Astronomy 112
Astronomy Undergraduate Lab

(Spring 2008)



Professor: Kenneth M. Lanzetta
Office: ESS 456
Office Hours: By appointment
Email: Kenneth.Lanzetta'at'

TA: Mark Foley
Office: Physics D116
Office Hour: M 11:45--12:45, Tu 1--2
Email: Mark.Foley'at'


Wednesday at 6:50PM in Physics A125

Texts and other required materials:

  1. Required Text: Introductory Astronomy Lab Manual, 6th ed. by Shipsey, Coy & MacCall
  2. Recommended Text: Any introductory astronomy textbook (check the Physics and Engineering libraries if you don't have one)
    • (ie. Universe, Kaufmann; The Cosmic Perspective, Bennett; Discovering Astronomy, Shawl, et al.; Discovering the Cosmos, Bless; Voyages through the Universe, Frankoi et al.)
    • An introductory physics textbook will also be useful.
  3. Pocket calculator with trig functions
  4. Two Laboratory Notebooks (The 'Science Notebook' sold by the campus bookstore is especially nice as it contains both lined and graph paper.)

Useful links:



Please be one week ahead in preparation. Example: There is an observation session September 19th. For that week, also be prepared for the September 26th lab in case the weather isn't clear. On a lab session day, if the weather is clear, we may observe instead of the scheduled lab.

Date Lab Topic Text
Jan 30 Introductory Meeting
Math review, errors and error analysis
161-166 and notes
Feb 6 Ezipsky Handout
Feb 13 Observing Lab I: A Brief Tour of the Night Sky Sprint I 191--196
Feb 20 Measuring Angular Separations with a Cross Staff I 213--218
Feb 27 Build a Telescope 15--22
Mar 5 Observing Lab II. Mounting and adjusting a telescope, Setting Circles, and Blind Offsets  
Mar 12 Luminosity, Brightness, and Distance: The Inverse Square Law 23--32
Mar 19 SPRING BREAK No class
Mar 26 Stars, Light, and Spectra 3--14
Apr 2 Distance to the Stars 33--42
Apr 9 Stellar Properties and H-R Diagrams 83--94
Apr 16 Masses of Jupiter and Saturn Handout
Apr 23 Observing Lab III: Finding the Ecliptic in Mid-Spring Dark Site II 197--204
Apr 30 Starry Night Introduction: Observing the Night Sky 127--146
May 7 No new material. Complete and hand in observing projects  

Note: Observations are dependent on the weather. In case of bad weather on scheduled observation dates, changes may be made to the schedule.

Independent Observations

In addition to your normal lab work, there is an extended observational projects to do:

You might want to look at the notes Ralph Wijers put together for some tips on how to write this up.

When we are making observations through the telescope, you need to have your lab notebooks with you. You should spend a couple of minutes sketching what you see. Before photography, this is how astronomers described celestial objects. This, along with your homemade star chart, will not be graded, but if not completed, will affect your grade.

Important Points Concerning Lab Reports:

Your lab reports will be graded on a 10 point scale.

Read the information which also discusses how to write a good lab report

All lab reports are due in class the week following the lab. (see below for policies on grading and late reports)

The report should have a reasonable length (several pages is typical). In the report you must: have an introduction (describe the aim of the exercise), describe the experimental procedure (including any equipment you used), present the data/results that you got, and discuss the meaning of this data and conclusions that you can draw from it. In writing the conclusion, the lab questions may be used for guidance, however, it should also contain you own thoughts and conclusions on the lab. Don't let all of your conclusions be driven only by the preformulated questions. A lack of independent thought is not adequate and will result in a lack of points.

Good grammar and spelling is important, and may affect your grade. The written part of your lab report must be typed. Please use a spell checker and proofread before turning the report in. Note that this does not apply to your logbooks. They are just supposed to be a real-time record of what you did, and can be as messy as you wish as long as you can read them later.

Your data and calculations may be handwritten, and should be neatly transferred from your notebook.

Show your work when computing results (for cases where multiple calculations use the same method, only one worked out example is necessary).

You must answer all lab questions! They may be placed in your report separately from your conclusions, or in the conclusion if you wish.

Answer all additional questions that may be handed out in class.

All work for the lab must be done in the lab notebook and it must be included with the final lab report.

Some of the labs have certain sections that can be completed outside of class. If you are absent from class one week and wish to make up the lab, you must meet with the TA during office hours (or at another arranged time) to discuss the procedure. Some labs have additional procedures provided in class, not detailed in the lab write-up. Failing to complete these additional procedures will result in a significant loss of points.

When numerical answers refer to physical quantities, ie, lengths, time, mass, etc, include the units you are using with your answer. 10 seconds are quite different than 10 centuries, after all. Points will be deducted for missing units.

Policy concerning late lab reports:

All lab reports are due in class the week following the lab.

Late lab reports will be accepted at a penalty of 0.5 points/day. Note that this is NOT "per lab class", but "per WEEKDAY". Thus, a report turned in Thursday morning following the day that it is due will lose 0.5 points. A report turned in Monday morning following the day that it is due will lose a point and a half (Thursday, Friday, Monday). And a report turned in the Wednesday after it was due (a full week late) will lose 2.5 points.

If you are having trouble with your report and notify the TA by lab hours on the Tuesday before it is due, you may be able to get a small extension. Hopefully this won't be the case.

No report will be accepted more than 2 weeks late, except under very special circumstances. You will have to come talk to the TA if you think you fall under these circumstances.

Late reports can be turned in either directly to the TA in the TA's office (TBD), or in the TA's mailbox in the physics building (the mailroom is on the main floor behind the office, by the elevators). If you turn them in to the mailbox, be sure that you write your name, the TA's name, and the date and time on the book.

Finally, if you know you will be unable to attend class one week, the report that is due may be turned in early.

Other things:

Academic Honesty: An environment of honesty and integrity is important for both the conduct of science and for learning science, and we expect your honesty in all academic transactions. Students are encouraged to discuss homework problems, laboratories and issues in the course with each other and with the staff. Indeed, you should find that you learn a great deal from each other. Keep in mind, however, that you should complete your lab reports and all out of class work related to them (calculations, etc) alone. With a class this small it is very easy to determine when two or more students collaborate on their lab reports. For more information concerning academic honesty, see the Academic Judiciary web page

Disabled Support Services: If you have a condition that may impact on your ability to carry out the assigned course work, we urge you to contact the staff in the Disabled Support Services office (DSS) in Room 128, Educational Communications Center, 632-6548. DSS will review your concerns, and determine, with you, what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation of disability is confidential.

Last modified: February 6, 2008