Archives of E-mails for Week 1 and Week 2

This page contains the e-mails that I sent out to the students during the first two weeks of the course.

You are responsible for everything that is within thesee-mails for the e-mails are the method by which most of the communication between you and I will take place, and where the assignments are given. Please pay attention to them.

The earliest e-mail appears first, with later e-mails appearing father down the page.

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Mailed October 2, 2006

Greetings:
Stuff in this letter include:
1) Quick Intro
2) Where to begin
3) What to do this week
4) Expectations

1) Welcome to the fall edition of Online Astronomy. The course continues to be under an ongoing series of construction changes, and as such is not entirely prepared for the Moodle format. By Wednesday of this week, all should be good to go. Meanwhile, here is what I am hoping for as well as some information about how to get started.

2) The place to begin is directly into the webpage that I constructed for this course. You can access the course by clicking on Homepage
This is the course homepage. Click on Semester Syllabus and go to Unit One. We will operate through this course via the course homepage, and when Moodle is up for the Astronomy class, we will move things over there to make it easier for you to follow.

3) I want you to look at the Prologue, Teacher Bio, and Student Introduction. Your two assignments for this week is to complete the Student Introduction and send me an e-mail to get used to communicating. The Student Introduction will help me get to know you a little bit, while the Teacher Bio helps you get to know me. Getting to Know You

The purpose of the e-mail is to help you start a regular process of directly communicating with me. Here is what I want in your e-mail. Please tell me the answers to the following three questions:
1) What happened to Pluto in August 24, 2006 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/features.cfm?feature=1158
2) What new object is in the sky, visible with binoculars in the morning sky before sunrise. http://www.spaceweather.com/
3) What did the Twins do on Sunday, and what did the Tigers NOT DO on Sunday :) http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=261001109

4) It is my expectation that you will work on the course on a daily basis, starting out slowly at the beginning, and picking up the pace as the course proceeds. Getting behind makes it VERY hard to catch up later. The course itself is not difficult, but the amount of material contained in the pages of the course is equivalent to a college-high school textbook. I wrote the vast majority of the course material to help students find interesting information. Since stuff is changing so fast in the field of Astronomy, it is hard for me to keep up with the course revisions.

I truly love teaching Astronomy, and it is my hope that I can make this an enjoyable learning experience. There are many assignments contained within the pages of my course, but we will be limiting the work you to into specific areas. I will be talking to you several times each week to keep you on track, and focus your work. If you will keep up with the pace, you can all get an "A."

We can try to hold a chat time, but the best plan at present is to first get you started. My office hours where you can most often get a hold of me are 11:00-1:00. I check my computer e-mail at that time. Sometimes, when I am helping to sub for another teacher, I may be delayed. I am home in the evenings, but usually not availanle until after 9:00 pm ... after my girls have gone to be.

This is what I expect:
a) staying on pace with the course
b) 2-3 e-mails to me each week, telling me how you are doing and asking questions
c) completion of assignments on time
d) having fun getting outside to look at the night sky
e) developing an appreciation for the vastness of space and all of the cool stuff that is up there
f) finding errors in my course so I can correct them. for instance, typos, non-working hotlinks, etc.

I hope your first week is GREAT. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

Tom

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Mailed October 4, 2006

Greetings on this Wednesday morning:
In 45 minutes, the Twins will try to win game #2, so I have to hurry and get this e-mail out to everyone.

1) I have two little girls at home ... Mary and Maggie. Sometimes, if they get to bed a little late, I will not be checking my e-mails until the following morning. This will mean a short delay in my returning of your letters that you may send in the evening.
2) The course has been moved onto the Moodle Site. This is a GUIDE to help you work through the course, but there is so much stuff that I will only look overwhelming and discourage you. Please use my e-mail updates to stay current on what I ask you to do.
3) Each of you is responsible to complete the "Getting to Know You" part of the online course. This can be accessed at Getting to Know You
I have received responses from 3 out of 5 of you so far. After today is completed, I will be adding a new e-mail to everyone with more details and an assignment for tomorrow night. Please do not get behind and keep up with the e-mails and course pacing.
I hope all is well and that we can find a time to get together face-to-face some evening with the telescopes and look at stuff in the sky.

Tom

4) Each of you is to respond to the three questions that were in the previous e-mail. If you lost it, or cannot find it, here are those questions again:
Greetings:
Stuff in this letter include:
1) Quick Intro
2) Where to begin
3) What to do this week
4) Expectations

1) Welcome to the fall edition of Online Astronomy. The course continues to be under an ongoing series of construction changes, and as such is not entirely prepared for the Moodle format. By Wednesday of this week, all should be good to go. Meanwhile, here is what I am hoping for as well as some information about how to get started.

2) The place to begin is directly into the webpage that I constructed for this course. You can access the course by clicking on the HomePage
This is the course homepage. Click on Semester Syllabus and go to Unit One. We will operate through this course via the course homepage, and when Moodle is up for the Astronomy class, we will move things over there to make it easier for you to follow.

