COURSE OUTLINE

El Camino College          Astronomy 12            Observational Astronomy       Fall 2017

Section 1034 meets on Wednesdays at 7:00-10:10 in the Planetarium.      

Instructor: Perry Hacking. Office: Planetarium, Phone: (310) 660-3593 (x3245). Office Hours Tuesdays-Thursdays 3:30-4:00; and Wednesdays 5-7.

About this class:  Now THIS is a class that you will remember for the rest of your life!  You are going to be learning constellations and watching the sky change with your own eyes, you are going to be learning how to use a traditional telescope and celestial coordinates to find objects, you are going to be using sophisticated 11-inch fully computerized telescopes and digital astronomical cameras to take your own pictures of celestial objects (you can squeal with excitement now), you are going to learn how to analyze the pictures and produce measurements from them, and you are also going use the 16-inch observatory to observe celestial objects! 

So you can see just how exciting this class is going to be!  But you can also tell that this is not going to be a light class that you just show up to and pass.  Some students are surprised to learn that there is a lot of homework associated with this course.  Please be prepared for this. 

Required text: Star Atlas 2000, by Wil Tirion.  Recommended:  Planisphere (paper, plastic, or on your smartphone).   Recommended:  A Windows-based laptop computer that you can use to take data at the telescope (now how cool is THAT!?).  We have the software that you will load so don't worry about that part.  If you don't use your own computer, then you will need a flash drive with a lot of space on it for the data that you will take in this class.  

Tutor: Tutor Information

Prerequisites: Completion of or concurrent enrollment in Astronomy 20 or 25 or equivalent credit.  You must also possess the ability and curiosity to learn college level material in a laboratory environment (under the stars!).

Course Objectives and Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs): In general, the objective of this course is for you to learn how to navigate around the night sky using your naked eyes or a telescope.  In particular, you will learn to identify at least 20 constellations and be able to find objects using a telescope using setting circles, "star-hopping", and using computerized "go-to" telescopes.  Others are for you to observe and understand the motions of celestial bodies over hourly, weekly, and seasonal time scales and to learn how to make scientific observations and measurements and apply them to scientific models.  The official course objectives for this course and SLO can be found at: Astronomy 12 Course Objectives.

Exams/Tests: A constellation test will be given on September 20th. You will be graded on your ability to point out ten constellations in the sky. A final exam will be given  near the end of the semester at the normal class time. You will be graded on your ability to align a telescope, set up a camera and take a picture of a celestial object (you will be told what to take a picture of).  You may take any test earlier if you wish to. 

Quizzes: One 10-point quiz will be given near the end of the semester, containing questions about the labs that you have done during the semester, the telescopes that you are using (such as their optical design), and constellations that you have learned.

Observing Portfolio:  This is the really fun part.  You are to compile all of your observations over the semester, including even your sketches, into a nice portfolio for you to keep and show off with.  Objects are to be labeled with a brief description.  You can definitely get extra credit style or organization points for this one.  Not a science major but love astronomy pictures?  Here is your chance to become a shining star!  Impress me with what you have done and what you know.  Note that this portfolio will count as part of your "exam points". 

Projects/labs: Observing projects represent most of the points for the course. Each project is worth at least 10 points. Some of the projects require two weeks, and are worth 20 points. These observing projects will allow you to actually see many of the things that are described in your astronomy class. In addition to just looking at them, you will learn to observe the universe like a scientist, and interpret your observations.  See Labs page for a list of lab instruction sheets.  Note that we will observe both solar system objects (Astronomy 20) and stars and galaxies (Astronomy 25).  If you have only had one of these two courses, then you will have to read up on the objects that are new to you.  Don't worry, however, you should be able to find all that you need to know within an hour or maybe two.  Come see me if you are confused about the nature of some of the objects that we are observing in the class. 

Lab Reports: You will be required to write a formal lab report for at least three projects during the semester. For those projects that you do not wish to write a lab report on, you will have questions to answer about the project, and you will be required to turn in your observations as well. Each formal lab report is worth 10 points in addition to the points that the observing project is worth. See Lab Report Instruction Sheet for details.

Extra Credit:   See me early in the semester if you are headed for trouble or if you want a safety margin for your grade.   All extra credit is due November 13th.

Grading: Course grade is based on the projects, lab reports, exams, quizzes, and extra credit. The grading policy is as follows:

A - 90% of total points, 90% on exams and quizzes, and turn in three complete formal lab reports.

B - 80% of total points, 80% on exams and quizzes, and turn in two complete formal lab reports.

C - 65% of total points, 65% on exams and quizzes, and turn in one complete formal lab report.

D - 50% of total points.

Example: Suppose that there are 200 points possible in the class. If you have 185 points total, and a 96% average on the exans, quizzes, and portfolio; and you turned in all observations and questions, but only wrote up two formal lab reports, then you would receive a B-grade in the course (you would have enough points for an A, but are lacking 3 formal lab reports).

Another Example:  If you have a 96% test/quiz/portfolio average, have turned in 4 lab reports (the fourth one would count as extra credit), but have 177 total points out of a possible 200, you would still receive a B-grade for the course (you would need 90% of the total points, which would be 180 in this example).

Another Example (and a painful one that happens too frequently):  You have 98% of the possible points in the class, have turned in 4 lab reports, but earned a total of 43 points on the constellation test, telescope test, two quizzes, and your portfolio (out of a possible 50).  You would have earned a B-grade because your test average was 86%, which is below 90%.  TAKE THE QUIZZES AND TESTS SERIOUSLY IN THIS CLASS!! 

Preparation: You should have thoroughly studied the previous week's lab and be prepared to take a quiz on it. You should be prepared for the current week's lab. Success in this class critically depends upon how well prepared you are BEFORE the lab begins. You will have a short period at the beginning of class to ask questions about anything relating to the course. PARTICIPATION is what this class is all about!!!

Disabilities:  If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me as soon as possible..

The course schedule below assumes clear weather every week. If the weather is bad, then an indoor lab will be substituted. Please attend even if the weather is bad, and please bring a calculator, and your data from previous labs (your laptop or flash drive).

Schedule.  Note that extra weeks will be used for cloudy weather, indoor labs, and substitutes for the solar lab (which will be described in class).  Labs with an asterisk next to them indicate that you will use our old-fashioned manual telescopes to find the objects using the celestial coordinate system. 

8/30  Introduction and description of telescopes and celestial coordinates.  Learn your first constellations!    

9/6  Constellation Lab.  Learn how to use the telescopes.

9/13  Saturn Lab

9/20  Deep Sky Lab, Constellation Test

9/27  Lunar Geology Lab I

10/4  Lunar Geology Lab II

10/11 Star Clusters I

10/18 Binary Stars I

10/25  Binary Stars II

11/1  Spare (Full Moon)

11/8  Uranus & Neptune

11/15 Star Clusters II

11/22  Deep Sky Lab

11/29  Spare, take the telescope test early!

12/6  Quiz, telescope test

12/13  Portfolio due.  Spare (dark skies)  

Last Published 8/14/17