If you're going to be absent from class on a midterm day and you want to take a makeup, you must talk to me in advance. Valid reasons for requiring a makeup would be absence from town for some family emergency, or a sports-related trip. If you're sick on a midterm day, bring me a doctor's note.
The two midterms will count for 40% of your final grade.
There are two essential requirements for homework: it must show how you got the answer, and it must be in your own words.
Homework is meant to give you practice at the sort of reasoning that is done is astronomy. Understanding the reasoning is the important thing and that is what is being tested in the homework. If the homework is to be gradable, we need to know if your reasoning is correct, not just that the numerical answer is correct. In fact, quite often the reasoning can be faultless and yet the answer might be wrong because of an arithmetic slip. Rest assured that you will get most of the grade in such a case -- anyone can make arithmetic mistakes (though you should develop the habit of asking yourself if the answer you just got is reasonable; if not, check back to see if you've messed up the arithmetic). The bottom line is: if you don't present your reasoning, we can't grade it and so your grade will suffer.
It is also absolutely essential that the homework you turn in is in your own words. There's nothing wrong with getting together in study groups to work on the homework, but it's not OK to then simply copy out the same solution for everyone in the group. If I see duplicate homeworks, then everyone affected will get a grade of zero for that homework. The point of this is that it's very important for you to take the trouble to try to express the answer in your own words. That way, you know that you really do understand the answer and are not just remembering the right words. The same goes for finding information in the textbook, on a Web page, or in some other source. Just copying out the "answer" won't do: again, taking the trouble to find your own words means that there's a much better chance that you understand what you've just read. Again, if I detect that you've just copied an answer from the textbook or just downloaded an answer from somewhere (and it's actually pretty easy to spot) then you'll get zero for that homework.
Your worst few homework grades (TBD) will be dropped, and homework will make up 30% of your final grade.
Bring a pen, a number 2 pencil (at least one), a ruler, a protractor, and your I.D.
To repeat, you must take the final to receive a grade in the course. The final exam will make up 30% of your overall grade.
What about physics? Again, there is no formal physics requirement for this
course, and many of you may never have had a physics course. However, physical
ideas will come into every class. Astronomy isn't just describing what's in
the Universe, it's trying to understand the way the Universe is put together
on a physical level. The basis for this understanding is physics, so there's
no getting round it. I'll do my best to explain simple physical ideas from
scratch --- concepts like energy, momentum, heat, electric charge and
so on --- and much of the work of the course will be seeing how the Universe
makes sense in terms of these "simpler" concepts. Of course, many of you may
not think of them as "simpler" but again I ask that you make an effort, and
ask if something is unclear. Much of your textbook is taken up with explaining
the physics concepts we will use so it is useful to do the reading for the classes.