ASTRONOMY 1230 (Spring 2014)


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
Scott Suriano
Head TA
Astronomy 106 N/A Mon 8-11 PM
Lauren Bittle
Lab TA
Astronomy 267 N/A Tues 8-11 PM
Dom Pesce
Lab TA
Astronomy 267 N/A Wed 8-11 PM
Meng Sun
Lab TA
Astronomy 106 N/A Th 8-11 PM
Student Observatory Room: 924 0678;     Weather update info: 924 7238

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, telescopes, and cameras. It will develop your skills in operating laboratory instrumentation and in making and analyzing scientific observations. By the end of the course, you will be a competent amateur astronomer, able to operate astronomical equipment, and be familiar with many sky phenomena. 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, 1220/1270, 1230 and any two 3000-level ASTR courses.

Observatory Schedule:

Weather Warning and Personal Scheduling

Preparation and General Observing Procedures:

  1. During the first week of the semester you should read the brief Introduction in the Manual. This summarizes general laboratory procedures and also gives some safety advice. Also, skim the Appendices, although each Appendix will be assigned for study as part of the early laboratories.

  2. Because observing time is so precious, we ask that you arrive at Nightlab fully prepared. You should have read and understood the instructions for the particular lab you intend to work on. For labs that require you to observe and sketch specific objects, you should complete the top part of an Observing Form for each object (see below). If the weather is looking good, take an hour in the early evening to prepare for that night's observing.

  3. Whenever you come to Nightlab, bring the following things: lab manual, observing forms (top part already completed), Edmund Mag 5 Star Atlas, Sky Wheel, flashlight, notebook, pencil, and eraser.

  4. Some broader planning is also required. For example, some labs can only be done during certain phases of the moon; the meteor shower lab can only be done on specific dates; the Variable Star lab requires brief observations spanning several weeks. Use the "Time Estimate" section in the Manual for each lab, and the sky calendar below, to help plan which labs you'll do and when.

  5. Observations made with the binoculars and telescopes are recorded on special Observing Forms. The top part of these forms should be completed before going to Nightlab (this includes giving the object's coordinates and sketching a simple finding chart). At the Nightlab, you will fill out the rest of the form, providing a clear sketch of what you see though the binoculars or telescope. Appendix G in the Manual describes how to fill out these forms. Each completed observing form must be signed by the TA before you leave the Nightlab. Forms which are not signed will not be accepted for credit.

  6. Each lab is ultimately submitted for grading as a Lab Report. These Lab Reports follow a particular format that is described in Appendix F. To get a good grade for a given lab, it is very important that you follow this format, since it ensures that you include all the relevant aspects of the lab. Failure to submit completed Lab Reports is a common cause of poor grades. We will discuss in class how to complete both the Observing Forms and the Lab Reports.

  7. Group work: Because of the limited number of telescopes, you will usually work in groups of 2-3 students. You may work on your own as long as equipment is available. You are allowed to observe together with your group as long as the responsibilities of finding objects are shared equally and each member of the group gets a chance to observe. In a group situation, students may collaborate on setting up the telescope. They should take turns operating the telescope and finding objects. However, once an object is located, everyone in the group must independently observe it and take his or her own data. See below for the policy on pledged work. By the completion of Lab 3, each person is expected to be able to operate the equipment competently and without assistance.

  8. There are a few other procedures to follow.

Independent Work

Course Requirements and Grading:



Table 1: Schedule & Deadlines

Lecture Topics Lab Work Assignments Due Moon Phase
Jan 13 Introduction, procedures, policies. Lab orientation (M & T)   Full Moon (1/14)
Jan 20 NO LECTURE (M.L.K Day) Lab 1: Constellation Quiz First two clear nights  
Jan 27 Topic 1: The Night Sky & Constellations. Lab 2: Binocular Observing    
Feb 3 Topic 2: Telescopes. Lab 2: Binocular Observing Lab 1 Due 2/3 First Qtr (2/6)
Feb 10 Topic 2: Telescopes. Lab 2: Binocular Observing   Full (1/13)
Feb 17 Topic 3: Observing Techniques Lab 3: Intro to Telescopes  
Feb 24 Topic 3: Observing Techniques Lab 3: Intro to Telescopes Lab 2 Due 2/24  
March 3 Topic 4: Motions in the Sky Lab 4: Telescope Observing  
March 10 SPRING BREAK NO LABS THIS WEEK EDT starts 3/9 First Qtr (3/8)
March 17 Choosing Remaining Labs Lab 4: Telescope Observing Lab 3 Due 3/17 Full (3/15)
March 24 Topic 4: Motions in the Sky Lab 4: Telescope Observing  
March 31 Topic 5: Solar System Astronomy Chosen Lab Lab 4 Due 3/31  
April 7 Topic 5: Solar System Astronomy Chosen Lab First Chosen Lab Due 4/7 First Qtr (4/7)
April 14 Topic 6: Stars and Clusters Chosen Lab   Full (4/13)
April 21 Review for Final Chosen Lab    
April 28 FINAL EXAM (in class time) Chosen Lab (M, T only) ALL LABS DUE FRI 5/2  

Table 2: Course Credit

Assignment Estimated Number
Lab Sessions
Maximum Points
Homeworks: Lecture material n/a 50
Final Exam: Lecture material n/a 150
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 4-5 (daytime) 200
Lab 11: Speed of Light/Eclipses of Io 2-3 200
Lab 12: Navigation by the Sun 1 (daytime) 200
Chosen** Non-Observational Labs    
Lab 13: CLEA - Moons of Jupiter   100
Lab 14: CLEA - Hubble's Law   100
Lab 15: CLEA - Classification of Stellar Spectra   100
Lab 16: CLEA - Photometry of the Pleiades [Not available S-14] 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.


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