Student Resources


1. Be sure to read and study in the beginning of the text the section entitled "How to succeed in your Astronomy Course".

2. For all reading ASSIGNMENTS:

  • Look over the "Learning Goals" at the chapters beginning to understand the objectives of the ASSIGNMENT.
  • Each section of a chapter begins with a question: Try to understand this question to grasp the contents of what is to follow.
  • Study all Figures in a chapter. Special extra large figures(2 pages) called "COSMIC CONTEXT" are especially important since they are broad in scope and should be carefully studied.
  • You are responsible for all parts of a Chapter like the inserts within a reading ASSIGNMENT ("Special Topics", "Common Misconception", "Think About it", and especially the "Summary of Key Concepts" which reviews the key concepts of a chapter, knowing these is important for exams).
  • Exception to this are the "Mathematical Insight" inserts.  You are responsible to only the specifically mentioned ones in an ASSIGNMENT.  
  • Before you get to the actual questions in an assignment, to maximize your understanding of the material, follow the advice above for the self study area. At a minimum Run the Interactive Tutorials  that are listed in an assignment that are found on the "MEDIA EXPLORATION" section at the end of a chapter. These are  Tutorials on "Key Concepts" and specific topics listed   in the assignment ( SEE NOTE BELOW). Tutorials are found on the "Mastering Astronomy Website" (reached via the kit in your textbook package).  
  • (NOTE: ONLY do the "Supplementary Tutorial Exercises"  as specified in the outline below on the MEDIA EXPLORATION section of the chapter,  if you are having difficulty with ASSIGNMENT to get further insight into a topic).
  • It is recommended that you do the tasks ,  with the   "Voyager: SkyGazer" CD-ROM that comes with the text, outlined in the MEDIA EXPLORATION section at the end of a chapter.  You are reminded in each assignment by the code ES (Exploring the Sky) to do so. 


Student Resources


In general, Observing Reports  are celestial objects seen via a telescope and reported on forms (for each object) found below (OBSERVING REPORT FORM).   Hand the report into the professor when done.  Any additional reported object  will be counted as Extra Credit.  Your instructor may have a maximum amount of points for extra credit. Please check with them  for their policy on extra credit.  

 ALL OBSERVING FORMS  MUST BE stamp DATED at CSI  or dated and signed  at other OBSERVATORY sites LISTED BELOW.  Copied or Forged work will not be acceptable. FORMS CAN BE PRINTED FROM LINK 

ALL OBJECTS OBSERVED ARE SKETCHED AND IT IS EXPECTED THAT YOU LOOK THEM UP AND BRIEFLY DESCRIBE THEM ON THE OBSERVING SHEET FOR FULL CREDIT. Look over the forms before you hand them in to be sure you understand the questions to be answered.. 


Using the TEXTBOOK 
Each chapter in this book is designed to make it easy for you to study effectively and efficiently. To get the most out of each chapter, you might wish to use the following study plan: 

A textbook is not a novel, and you’ll learn best by reading the elements of this text in the following order: 

