explain why the night sky is dark.
  91. Explain why the observed features of spiral arms indicate that they are waves of star formation propagating through the galaxy's disk.
  92. Explain why the speed of a light wave equals the product of frequency and wavelength.
  93. Explain why we cannot observe the entire universe.
  94. Explain why we see objects at great distances as they were in the distant past.
  95. Explain why weakly interacting massive particles are the considered the most likely candidate for dark matter.
  96. Express approximate relationships between the sizes and distances of astronomical objects using scale models.
  97. Identify accretion of gas onto a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy as the primary energy source of a quasar.
  98. Identify electron degeneracy pressure as the main form of pressure balancing gravity in a white dwarf.
  99. Identify examples of conservation of energy on Earth and in astronomical systems.
  100. Identify neutron degeneracy pressure as the main form of pressure balancing gravity in a neutron star.
  101. Identify nuclear fusion as the source of the Sun's power .
  102. Identify on an H-R diagram the regions corresponding to the main sequence, giants, supergiants, and white dwarfs.
  103. Identify the conditions under which one would expect to observe a continuous spectrum, an emission-line spectrum, or an absorption-line spectrum.
  104. Identify the cosmic microwave background as a major piece of evidence in favor of the Big Bang theory.
  105. Identify the disk, bulge, halo, and galactic neighbors of the Milky Way.
  106. Identify the forms of light that pass through Earth's atmosphere and those that do not.
  107. Identify the information needed to compute the mass of an orbiting system using Newton's version of Kepler's third law.
  108. Identify the information needed to determine the luminosity of a star.
  109. Identify the major consequences of quantum mechanics for astronomy.
  110. Identify the most important astronomical standard candles for measuring large distances.
  111. Identify the reaction processes and output products of nuclear fusion of hydrogen in the Sun.
  112. Identify uniformity, flatness, and structure as three features of the universe not explained by the original Big Bang theory.
  113. Infer the distribution of mass with radius within an astronomical system from the orbital speed.
  114. Interpret everyday visual experiences in terms of emission, absorption, transmission, and reflection/scattering of light.
  115. Interpret the differences between disk and halo stars in terms of a basic model for galaxy formation.
  116. Predict how observed characteristics of an object change as its speed approaches the speed of light.
  117. Predict how the radius of a black hole's event horizon will change if its mass increases.
  118. Predict how the Sun's core would respond to a change in temperature.
  119. Read and interpret graphs and data.
  120. Recall the basic structure of atoms and molecules.
  121. Recognize that larger telescopes are capable of making more detailed images.
  122. Recognize that the maximum mass of a white dwarf is 1.4 solar masses.
  123. Recognize that the order of events seen by an observer depend on the observer's frame of reference.
  124. Relate the distance to a galaxy to its recession velocity or redshift using Hubble's law.
  125. Relate the temperature of an object to the intensity and the peak of its thermal radiation spectrum.
  126. Summarize the major cosmic events that prepared the way for life on Earth.
Methods of Instruction and Course Format
The delivery of material for this course may be accomplished by but is not limited to the following methodologies:
 •  Collaboration
 • Current events
 • Demonstrations
 • Discussion
 • Field trips
 • Internet
 • Lecture
 • Readings
 • Television
 • Tutorials
 • Video

Both in-class and out-of -class activities that may be used to evaluate student learning and abilities may unitize but are not limited to the following:
 •  Attendance
 • Book and article reviews reviews
 • Class preparedness and participation
 • Collaborative learning projects
 • Exams/tests/quizzes
 • Homework
 • Internet-based assignments
 • Journals
 • Library assignments
 • Readings
 • Research papers
 • Scientific observations
 • Student-teacher conferences
 • Written assignments

Course Grade
Final grades are determined from:
Exams 40% to 50%
Homework/Quizzes 20% to 25%
Other 0% to 15%
Final Exam 20% to 30%
Final letter grades are determined from overall averages according to the following scheme:
A if 90% ≤ final average
B if 80% ≤ final average < 90%
C if 70% ≤ final average < 80%
D if 60% ≤ final average < 70%
F if final average < 60%

Students should keep the following points in mind during the semester.
The contents of this syllabus may change to improve the class or clarify various policies. Such changes shall be announced in class.
Specific dates for assignments and assessments will be announced in class. It is the student's responsibility to obtain such information in the event of an absence.
The student may require access to a reliable high speed internet connection for completion of certain assignments.