Course: AST 205
Instructor: Gaspar Bakos
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThis class seeks to cover basic astronomical concepts and develop observational skills. The class starts with general astronomy and progresses through topics like stars, planets, atmospheres, etc. and concludes with a two week portion on exoplanet and exoplanet detection that synthesizes material from the entire course. The curriculum draws from a textbook that clearly outlines concepts and the necessary physics without being too daunting. The lecture notes are all posted online and are very understandable and good study materials for the tests.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThe classroom instruction is very interactive and engaging. Professor Bakos tells fun stories and uses clickers to keep students involved and interested in the material of the course. He also uses class time to observe through the telescopes in Peyton or through telescopes he sets up on the roof which increases observational skills. These observations allow students to see objects they may not otherwise see and increases understanding of the somewhat abstract concepts that are discussed in lecture. He also gives out chocolate covered beans which help people stay awake in class :) The lectures were always well organized and very interesting and they kept pace with the problem sets and examinations, without being too much information at one time. Professor Bakos does a very good job connecting astronomy to everyday life. He also includes news summaries of relevant and interesting news topics at the beginning of every class which is always entertaining and illuminating.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe problem sets for the course are very manageable. All the necessary information and equations are found in lecture or in the textbook. Any basic knowledge of physics will make them very doable. The TAs are very very helpful and can provide assistance during office hours with problems that are encountered. The required observations are very fun. The most important thing is to not leave them until the last minute. They can be time consuming, but ultimately are enjoyable experiences. The observing TAs are a good resource for any questions. If you follow the outlines on the Blackboard page, the observations are not hard to complete. The group notebook is worth your time to invest in. It is fun to find relevant news articles and comment on them. You will get the most out of them if your group members are also active so it is not a one sided conversation. The star parties are really fun. Professor Bakos dedicates a lot of time to observing with students so take advantage of the vast bank of knowledge he has and go to the star parties and ask lots of questions! They are lots of fun and an easy way to boost your grade.
External ResourcesHelpful external resources include Crash Course Astronomy and NASA's website. Also, the optional books listed on the syllabus are both helpful and interesting. They cover an extensive list of topics and can provide further information into the topics in the course that you find most interesting. Ultimately, the best external resources are the TAs and Professor Bakos who will all go out of their way to help students with the course material and content. They are exceptional resources.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionIt is a very well taught course. PDFing it would be a breeze. To do well requires a relatively large time commitment, but not crazy large. The things you will have to devote time to are not busy work so they will ultimately benefit your learning and grow your understanding. This class is a well-rounded course and excellent for anyone interested in learning more about astronomy, but who may be intimidated by the physics required in other courses. This class is very hands-on and includes observational astronomy, as opposed to other courses which are more theoretical. This makes it really fun and a good break from long problem sets or essays.
Planets in the Universe