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Course Syllabus

Astronomy - Ancient Genius, Modern Dilemmas is an introductory course aimed at the level of first year college students. It assumes a minimum of mathematics and is directed at an audience with an interest in science, but with little formal training in the sciences. The course is part of the Core Curriculum at MCLA and, with additional assignments, serves as as a course in the Honors program at the college.

The course is a one semester course in astronomy, emphasizing the historical development of astronomy, the important contributors to the field, and the unanswered questions presently being pondered by today's astronomers and astrophysicists. Modern astronomy is not an isolated field. Contributions from diverse sources disciplines such as biology, chemistry and elementary particle physics have sparked new insights into topics of fundamental importance to astronomers. These contributions will be considered during the conduct of the course. The structure of the course consists of:

Classroom meetings - Class will meet every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00 in room B-101, except as announced. The class time will be set aside for discussion of course materials. There will be a mix of question and answer sessions and lectures at these times. Please note that you are expected to be at these class meetings.

The Instructor - Instructor for the course is W. Seeley. The instructor may be contacted during posted office hours (MWTh 10:00 - 11:00 AM), scheduled classroom hours, by appointment or by chance. An efficient means of communication between students and instructor is via e-mail. Mail address is Questions presented via e-mail will answered the same way, and questions of general interest will be answered in class.

Textbook - The text for the course is Seeds, M. A., "Horizons, Exploring the Universe", latest edition.

Internet Access - Class notes, announcements and other general information will be available on the Internet. The address is This is the instructor's home page (there also are links to this page from the Physics Department's web pages). The link to this course appears as an icon on this page labeled Astronomy - Ancient Genius, Modern Dilemmas. Note that another astronomy link is also available. This is to the course "Astronomy On-Line", which is a different course from this one, although many features are similar.

Labs - There will be a number of labs during the semester. Some may be done outside class as explained on the web pages while others may require attendance at on-campus laboratory meetings. These will be held in Bowman 107. Check the web page for details. Due dates for the labs will be posted on the web pages.

Homework - Homework will be assigned as the course progresses. You may mail the finished assignments to me via campus mail or US Mail, or you may drop them off during class meetings. Late homework will not be accepted. Homework submitted must be legible and properly written, reflecting college-level writing skills. For U.S. Mail the address is:
W. Seeley, Department of Physics, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Church Street, North Adams, MA 01247-4100.

Exams - Exams will be given several times during the semester - all will be advertised well in advance. Missed exams receive a grade of zero except in the most extenuating circumstances.

Quizzes - A number of unannounced quizzes may be given during class meetings. These will be brief and used to bolster exam grades. Missing a quiz will not hurt your course grade, but taking one will always help.

Observation Sessions - Part of the astronomy course consists of becoming familiar with the night sky. There will be occasional observing sessions scheduled using the college's telescopes. You are expected to attend at least one of these - extra credit will be assigned in more sessions are attended.

Final Exam - This is the one most important part of the grading structure. A comprehensive final exam will be given during normal final exam times. Everyone must take the final exam in order to receive credit for the course.

Extra Assignments - For those seeking Honors credit for the course, additional requirements may be imposed in the form of papers or research.

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