  • Start by reading the Learning Goals and the introductory paragraphs at the beginning of the chapter so that you’ll know what you are trying to learn.
  • Next, get an overview of key concepts by studying the illustrations and reading their captions and annotations. The illustrations highlight almost all of the major concepts, so this “illustrations first” strategy gives you an opportunity to survey the concepts before you read about them in depth. You will find the two-page Cosmic Context figures especially useful. Also watch for the Interactive Figure icons—when you see one, go to to try the interactive version.
  • Read the chapter narrative, trying the Think About It questions and the See It for Yourself activities as you go along, but save the boxed features (Common Misconceptions, Special Topics, Mathematical Insights) to read later. As you read, make notes on the pages to remind yourself of ideas you’ll want to review later. Avoid using a highlight pen; underlining with pen or pencil is far more effective, because it forces you to take greater care and therefore helps keep you alert as you study. Be careful to underline selectively—it won’t help you later if you’ve underlined everything.
  • After reading the chapter once, go back through and read the boxed material. You should read all of the Common Misconceptions and Special Topics boxes; whether you choose to read the Mathematical Insights is up to you and your instructor. Also watch for the MasteringAstronomy tutorial icons throughout the chapter; if a concept is giving you trouble, go to the MasteringAstronomy site to try the relevant tutorial. 
  • Then turn your attention to the Chapter Summary. The best way to use the summary is to try to answer the Learning Goal questions for yourself before reading the short answers given in the summary. 
  1. After completing the reading as outlined above, start testing your understanding with the end-of-chapter exercises. A good way to begin is to make sure you can answer all of the Review Questions; if you don’t know an answer, look back through the chapter until you figure it out. Then test your understanding a little more deeply by trying the Does It Make Sense? and Quick Quiz questions.
  2. You can further check your understanding and get feedback on difficulties by trying the online quizzes in the study area at Each chapter has three quizzes: a Reading Quiz, a Concept Quiz, and a Visual Quiz. Try the Reading Quiz first. Once you clear up any difficulties you have with it, try the Concept and Visual quizzes.
  3. If your course has a quantitative emphasis, work through all of the examples in the Mathematical Insights before trying the quantitative problems for yourself. Remember that you should always try to answer questions qualitatively before you begin plugging numbers into a calculator. For example, make an order of magnitude estimate of what your answer should be so that you’ll know your calculation is on the right track, and be sure that your answer makes sense and has the appropriate units.
  4. If you have done all the above, you will have already made use of numerous resources on the Mastering-Astronomy Website ( Don’t stop there; visit the site again and make use of other resources that will help you further build your understanding. These resources have been developed specifically to help you learn the most important ideas in your astronomy course, and they have been extensively tested to make sure they are effective. They really do work, and the only way you’ll gain their benefits is by going to the Website and using them.

The Key to Success: Study Time 
The single most important key to success in any college course is to spend enough time studying. A general rule of thumb for college classes is that you should expect to study about 2 to 3 hours per week outside of class for each unit of credit. For example, based on this rule of thumb, a student taking 15 credit hours should expect to spend 30 to 45 hours each week studying outside of class. Combined with time 

Time for Reading Time for Homework Time for Review
If Your the Assigned Text or Self-Study and Test Preparation Total Study Time
Course Is: (per week) (per week) (average per week) (per week)
3 credits 2 to 4 hours 2 to 3 hours 2 hours 6 to 9 hours
4 credits 3 to 5 hours 2 to 4 hours 3 hours 8 to 12 hours
5 credits 3 to 5 hours 3 to 6 hours 4 hours 10 to 15 hours

in class, this works out to a total of 45 to 60 hours spent on academic work—not much more than the time a typical job requires, and you get to choose your own hours. Of course, if you are working while you attend school, you will need to budget your time carefully. 

As a rough guideline, your studying time in astronomy might be divided as shown in the table above. If you find that you are spending fewer hours than these guidelines suggest, you can probably improve your grade by studying longer. If you are spending more hours than these guidelines suggest, you may be studying inefficiently; in that case, you should talk to your instructor about how to study more effectively. 

General Strategies for Studying 

  • Don’t miss class. Listening to lectures and participating in discussions is much more effective than reading someone else’s notes. Active participation will help you retain what you are learning.
  • Take advantage of resources offered by your professor, whether it be e-mail, office hours, review sessions, online chats, or simply finding opportunities to talk to and get to know your professor. Most professors will go out of their way to help you learn in any way that they can. 
  • Budget your time effectively. Studying 1 or 2 hours each day is more effective, and far less painful, than studying all night before homework is due or before exams. 
  • If a concept gives you trouble, do additional reading or studying beyond what has been assigned. And if you still have trouble, ask for help: You surely can find friends, peers, or teachers who will be glad to help you learn. 
  • Working together with friends can be valuable in helping you understand difficult concepts. However, be sure that you learn with your friends and do not become dependent on them.
  • Be sure that any work you turn in is of collegiate quality: neat and easy to read, well organized, and demonstrating mastery of the subject matter. Although it takes extra effort to make your work look this good, the effort will help you solidify your learning and is also good practice for the expectations that future professors and employers will have. 

