ASTRONOMY 1230 (Fall 2009)


Comet Hale Bopp

(PDF of this page: here)
Contact Information:

Name Office Office Hours Lab Hours Email/Phone
Mark Whittle
Astronomy 216 W, Th 11-12
or by appointment
Abel Yang
Head TA
Astronomy 106 N/A Tu 8-11 PM
George Privon
Lab TA
Astronomy 109 N/A Mon 8-11 PM
Anya Bilous
Lab TA
Astronomy 267 N/A Wed 8-11 PM
Charles Romero
Lab TA
Astronomy 106 N/A Th 8-11 PM

Course Description:

Astronomy 1230 is an observational/laboratory course intended to familiarize you with the general features of the night sky and the properties of those objects that can be studied with small astronomical instruments, including binoculars, small telescopes, and cameras. It will develop your skills in operating laboratory instrumentation and in making and analyzing scientific observations. It also explores the central role observations have played in the development of modern astronomy and in our interpretation of the structure and evolution of the universe. The course has two main components: lectures and observational projects.

Recommended: ASTR 1210 (Solar System Astronomy) or ASTR 1220 (Stars & Galaxies) help provide some context for some of the material in ASTR 1230, though I do not regard them as pre-requisites. If you have not already taken one of these courses, you may want to learn some background about the objects you will be looking at.

Web Pages:

Texts and Supplies: Texts are available in Newcomb Hall Bookstore.

The Astronomy Minor: ASTR 1230 counts towards the requirements of the Astronomy Minor. The full requirements for a minor are: ASTR 1210, 1220, 1230 and any two 3000-level ASTR courses.

Observatory Schedule and Orientation:

Weather Warning and Personal Scheduling

TA Consultation & Computer Laboratories :

Preparation for Observing:

  1. You are expected to be well prepared for lab work in this course. TA's will not have much time for individual instruction, so your progress will depend strongly on your self-motivation and independence. You should be completely familiar with the goals, procedures, and technique for each lab before you go to the Student Observatory.

  2. Bring the lab manual, observing sheets, star charts (Edmund Mag 5 Star Atlas and the Sky Wheel), flashlight, notebook, etc. with you to every observing session.

  3. During the first week of the semester you should read the Introduction in the Manual concerning safety and general laboratory procedures. Also, skim the Appendix to familiarize yourself with it. Each Appendix section will be assigned for study as part of the early laboratories.

  4. Before attempting any particular lab assignment, you should thoroughly read the corresponding chapter in the manual. A clear understanding of what is expected in each lab will save valuable time during the limited lab hours with clear skies.

  5. You should understand the observing conditions required for each lab and plan your activities well in advance. Some labs can only be done during certain phases of the Moon. Others require particularly good observing conditions (e.g. Meteors). The Variable Star Lab requires (brief) observations made over a period of 2 months. The "Time Estimate" section of each lab writeup in the Manual will alert you to these special considerations.

  6. Most labs are best done during the darkest skies, i.e. in the two-week period centered on New Moon. A brief sky calendar is included at the end of this syllabus. For more complete information, you can consult an ephemeris in the Observatory Office (G25) or some of the links from the ASTR 1230 home page.

  7. Observations made with the binoculars and telescopes must be recorded on special supplied forms. As part of lab preparation, you are expected to fill out in advance the first part of each observing form for each object you plan to observe before going to the observatory. The Manual describes how to fill out a form and shows an example. Blank forms are located in the Manual for photocopying or in the Observatory Support Office (Rm. G25). Collect blank copies in advance of each session in order to prepare the first part of the form before the beginning the lab.

General Observatory Procedures:

Independent Work

Course Requirements and Grading:


Table 1: Schedule & Deadlines

Lecture Topics Lab Work Assignments Due Moon Phase
08/31/09 Introduction, procedures, policies. Lab orientation   Full (9/4)
09/07/09 The night sky & constellations. Lab 1: Constellation Quiz    
09/14/09 Light & small telescopes. Lab write-up procedures. Lab 2: Binocular Observing    
09/21/09 Observing Techniques Lab 2: Binocular Observing   First Qtr (9/25)
09/28/09 Celestial motions. Astronomical coordinates. Lab 3: Intro to Telescopes Lab 1 Due 9/30  
10/05/09 READING DAY: No lecture. Lab 3: Intro to Telescopes (W, Th only) Lab 2 Due 10/09 Full (10/4)
10/12/09 Solar System Astronomy Lab 4: Telescope Observing  
10/19/09 Exam cancelled; Solar System Astronomy Lab 4: Telescope Observing Lab 3 Due 10/23  
10/26/09 Lab administration. Lab 4: Telescope Observing   First Qtr (10/25)
11/02/09 Solar System Astronomy Chosen Lab   Full (11/2)
11/09/09 Stellar Astronomy Chosen Lab  
11/16/09 Galactic Astronomy Chosen Lab (M, Tu only)  
11/23/09 Astronomical Imaging Chosen Lab   First Qtr (11/24)
11/30/09 Modern Observational Astronomy. Chosen Lab   Full (12/2)
12/07/09 FINAL EXAM Chosen Lab (M, T only) ALL LABS DUE FRIDAY 12/11/09  

Table 2: Course Credit

Assignment Estimated Number
Lab Sessions
Maximum Points
Midterm Exam: Lecture material, reading,
basic observing techniques
n/a 100
Final Quiz: Lecture material, reading,
basic observing techniques
n/a 100
Required Labs    
Lab 1: Constellations 1 100
Lab 2: Introduction to Binocular Observing 1 100
Lab 3: Introduction to Small Telescopes 1-2 150
Lab 4: Telescope Observing I 2 150
Chosen** Observational Labs    
Lab 5: Telescopic Observations of the Moon 2 200
Lab 6: Pulsating Variable Stars 2-3/week 100
Lab 7: Telescope Observing II 3 200
Lab 8: Astrophotography 2-3 200
Lab 9: Meteor Shower 1 200
Lab 10: Rotation of the Sun/Sunspots 5-6 (daytime) 200
Lab 11: Speed of Light/Eclipses of Io [Not available F09] 200
Lab 12: Navigation by the Sun 1 (daytime) 200
Chosen** Non-Observational Labs    
Lab 13: Star Cluster Distances [Not available F09] 100
Lab 14: CLEA - Moons of Jupiter   100
Lab 15: CLEA - Hubble's Law   100
Lab 16: CLEA - Classification of Stellar Spectra   100
Lab 17: CLEA - Photometry of the Pleiades [Not available F09] 100
TOTAL expected submitted work   1000

** You must submit chosen labs worth a combined maximum possible total of 300 points. If your chosen total is 400, you will choose which lab will count for less.


For more details, see the Sky and Telescope ``Observing'' Web Page

Back to the ASTR 1230 Home Page