Instructor: William Fenton, Science Department, The Hotchkiss School



Physics 441 is an introductory course designed to give you a good idea of what the universe is, how it came to be and the means by which we observe it. This course will consist of traditional class meetings, a weekly lab as well as evening observations using the School's various telescopes. While math is utilized for certain problems and labs, this is not a math course so don't fear the numbers.

Office Hours

I've found that due to students' tight schedules, weekly office hours aren't very useful. If you need to see me I will be available Wednesday evenings while on duty in Watson and by appointment during the class day. Check my schedule to see when I have free periods.

Text and Materials

I will provide a copy of First Light. It's a well-written account of the work of a group of astronomers and gives a good picture of what astronomers really do. There is no required textbook for this class. In the past I've used a coffee table book called Universe. That book is now out of print and is getting hard to find. It turns out there are many good texts out there and they are all pretty similar. You are welcome to use any text you can get your hands on and I have a stash of used astronomy texts that you are welcome to borrow from. In addition to textbooks, we will use lots of resources on the web, podcasts and articles. You will also need a scientific calculator that has basic trigonometric functions.


Your grade will be based on the total number of points you earn: There are a total of 106 points possible and 93 are necessary to achieve an "A" so that leaves plenty of room for a missed class or two.

Academic Dishonesty

The Science Department's policy on academic dishonesty is outlined in a class handout, and will not be tolerated. You are responsible for knowing what you can and can't do but be sure that any kind of cheating or fabrication of data will be followed by a trip to the Disciplinary Committee.

Daily Homework

You will have a reading assignment prior to each single period class. I will ask you to learn about a specific topic and it will be your job to learn about that topic using whatever sources work best for you. Some suggestions will be given for each assignment. To help guide your reading you will prepare and hand in about half a page of typewritten notes at the end of the next class period. Late homework will not be accepted. Here's what each night's reading notes should include:


This semester you will complete two major projects of your choosing. You can find descriptions and instructions for possible projects here (requires Adobe Reader) in this document from Weber State University. You may also consult with me to come up with your own project.

Variable Star Observations

Astronomy is an observational science. Weather permitting, you will go out for at least a few minutes every night to observe the variable star δ (delta) Cepheus. Occasionally we will go out as a class to talk about the constellations, observe with the telescope or view a fun astronomical event. We'll work as a class to choose the best times to do this.


All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Assignments will not be accepted through the school mail, and late work will be penalized in the following manner. 10% off if the work is submitted to me or placed on my desk by 3:00 on the due date and 10% off for each day that the assignment is not submitted. The school-wide policy on extensions:
If a student has two or more hour tests, major paper, or projects due on the same day, the student has the option of having the paper or test which was assigned last postponed until the next day. It is the student's responsibility to inform the teacher whose assignment is being postponed as much in advance as possible. It is not acceptable to inform the teacher on the day of the test.

Tardiness and Absences

Be on time. Every three classes you are late, you will receive a class cut. If you have an unexcused absence on the day of a quiz, you will not be able to make up the quiz and will be given a zero for that quiz. If you have an unexcused absence on the day of a test, you will not be able to make up the test for full credit. Ultimately it is your responsibility to make-up any missed work , or test even when you are on Red Card, on a Field trip, or away for a game. You are responsible for all material covered in this course whether or not you are present in a given class.


The Science Department Lab Safety Policy is outlined in a handout.

Dress Code

Read pages 81 and 82 of Blueprints for details. You are expected to abide by these rules.
If an adult member of our community informs a student that he or she is out of dress code, the student should go and change clothes as instructed.
Blueprints, p. 81
If I deem necessary, I will send you back to your room to change and you will recieve a tardy or cut.