Preparing for Exams 

  • Study the Review Questions, and rework problems and other assignments; try additional questions to be sure you understand the concepts. Study your performance on assignments, quizzes, or exams from earlier in the term.
  • Study the relevant online tutorials and chapter quizzes available at 
  • Study your notes from lectures and discussions. Pay attention to what your instructor expects you to know for an exam. 
  • Reread the relevant sections in the textbook, paying special attention to notes you have made on the pages. 
  • Study individually before joining a study group with friends. Study groups are effective only if every individual comes prepared to contribute. 
  • Don’t stay up too late before an exam. Don’t eat a big meal within an hour of the exam (thinking is more difficult when blood is being diverted to the digestive system).
  • Try to relax before and during the exam. If you have studied effectively, you are capable of doing well. Staying relaxed will help you think clearly. 

Writing a paper is like roller skating -- few people can do it well, but no one wants to admit that they can't. The truth is, writing a paper isn't that hard, but it takes some organizing skills. Like most things, writing a paper takes less time and produces a better result if you follow a systematic plan. 

The Plan
The plan is the key to writing a paper. You need to select a topic, select an audience and select an approach. Those three items together define your task. Your topic may be selected for you, or you may be free to write about anything at all, but remember, the best topics are the most narrow. Be as specific as possible in selecting a topic and don't hesitate to narrow the topic further. If the assignment is to write about the geology of Mars, you may be able to narrow the topic further and write about volcanism on Mars. Of course, you should be sure your instructor will allow you to narrow the topic, but in general, the narrower the better. 

Once you have a topic selected, you must select an audience. This is not obvious at all. Are you writing for a scholar in the field such as your instructor or are you writing for the general public? Perhaps you are writing for someone at the level of your classmates -- someone who is currently taking a course in the subject but is not yet an expert. If you are writing for the general public, it is helpful to think of writing for a retired lawyer. Such a reader will be an intelligent, thoughtful reader but will probably not know the technical terms that may occur in your paper. In any case, you need to think about which terms and concepts need explanation and which can be left to your reader. 

The approach you take to your subject can range from a simple report to a critical analysis. You should probably do more than just report the facts you have found. Reports are what 6th graders write about Oliver Twist, but we want to do more than just report. In almost any college level paper, you will want to be analytical. That is, you will want to present the facts you have found, and then interpret them for your reader using the experience you have gained from your own reading and from your work in the course. Thus you might report on evidence for volcanism on Mars and then analyze this evidence to show that some of it is open to question and some is not. Remember to analyze your subject. Any fool can write a report; a college level paper is more. 

Papers can sometimes describe procedures such as laboratory projects and their results. Of course, you must report on the methods you employed, but you must then analyze your results. How accurate are they? How could you improve the method to give better results? And so on. Answering such questions is a form of analysis common to good laboratory papers.

The three secrets to success in writing are Organization, Organization, Organization. You must arrange facts and the relations between facts in a meaningful order. That means your paper must have an organizing structure that is clear to your reader. Your reader should be able to scan your paper and immediately tell what you are going to present. The first paragraph of the paper should state the topic and plan as clearly as possible. The topic and plan together are the controlling idea of your paper. If you are writing about George Washington's false teeth and their influence on the military history of the Revolutionary War, then you should say so in the first paragraph. No matter what happens, don't indent till you have stated that controlling idea. 

But don't ramble. Introductory paragraphs are only introductions. Be quick about it and get on to the good parts of your paper. If your introductory paragraph runs more than half a page (typed double spaced) it is too long. Get to the point. 