3) I want you to look at the Prologue, Teacher Bio, and Student Introduction. Your two assignments for this week is to complete the Student Introduction and send me an e-mail to get used to communicating. The Student Introduction will help me get to know you a little bit, while the Teacher Bio helps you get to know me. Getting to Know You

The purpose of the e-mail is to help you start a regular process of directly communicating with me. Here is what I want in your e-mail. Please tell me the answers to the following three questions:
1) What happened to Pluto in August 24, 2006 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/features.cfm?feature=1158
2) What new object is in the sky, visible with binoculars in the morning sky before sunrise. http://www.spaceweather.com/ - The page no longer exists ... It is an announcement of a new comet in the sky
3) What did the Twins do on Sunday, and what did the Tigers NOT DO on Sunday :) http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=261001109

4) It is my expectation that you will work on the course on a daily basis, starting out slowly at the beginning, and picking up the pace as the course proceeds. Getting behind makes it VERY hard to catch up later. The course itself is not difficult, but the amount of material contained in the pages of the course is equivalent to a college-high school textbook. I wrote the vast majority of the course material to help students find interesting information. Since stuff is changing so fast in the field of Astronomy, it is hard for me to keep up with the course revisions.

I truly love teaching Astronomy, and it is my hope that I can make this an enjoyable learning experience. There are many assignments contained within the pages of my course, but we will be limiting the work you to into specific areas. I will be talking to you several times each week to keep you on track, and focus your work. If you will keep up with the pace, you can all get an "A."

We can try to hold a chat time, but the best plan at present is to first get you started. My office hours where you can most often get a hold of me are 11:00-1:00. I check my computer e-mail at that time. Sometimes, when I am helping to sub for another teacher, I may be delayed. I am home in the evenings, but usually not availanle until after 9:00 pm ... after my girls have gone to be.

This is what I expect:
a) staying on pace with the course
b) 2-3 e-mails to me each week, telling me how you are doing and asking questions
c) completion of assignments on time
d) having fun getting outside to look at the night sky
e) developing an appreciation for the vastness of space and all of the cool stuff that is up there
f) finding errors in my course so I can correct them. for instance, typos, non-working hotlinks, etc.

I hope your first week is GREAT. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

Tom

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Mailed October 6, 2006

Greetings:

So, now there are six students. Welcome to each of you. It is homecoming tonight here at Hopkins, so there is a lot of energy in the classrooms and halls. I woke up this morning to a beautiful full moon setting on the western horizon. I just love teaching this subject, and I hope that I can make it enjoyable for each of you. Here are a few important notes for your weekend consideration:

1) In order to have a successful course experience, you need to communicate. This is not a course where you can just go at the material in any manner you want. At present, you all have a special "northernstaronline.org" e-mail address. I would like to get a personal e-mail address from you, if you have one. It will make communication easier.

2) While the NSO home has BlackBoard and Moodle, I have written the entire course in an online format available directly on the internet without need for any password. I will be running you through this course. The direct address to the course homepage is: HomePage
From this page, you can link to anywhere ... especially the syllabus!!!!!

3) I expect you to do something every week at a minimum, and preferrably on a daily basis of each school week. I would like to hear from you twice a week, and I will be keeping track of the frequency that you contact me

4) One look at the volume of the course material will frighten you, and it isn't even Halloween yet. We will focus on specific parts of the online course, picking and choosing important parts for your studies, and assignments or quizzes that are relevant.

5) You will NEED to do at least 4 outdoor observations. The first one is called "First Constellation Observation" and can be directly accessed at: First Observation

6) We will have our vacations over MEA, Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays. No work done then.

Here is the suggested sequence:

October introduction, the night sky, history, space race

November the sun and the stars

December the earth, the moon, planets and their moons

January galaxies, cosmology, seti

I WILL BE TRYING TO CALL EACH OF YOU ON THE PHONE SOMETIME IN THE NEXT TWO DAYS TO SEE IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS.

