Astronomy 110 Laboratory: Course Outline
||Tues. 7:00 - 10:00 pm
One evening meeting per week, involving a combination of laboratory
work and field trips for astronomical viewing. There will be one
daytime meeting to view the Sun, and one or more nighttime field trips
to a dark site to view the Milky Way and faint objects. Enrollment
will be limited to 25 students per section.
Flexibility is necessary in conducting this course. At any given
time only some planets and other objects are visible. Moreover,
observing may be impossible during bad weather; when it's cloudy,
laboratory exercises will be substituted for astronomical viewing.
From time to time, additional viewing sessions may be scheduled to
take advantage of unique astronomical events such as eclipses, meteor
showers, occultations, etc.
The syllabus changes from semester to semester, depending on the
visibility of astronomical objects. Listed here are exercises which
may be included in Fall 2003.
- The Sky
- Orientation: compass points,
rising and setting of astronomical objects [outdoor].
recognizing landmarks in the sky [outdoor].
- Phases of the Moon: relation
between position and phase of the Moon [outdoor].
- A Simple Telescope: study
formation of inverted images, predict and measure magnification
- Using Astronomical Telescopes: finding objects, tracking,
choice of magnification [outdoor].
- Advantages of Aperture: count stars visible after stopping
down to different apertures; examine resolution of close binary
- Viewing Mars: in Fall 2003,
Mars comes very close to the Earth, providing an opportunity for
detailed observations [outdoor].
- Viewing the Moon: small
telescopes reveal an enormous amount of detail on the surface of
the Moon [outdoor].
- A Lunar Occultation:
watch the Moon cover a star to place limits on the star's
angular diameter [outdoor].
- Deep Sky Objects: study appearance of double stars, star
clusters, nebulae, and galaxies [outdoor].
Curves of Variable Stars: naked-eye observations of Delta
Cephei can yield its period, and hence its luminosity [outdoor].
- Motions of Mars: observations
reveal retrograde motion, due to our own motion about the Sun
- Shape of the Moon's Orbit: the
~13% change in the Moon's apparent diameter from perigee to
apogee provides a test of Kepler's first law [outdoor].
- Falling Bodies: recreate Galileo's key experiments and
establish link to orbital motion [indoor].
- Parallax in the Lab: use
cross-staff to estimate distances by triangulation [indoor].
- Distance to the Moon: coordinated observation from two
points yields estimate of lunar distance [outdoor].
- Inverse-Square Law: verify relationship between distance and
apparent brightness [indoor].
- Spectra in the Lab: each
element has a unique ``fingerprint'' of spectral lines [indoor].
- Solar Spectrum: observe absorption lines in Sun's spectrum
- Viewing Stellar Spectra: the
spectra of stars reveal stellar temperatures and compositions
It's not possible to give a detailed week-by-week schedule for this
course. Instead, the idea is to have a range of activities prepared
for each meeting; thus we can take advantage of clear weather, and
work indoors when the weather is bad. Some topics can be completed in
a week or two, but others entail observations spread over longer
periods. For example, constellations (1.b) will be periodically
revisited over the semester; this strategy allows the students to
become familiar with Summer and Fall constellations. Repeated
observations are also necessary to follow the motion of Mars (4.a),
study the shape of the Moon's orbit (4.b), and measure the light
curves of variable stars (5.d).
Joshua E. Barnes
Last modified: October 13, 2003