Because we often change our minds as we write, it is a good idea to write the first paragraph after the rest of the paper is done. You may find that you have changed your conclusions or thought of new approaches. Before you start, plan to replace the introductory paragraph when you finish the body of your paper. 

The first paragraph will usually make the organization of the paper clear, but the best way to make the organization obvious is to use section headings. Write them down before you start. They are a preliminary guide that you can fill in as you write your paper. For example, the headings in this paper are:

  • The Plan
  • Structure
  • Technical Details
  • Plagiarism
  • The Most Common Error

Such section headings will help your reader follow your organization. 

You can organize a paper in many ways, but don't try to be complicated. Your goal is not to win a literary prize, but to show your reader what you have discovered about your topic. Simple is better. You may want to use a rough outline like this: 

Why this is important.

  • The basic facts.
  • The implications of these facts.
  • From all of this we can conclude that...
  • If your are writing a laboratory paper you may want a slightly different basic outline. 

What this project is trying to do.

  • The data and measurements we need.
  • How we proceed.
  • The results of our project. 

The accuracy of our results.

  • These entries in our outline would not make good section headings because they are too general, but you can see how they can help us organize a paper. 
  • Once you have a basic outline such as one of the above, jot down the ideas you want to present in their proper places. Erase, cross out, move items, rearrange, add more until you have an outline. Don't worry about the Roman Numerals and letters that some people use in outlining. They help, but don't let them deter you from making an outline. If you take time to make an outline, you will save much more time when you write your paper, and your paper will be better organized. 
  • Not only should the paper be organized well, but individual paragraphs should be organized also. To a certain extent, a paragraph has a introduction, a body, and a conclusion just like a paper. The introduction is the first sentence of the paragraph, which can serve as a topic sentence. It tells us what the paragraph is about. The other sentences in the paragraph provide details, examples, exceptions, etc, but they don't introduce new topics. All of the sentences in the paragraph fit under the topic established by the topic sentence. Finally, the last sentence of a paragraph can act as a conclusion. Well organized paragraphs will help your reader understand your ideas. 
  • The preceding paragraph contains a topic sentence, a body of sentences, and a concluding sentence. The concluding sentence may not always be necessary, but it is often helpful. 
  • You can test your paper for good organization by reading the first paragraph, the first sentence of each body paragraph, and the final paragraph. If you have used topic sentences, you will be able to understand the topic, plan, and organization from such a quick scan. The great writers of literature do not always use topic sentences, but we are not trying to be artistic. In simple, expository writing, topic sentences almost always help. 
  • The last paragraph of a paper is the conclusion, and it is more than just a restating of the facts. The conclusion draws all of the aspects of the paper together an summarizes the fundamental position of the paper. A concluding paragraph never introduces a new idea that has not been discussed before. If an idea is worth mentioning, go back and create a topic sentence and paragraph for it in the body of the paper. Then it will make sense when it is mentioned in the conclusion. 

Technical Details

  • If you are writing a paper then you must think about your topic, your paper, and the technical process of communicating with your reader. Grammar, footnotes, bibliography, diagrams, equations are all details you may need to consider in a paper. 
  • A grammar lesson is beyond the scope of this paper, but we can list a few of the most common and most serious errors in college level papers. 
  • Fragment. A sentence fragment is not a complete sentence. Often it lacks a verb. For example, "Sentence fragments, lacking verbs and therefore not containing an action." That is not a sentence. Almost all instructors feel that a sentence fragment is a very serious grammatical error. It is certainly a sign of poor literacy. 
  • Comma Splice. A comma splice occurs when two sentences are joined with a coma, this is an example. Beware of "however." It is not a conjunction and cannot be used to join sentences. A comma splice is also a very serious grammatical error. 
  • Agreement. Subjects and verbs should agree. "The men is here," for example, is an example of a subject and verb that do not agree in number. 
  • Notice that there is a difference between footnotes and a bibliography. Footnotes refer to specific pages in a reference where you found specific facts. A bibliography refers to the list of works which you consulted while working on the paper and thus does not refer to specific pages. 
  • In some papers you may want to include diagrams, tables or graphs. You can easily place them at the end of the paper identified as Figure 1, Figure 2, etc. Then you can reference them from within your paper. Equations, however, are mathematical sentences and should be placed within your paper. You can type simple equations, or you can leave space and later write in a more complex equation by hand. 
  • Finally, arrange ahead of time to have your paper typed or printed out. It is astonishing difficult to read most handwriting, and a stack of 30 papers written by hand will break the spirit of almost any professor. Print the paper on one side of the paper only. 
  • Always proof read your paper and correct any typos before you hand it in. You would be amazed how often a carefully written paper is carelessly printed. 


