Introduction to Astronomy Lab

Physics 091, Spring 2019

The laboratory associated with Introduction to Astronomy.
Instructional Team

This lab is the corequisite (required companion) to Physics 90. You will do experimental work to round out your understanding of: light; optics; the constellations and the celestial coordinate system; the motions of the Moon, the Sun, and the planets; and telescope operation.


Together, the lecture and laboratory of the Introduction to Astronomy course are designed to achieve the outcomes enumerated in the Mathematical and Scientific pathway to knowledge. The laboratory portion of the course has three main outcomes:

You will need:

The indoor lab topics are star charts, reflection, refraction, lenses and spectra. The outdoor lab topics progress to from no instruments to advanced instruments: naked-eye observing, binocular observing, and a sequence of three labs using German equatorial mounted refractor telescopes.

All labs are conducted on Wednesdays.

Afternoon labs for Section 1 are conducted between 4:30pm and 6:30pm; and for Section 2 and 3 between 6:30pm and 8:30pm.

Evening observational labs are conducted beginning at dusk. The decision as to whether to have an evening observing lab on a given Wednesday will be announced by email on Monday afternoon (two days before). Dusk is about 5:30pm early in the semester. Due to the lengthening of the days and the change to daylight savings time, dusk occurs about 7:30pm late in the semester. You should not continue in Physics 90 and 91 if you have other early evening commitments.

For the Spring Semester there are 12 Wednesdays from February 19 to March 13. We are prepared to have five indoor labs and five outdoor observational labs. In addition, we will conduct one make-up lab on one of the last Mondays of the semester. Obviously we don't have perfect forecasting, especially with the very variable spring weather, and therefore one of the Wednesdays is budgeted for one outdoor lab cancellation. On two recent springs we have been limited to just four outdoor labs, and when that happened, we have counted the star charts lab as if it were an observing lab.

The observational labs are held at the SMC Campus Observatory Pad. Most of you have passed this while walking to the Cross. If you aren't familiar with the location, these fairly complete directions are still applicable: public observing night directions. At present the following labs are planned:

Indoor Labs

At present, the following labs are planned:


The Physics 91 lab grade is separate from the Physics 90 lecture grade. For each lab, one of the following scores will be recorded.

There are 100 points possible for the 10 labs. There are no "allowed" absences.

However, we will provide one makeup lab. So if you miss one lab and did the makeup and all the others perfectly you could still manage to get a perfect score.

Since you will not receive any credit for an absence, and since there are 10 labs required, each absence will in effect subtract 10% from your final grade. Final letter grades will be assigned as follows: 90-100% is the A range, 80-89% is the B range, 70-79% is the C range, 60-69% is a D, and 0-59% is an F.


The Stem Center Tutoring, Academic Honor Code, Student Disability Services and Mission statements from the Physics 90 syllabus are applicable to Physics 91.

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