For those students who don't attend lectures for the first two weeks
If you planned to take the course but couldn't register during normal period and registered in Add/Drop period:
I allow all students/people to the course for the sake of astronomy.
Who hold you back in coming to the class for the first two weeks?
The semester was ON from the day-one and you take not just this course but other courses.
There is no "special" regulation for students having registration problems (in normal or add/drop period) that gives the right "NOT to attend lectures".
"I was rushing around to complete registration" cannot be an excuse because you have planned to take the course in your schedule.
So, you should ATTEND to the courses "ahead" of formal registration.
If you didn't plan to take the course in normal period but finally ended-up registering this course during Add/Drop period:
Your plan for "elective courses" failed and registered to the course.
So, you will loose two weeks of attendance and the content can be recovered via online course material.
Abovementioned two cases cannot be distinguished from each other:
It is student's responsibility to attend to the course and therefore instructor cannot take "add/drop period registration" as an excuse.
This is a General Astronomy course. It is usually thought in two semesters covering astronomy content from basic understanding of sky to Cosmology. However, in this course it is compacted to a single semester. Therefore some of the minor content has been omitted or emphasis lowered.
The content starts with a long introduction:
Where we are in the universe
Comprehending the sky: local vs space
Scaling up/down in the universe
Making sense of observations: The change
Linking perceived data to scientific outcome
After the introduction, a space journey starts and the traveler (aka. student) starts exploring the universe from the local sky towards the end of observable universe, finalizing with a general view of Cosmos (i.e. including things/thoughts beyond the observable universe).
Content of each exam will not include previous exam's content (see above table).
Regardless of your registration aim (to get a high letter grade or to comprehend basics of observable universe), as a student you should be attending to all classes. While grading you, this will create a positive discretion on your final grade.
The same discretion comes from the essay work. (a) Essays should reflect your thoughts (which should have been built during the semester), (b) You should demonstrate that you spend time and care on essays.
Exams are fully on you. You collect points in the exams as you comprehend more in the course.
Summing all your activity during the course gives you a number, which is NOT equivalent to what you have grasped (or not grasped) during the semester.
Final letter grading method will depend on the whole class's performance. However, at the end, students will always get the advantage of the method.
Note that I am not revealing the method or showing an equation that outputs a letter grade.
Each essay starts with a short description and asks a question at the end. Essay questions will be very different than questions you faced with through the course.
The main idea of the essay is NOT the same as in literature in which you collect already-written-known-content of some astronomy source (text book, internet etc) and comment on them as an answer.
You should rather depart from the stream line and dream about using your current knowledge of astronomy (which should be gained through the course) to explore the unknown universe.
Answers to questions have to be yours only. Nothing else but this will earn you points.
So, your essay will somehow depart from flat-science-book language and fall into science-fiction and/or story-telling style. There is nothing wrong in choosing such a style; just keep dreaming and use your own wording.
Back-door: If you find the essay question too difficult to complete try a related subject. But whatever you write, you have to answer/explain "why you do so?".
Assumptions & Hints
While you struggle to grasp the questions and try to find a way out, the following assumptions and hints could help you get through:
Whatever needed in your project (or environment, location, space) has already been produced, discovered, calculated, simulated, manufactured, built, experienced.
You are allowed to use any kind of technology (established or not yet established) - just explain how it works.
You cannot bend the laws of physics and mathematics. Otherwise, you have no limits.
Remember to question everything you know about the world you know now!
Note that depending on the question there might be more assumptions and hints.
Length and format
DO NOT FORMAT into a typesetted file (e.g DOCX or PDF); It has to be plain TEXT.
should not be too short (few sentence to one paragraph)
should not be too long (if it is formatted: max one A4 page; 12 pt, 1.5 line spacing) - Warning: no formatted text, submit in plain text.
should not be a single lengthy paragraph (i.e. make logical paragraphs of thoughts)
should contain a title
don't sign it (whole thing is recorded under your student ID)
Don't copy-paste already-in-the-textbook material.
Don't try to dump internet junk into your essay.
It would be too easy for me to detect such cheating if the wording is NOT yours.
Physical book titles (first three) are adapted as textbooks to the course at different years through out the history of the course. Any of them will be a good starting point for this course as well as a good reference guide for your astronomy education. The links on the books are search results in well known book sellers. You have to buy the book and get a pass-code to access the "student content".
The last link (OpenStax) is a free online astronomy book prepared by astronomers all around the world. You should register to the site.