  • Presenting another person's ideas as if they were your own is stealing. Don't do it. Presidential candidates have been ruined by episodes of plagiarism during their college years, and a surprising number of students are suspended each year for plagiarism. You may not hear about it but it happens. Such students don't usually mention it to their friends; they just pack up and go home. 
  • Of course you should not borrow other people's words without a footnote giving proper credit, but another form of plagiarism is borrowing ideas. If someone else invents a neat idea for the origin of the moon and we present it as if we thought of it ourselves, we are guilty of plagiarism even though we may not have used the same words. 
  • Another form of plagiarism is the theft of entire papers. If you are writing a paper on a subject and your friend wrote on that subject in a previous semester, you could copy your friend's paper and put your name on it. Of course, that would be plagiarism. If you read your friends paper to get ideas, and then wrote your own paper, you might be guilty of plagiarism. Did you take ideas from the first paper and present them as your own? It may be best not to read an earlier paper to avoid any possibility of plagiarism. Of course, you must read something. Books and articles written by experts in the field are acceptable references, but a paper written by a student in a previous semester is quite different. 
  • Working with someone else in the course, a lab partner, for example, raises questions about plagiarism. You may need a partner, or you may need some advice on procedures, but once the data is gathered, do the work on your own and write your own material. Even in that case, you should acknowledge your partner's help at the end of the paper. If you have doubts about whether such cooperation is permitted in a course, check with your instructor. 

The Most Common Error
Many people try to leap to the end of a project. They want to save time, but by skipping the middle parts, they make their job more difficult and wind up wasting time. Confucius said, "The longest journey begins with a single step." Begin at the beginning, work step by step in an organized way, and when you reach the end, stop.



Mastering Astronomy  

When you get there be  sure to pick the BENNET... 5th edition link! and the name of the online course your instructor provided.u shout the following:

On the upper panel is the link to the "STUDY AREA" is contains the following information and links.

Self-Study Area information you will see is 

  • Using these links can help significantly in your study of Astronomy so use them as often as possible. Preferably, before you do the ASSIGNMENT that are graded AS pointed out as part of the Homework Short Quiz Assignments 
    • Chapter Summaries 
    • Quizzes 
    • Tutorials 
    • Interactive Figures 
    • Glossary 
    • Flashcards 
    • Movies 

To get the most out of the study area it is suggested AFTER YOU READ THE the material assigned in an assignment (SEE BELOW FOR HINTS ON DOING THIS), you do  the following by first picking the chapter you are working on, then using the above links found on Mastering Astronomy :

1. Do the Self Guided Tutorials found in the assignment below

2. Go over the Chapter Summary (also found in the text)

3.  Run the  Interactive Figures for the chapter you are working on 

4. Watch the recommended movie if any in the assignment 

5. There are three types of quizzes in the Quizzes section do them all!

6. If you still feel week you may find the Flashcards section of the Study area very useful.

7. Now do the required Homework and Short Quiz as listed in the assignment.


One of the most important abilities to be successful in college is to have excellent reading comprehension skills. There are many resources on the web to help you improve your skills in general and we present a few links below to do so. In addition managing your time, called "TIME MANAGEMENT" is a key to success in all fields of endeavor. We present some links below to help you improve your time management. A comprehensive website at Virginia Tech presents many ideas on improving and perfecting your study skills found at: Study Skills Self Help Information

