Astronomy 110 Laboratory: Course Outline
||Mon. 7:00 — 10:00 pm
One evening meeting per week, involving either field trips for
astronomical viewing or indoor laboratory work. There will be an
optional daytime meeting to view the Sun, and one or more nighttime
trips to a dark site to view the Milky Way and faint objects.
Enrollment is limited to 25 students per section.
The syllabus of this course must be adapted to circumstances. At
any given time only some planets and other objects are visible.
Moreover, observing may be impossible during bad weather; when it's
cloudy, indoor 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. Here are some exercises which may be
included in Fall 2008.
- 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: see how brightness and detail
depend on the diameter of a telescope [outdoor].
- Viewing the Moon: our
telescopes can show an enormous amount of detail on the surface
of the Moon [outdoor].
- Viewing Jupiter and Venus: these two bright planets, both
visible this Fall, appear very different in a telescope.
- Viewing the Sun: filters which reject 99.999% of the
incoming light allow us to see sunspots on the Sun.
- Deep Sky Objects: study appearance of double stars, star
clusters, nebulae, and galaxies [outdoor].
- 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].
- Jupiter's Satellites: Jupiter
and its four bright moons resemble a `miniature Solar System' —
with a striking difference [outdoor].
- Planetary Motions:
observations of other planets reveal retrograde behavior due to
our own motion about the Sun [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].
- An Occultation by the Moon:
watching the Moon cover a star yields information on that star's
- Distance to the Moon:
coordinated observation from two points yields an estimate of
the Moon's distance [outdoor].
- Inverse-Square Law: verify the relationship between distance
and apparent brightness [indoor].
- Light Curves of Variable Stars: naked-eye observations of
Delta Cephei can yield its period, and hence its luminosity
- 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 single night, but others entail observations spread over longer
periods. For example, constellations (1b) will be periodically
revisited over the semester; this allows us to become familiar with
both Summer and Fall constellations. Repeated observations are also
necessary to follow planetary motion (4a), study the shape of the
Moon's orbit (4b), and measure the light curves of variable stars
Joshua E. Barnes
(barnes at ifa.hawaii.edu)
16 November 2008