The Starry, Starry Night
Welcome to backyard Astronomy, and the opportunity to learn more about what
is up there. I am hopeful that you have enrolled in this course first to gain
an appreciation of the night sky, and before we look into how things work, it
is important to learn where things are and how they move.
This unit is divided up into several lessons:
If you have not already done so, please go back and
take the Introductory Tour of the Universe
to get a sense of what is out there. After you have taken
the tour, then proceed to the Units of
Measurement. This page will give you a better understanding of the types
of distances and units of measurement you will use to describe the Universe.
By the time you have concluded this unit, you should be able to recognize
major constellations and stars in the northern sky, know how to use a simple
celestial coordinate system to write down locations of celestial objects, and
be able to explain how things move in the sky as they do.
You are expected to take two days to work through this section of the course
and follow the suggested sequence listed above. Click on the Celestial Objects
icon and begin your study. At the end of each document is a link to the next.
Please follow the three documents to their conclusion. When you have completed
this reading, then you are ready for your first outdoor observation. Click on
Observation to discover what your assignment is for your first night of
Astronomy observing and what you are expected to turn in to the teacher.
Since this course is purposing to develop in you an appreciation for the night
sky, I am asking you to describe some of the discoveries which you might make
during the night observations as well as your joys and frustrations you may
experience. These comments are as important as the actual observing so please
take the time to write them down on the assignment sheet.
Important Observing Tips To Be Used Throughout The Course
***I cannot stress this enough. In Minnesota, where this course is centered,
the night weather is incredibly fickle. You will NEVER be in a position when
you can plan for an evening of observing according to YOUR schedule. You have
to look outside when it is clear and take advantage of any opportunity you can
when it appears. Even looking at the morning paper cannot guarantee a clear
night for you. You can go to the local Nexrad site and look at the current satellite
imagery to see if the nights holds the possibility of being clear.
If the sky is clear at sunset, go out and do some observing. If the sky was
cloudy during the day but breaks up in late afternoon, then the chances of a
clear night are pretty good. If you see wispy clouds toward the western horizon
at sunset, those typically will dissipate and give you a clear night. The best
time to do observing on an annual basis is during winter because the sky is
cold from earth's surface to the upper altitudes. In the summer, the rising
heat from the ground causes the sky to shimmer and often blurs your view.
If you have any binoculars, they will help you see things which are more dim,
but will reduce your field of view and now allow you to see any constellations
in their entirety except for the Pleiades. Still, they will help you see things
within a constellation. If you do not have a steady hand, lie down on your back
and prop your elbows on your chest for greater stability ... and stop breathing
for the next hour or so.***
You are asked to go first to Units
of Measurements, and then on to Celestial
Objects of the Universe. I know that I will not be there to hear you exclaim,
"Ooooh," or "Aaaah," but the tour is a great time to make
those noises. If you are not ready to make the jump into Hyperspace because
your engines are not charged, take a break and stay here in the Introduction
to the Starry Sky. You can always return
to the Syllabus or to the
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