Reading in Astronomy:

Learning science (all of them) by reading a textbook or working a laboratory manual exercise requires a logical approach since the material is normally written in a serial manner. A serial manner means that the logic is step by step. This means it is important to understand a sentence before proceeding to the next sentence. Hence, one cannot read science like a novel. If one wants to read with comprehension it is important to read and learn the material one step at a time. The links below will help you improve your skills for this science class and for other types of reading.

Some things to keep in mind in this course:

  • In the laboratory it is especially true to read one sentence at a time and comprehend them. If you do not then ask for help before proceeding. ONE OF THE WORST THINGS TO DO in the laboratory is skip pages since each page mostly depends upon what happened before. Reading the textbook page by page with comprehension is the key to doing well on the Homework Assignments( refer to the improvement links below). One of the reading skills for comprehension which is useful for your textbook or laboratory assignments is "pre-reading" material( see the links below for details on what to look for when "pre-reading").  If you do not understand some material then seek help via our tutor program, your instructor and especially on the  Mastering Astronomy website go to the "STUDY AREA" areas and run the "SELF-GUIDED TUTORIAL" for each chapter your are studying.
  • By taking the time to improve your reading comprehension and time management skills you will be learning a process that will benefit you for the rest of your life in all fields of endeavor. Good luck Prof Robbins


IMPROVING YOUR READING COMPREHENSION( search the web for more sites if you need to)


  • AMNH Museum Trips
  • Other Extra Credit Opportunities
  • Term Paper Option:
    • The term paper must be based on some appropriate (ask instructor) subject dealt with in your lecture course. (There are no black holes in the solar system and the earth is not appropriate for the galactic course).  It should be in your own words, copied world wide web stuff is not acceptable. All duplicated papers get a zero including the original.
    • The term paper is to be typed, double spaced ( use the word processors in the computer center( or elsewhere) in the library. Not counting any diagrams, footnotes or bibliography the length of the paper is about 10 pages  In any event extra credit can be rewarded based on the quality of this paper.
    • The textbook for this course in NOT an acceptable source for your term paper.
    • No encyclopedia is acceptable as a source for college work. (Good for junior high school level)
    • You may use books (avoid obsolete material) or appropriate astronomy journals or magazines. Visit the library and/or a good bookstore (Science section) For example Astronomy; Sky and Telescope; Scientific American; Science: GOOD WEB SOURCES ARE PERMITTED as mentioned above!

 General format and Outline should follow this guide whenever possible.

I  -  Title Page   (Your Name and Title of Report) 
II  - Table of Contents (optional) 
III   Introduction
a. What are you going to talk about
b. A general overview of the issue 
c. What the reader should expect   
IV -  Body of the Report  
a. Discussion
     i)   Description of the phenomena; Facts known 
     ii)  Scientific Definitions of terms                   
     iii) Illustrations as figures, graphs, tables              
b. Analysis
     i)   Inductive thinking used by author(s); i.e. the intuitive concepts that ultimately give rise to hypotheses from the information.
     ii)  Deductive thinking used by author(s); i.e. the rigorous logical (verbal and/or mathematical) reasoning and where it leads from part a                  
     iii)  Generalizations: This is the probable conclusions drawn from the info of part a.              
c. Conclusion
     ii)  Potential applications of results
     iii) Final impressive statement(s)
     a. References (Works you used)





























I  -  T



(The Magazine for Science and Reason ) 

Attempts to give accurate information about rumors and urban legends on a variety of topics, including war, business, events, toxins, science, military, etc   Crazy Emails etc..great debunking site