Comet Hale Bopp

FALL 2011



Contact Information:

Name Office Office Hours Lab Hours Email/Phone
Robert O'Connell
Astronomy 251B M 9-11pm, T 1-2
or by appointment
Varies rwo [at]
Aaron Kingery
Head 1230 TA
Astronomy 267 n/a T 8-11 PM amk6zm [at]
Chris Irwin
Lab TA
Astronomy 109 n/a M 8-11 PM cmi5mw [at]
Cheoljong Lee
Lab TA
Astronomy 267 n/a W 8-11 PM cl5ju [at]
Brian Prager
Lab TA
Astronomy 267 n/a R 8-11 PM bjp5wt [at]

Course Description:

Astronomy 1230 is an observational/laboratory course intended to familiarize you with the general features of the night sky and the astronomical objects that can be studied with small instruments, including binoculars, small telescopes, and cameras. It will develop your skills in operating astronomical 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.


ASTR 1210 (Solar System Astronomy) or ASTR 1220 (Stars & Galaxies) are pre/co-requisite to this course. If you have not already taken one of these courses, or are not taking one this semester, you must receive the instructor's permission to enroll in ASTR 1230.

Web Pages:

Texts and Supplies:

Texts are available in Newcomb Hall Bookstore. You will also need to purchase a small flashlight (e.g. a Mini-Maglite). Buy one with a red filter if you can; if not, we can provide the filter. You should always bring a flashlight with you to the Observatory.

The Astronomy Minor

ASTR 1230 counts towards the requirements of the Astronomy Minor. The full requirements for a minor are: ASTR 1210, ASTR 1220 or 1270, and your choice of three courses from ASTR 1230 or any 3000-level ASTR courses. If you would like to declare a Minor in Astronomy, please see me.

Observatory Schedule and Orientation

Weather Warning and Personal Scheduling

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 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 (the Edmund Mag 5 Star Atlas and the Sky Wheel), and flashlight with you to every observing session.

  3. Before attempting any particular lab assignment, you should carefully 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. Note that it is awkward to consult written material when you are working in the dark(!), so the more pre-observing preparation, the better.

  4. 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 such special considerations.

  5. 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 some of the links posted on the ASTR 1230 home page.

  6. You must have filled out part of the standard observing forms used to record binocular or telescope observations before starting to observe. Preferably do this before coming to the observatory. See details in the next section.

  7. Reference materials: The Manual and the Edmund Atlas will provide most of the background information you will need in the course, but other reference materials can be obtained from the TA's or on the Internet. See the Web Links Page for a list of relevant sites.

General Observatory Procedures

Independent Work

Course Requirements and Grading


Table 1: Schedule & Deadlines

Lecture Topics & Events Assignments Due
8/29/11 Introduction, procedures, policies. (Lab orientation)
9/5/11 The night sky. Constellations. Constellation Quiz
9/12/11 Introduction to telescopes & binoculars.
Lab write-up procedures.
9/19/11 Observing techniques.  
9/26/11 Solar System astronomy. Lab 2 Due 9/30  
10/3/11 Stellar astronomy.  
10/10/11 FALL BREAK: No lecture. Labs closed M-T.  
10/17/11 Galactic astronomy. Lab 3 Due 10/21  
10/24/11 Astronomical imaging.  
10/31/11 MIDTERM EXAM First Optional Lab Due 11/4  
11/7/11 Exam returned & discussed. Lab administration.  
11/14/11 No lecture. Lab 4 Due 11/18  
11/21/11 No lecture. LABS CLOSED T, W, R for Thanksgiving  
11/28/11 No lecture. LAST FULL WEEK OF LABS  
12/5/11 No lecture. LAST LAB NIGHT: TUES 12/6 ALL LABS DUE

Table 2: Course Credit

Assignment Estimated Number
Lab Sessions
Maximum Points
Weekly Review Quizzes: Lecture material, reading,
basic observing techniques
n/a 75
Midterm Exam: Lecture material, reading,
basic observing techniques.
n/a 125
Required Labs    
Lab 1: Constellations 1 100
Lab 2: Introduction to Binocular Observing 1 100
Lab 3: Introduction to Small Telescopes 2 150
Lab 4: Telescope Observing I 2 150
Optional** Observational Labs    
Lab 5: Telescopic Observations of the Moon 2 200
Lab 6: Pulsating Variable Stars 2-3/week 200
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 1-2 200
Lab 12: Navigation by the Sun 1 (daytime) 200
Optional** 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   100
TOTAL expected submitted work   1000

** You must submit optional labs worth a combined maximum possible total of 300 points.


For more details, see the Sky and Telescope "Sky at a Glance" Web Page

Sky at 10 PM, 20 October 2011 (from Heavens Above)

Back to the ASTR 1230 Home Page

Last modified September 2015 by rwo

Text copyright © 2000-2015 Robert W. O'Connell. All rights reserved.