These notes give reading assignments for the second and third editions of Fraknoi's "Voyages Through the Universe". Odds are your instructor uses a different text and gives more or fewer exams, so the notes below are probably of little use for any other course. As a result, this page will eventually be deleted and any generally useful information moved to General Lecture Class Midterm Notes
Refer to General Lecture Class Midterm Notes
for information that is applicable to all of the midterms. In particular, note that all exams are closed-book, closed-note tests. Although you are encouraged to thoroughly prepare for each exam, and to write out practice versions of the essay exams, you will not be allowed to use any notes while taking the exams.
The first midterm counts for one-sixth of your semester grade. The material on the first midterm is covered by the Prologue and Chapters 1 through 3 of Fraknoi's book. Concentrate on those topics which deal with the orbital and rotational motions discussed in essay questions 1 and 2, as you will be asked one of those questions, word for word, the same as shown on this website. You should also find it useful to refer to the web pages on The Sky
and Orbital Motions
. Detailed breakdowns of each question are available by clicking the numeric links on the essay questions page. These detailed breakdowns are your best guide to what you need to study.
In the Online Astronomy Text, you should also refer to the Planetary Data Table
for the semi-major axis and eccentricity of each planetary orbit, and the tilt of the axis of rotation of each planet, which you need to know well enough to discuss their effects. An approximate value is just as good as an exact one, for this purpose. As an example, you should know that Mars, Saturn and Neptune have rotational tilts similar to that of the Earth, but you don't need to know the exact value for any of them.
When learning terms and definitions, be sure to keep them straight. In particular, students often confuse rotation
, which is the turning of a body around its own axis, with revolution
, which is an orbital motion around some other body.
You do not need to be familiar with the historical information in the book (or on the web site). Although you might need to know something about, for instance, Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, you won't be asked who Kepler was, when he lived, why he worked on those Laws, and such. It is the astronomy that will be tested, not the history of astronomy.