Tom

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Mailed October 9, 2006

Greetings:
It is nearing 7:00 am, and I am sitting in my classroom, preparing for today's lesson and the work for the coming week. There is a motion detector that allows the overhead lights to automatically turn off if the room is motionless. So when I sit here at a desk and type messages, the detector cannot "see" my fingers typing and the lights just turn off. Then it becomes too dark to type and I have to get up and wave my arms to get the lights to go back on.
Here is the news for this week:
1) I will be making an archive into the online course that will contain a copy of every e-mail that I send out to students. From there, you can see whatever notices you may have missed.
2) I tried to contact some of you this weekend by phone, but you do not have phone numbers with an answering service, so I could not leave a message.
3) This is the week when I would like you to start doing some Astronomy. You have TWO major assignments to work on this week ... weather permitting.
a) Please try to get outside to look at the night sky and see what you can find. The link to thie outdoor observation is at: First Observation
If you want a star chart to help you find things for the October sky, you can download it from:
http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html
click on the PDF file for Northern Sky in October.
I would like you to try and find some of the major constellations, learn what the Zenith, horizon, celestial sphere, and Polaris are. If the weather is bad, you can put this off until you get a clear night. The total assignment takes about 20-30 minutes, but you can stay out longer if you want.
b) I would like you to work through the first unit of the course: Tour of the Universe
and then complete Unit Two this week: Introduction to the Starry Sky
Please look at the page about Units of Measurement
so you can see what Astronomers use to measure distances to space objects, and sizes of really small things like wavelengths, atomic nuclei, and shrunken Black Hole Stars.
Toward the middle of the week ... Wednesday morning to be more precise, I will send out a short 3-5 point quiz on some of the reading and check up on how you are doing.

By now, you should have completed the Student Introduction (Getting to Know You)
You should have responded to the first three point quiz that was mailed out last week
You should have written at least one e-mail to me just to let me know that you are alive :)

We are working on a plan to have the six of you students over to our house or to meet some place where the sky is dark and look through a telescope.

REMEMBER ... WHILE THE COURSE MAY BE APPEARING IN BLACKBOARD OR MOODLE, THE METHOD OF TEACHING WILL BE TO USE THE ONLINE ASTRONOMY COURSE THAT I HAVE WRITTEN AND USE THESE E-MAILS TO GUIDE YOU THROUGH THE SUGGESTED MATERIAL.

Have a great week, and please send me any questions that you may have.

Tom

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Mailed October 9, 2006

Greetings:

It is getting cold outside, but as of 9:24 pm, it is clear enough to see stars, even with some wispy clouds up there. I can easily see the "summer triangle" ... which are the stars directly over your head, and the brightest three stars in the night sky. The Big Dipper is there, so too is Cassiopea, Pegasus, Hercules, the Little Dipper, and others.

I am sending a quick note to let you know where copies of all e-mails that I send out to you can be found. I have added a new section to the HOMEPAGE entitled, Archives.
By entering this page, you can see what we have been doing, what you may be missing, and anything else.

Later this week, I will add a grade section to the HOMEPAGE where you can see what assignments I have collected from you, as well as a note about your efforts to contact me via e-mails.

Remember, you are to write twice a week :)

I hope you have great weekends. A short quiz on the UNIT 2 (The Starry Sky) will come out later this week, but you can use notes, internet, my course, etc for answers. It will NOT be hard.

Tom

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Mailed October 11, 2006

Greetings:
So, it is 34 degrees outside and windy. This is NOT a good time to be outside looking at the stars. Therefore, it IS a great time to be inside looking at Astronomy stuff. This is my mid-week memo to all of you, as well as the announcement of my birthday today. Another year has gone by and I am getting older and older and older.
This letter is just a quick note to remind everyone of a few things:
1) Remember that you need to send two e-mails each week to me to tell me how you are doing and ask any questions that you might have.
2) Try not to get too far ahead in the course or else you will be doing assignments that you might not need to do. This week, you are to spend time on UNIT TWO.
3) If we get a clear night this week, remember to do the first observation http://www.hopkins.k12.mn.us/pages/high/courses/online/astro/forms/first_constellation_obs/first_constellation_obs.htm
While you are observing, please not that there are three bright stars in the evening and early night sky directly over your heads. They form what is called the SUMMER TRIANGLE. The stars are Vega, Deneb, and Altair. I will be referring to these three stars later in the course in one or two more weeks. If you can see them now, that would be great.
4) Here is a little three point quiz for this week:
a) In the night sky, where is the ZENITH?
b) If you follow the handle stars of the big dipper from the bowl toward the end of the handle, and then extend an imaginary line in a similar arc as the handle, what relatively bright star will you see next?
c) What makes the star POLARIS different from all other stars in sky of the northern hemisphere?
Please use the information in UNIT TWO to answer these questions and return them to me later this week. Hope you are enjoying this early preview to winter.
Tom

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Mailed October 11, 2006

Greetings:
Sorry to pester you with so many e-mails, but the spaceweather.com website has some pretty exciting news.
You can link directly to spaceweather.com to see the news TODAY about Comet Swan.
I have provided a link to the night sky map for October 12

Notice where the comet will be ... and you will also see better why you are following the handle of the big dipper around to the west. Between the Big Dipper handle and the star from today's quiz will be the Comet ... Comet Swan. You cannot see it with your naked eye, but you can see it with a pair of binoculars ... as a small fuzzy ball. It will NOT look spectacular to your binocular eyes, but it is ALWAYS cool to see a comet.
Go outside after sunset tonight or tomorrow and see if you can find it. It will be in the same general area for the next four nights as it slowly moves westward.
IF YOU DO SEE IT, PLEASE LET ME KNOW
Tom

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