First Observation

This observation is your first of four during this course. Hopefully, you will choose to do this observation when the moon is not up, or at least when it is either a crescent or slightly less than first quarter. The moon's light tends to obscure the light for dimmer stars. As you look at the stars for the first time, even with the aid of the star chart, you will discover that identifying constellations is pretty hard at first. Do the best you can, and please be honest about what you see and do not see. MORE IMPORTANTLY, do this observation as close to the beginning of the term as possible.

Before you do anything else for this exercise, fill in the 2 blanks immediately below this, and then read on.

Your Name:

E-mail Address (Required):

Your assignment is to go outside on a night early in the course and try to identify as many constellations as you can. While it seems easy to ask this, the actual identificaion of constellations is quite a challenge. First, there are no labels or lines up in the sky that might make it easier for you, or some wandering alien spaceship to identify the constellations that surround our planet. Second, many people live in urban areas where the city lights have really "polluted" the night sky for astronomers. In many cities, seeing any star more dim than a second magnitude is impossible. If you have city light pollution, you will need to go someplace to do this observsation. It will make your evening much more enjoyable. Finally, if you live in a rural area where light pollution is significantly less, you might initially have a rough time identifying anything amid the many stars that are visible from a good dark site. This is a good problem, but still a challenge.

Time of observation. Start: Finish:
Location (be specific):

As you look up at the night sky, perhaps for the first time with any sense of purpose, I would like you to use a starchart, and you can get one from the Internet for Any Month. Then try to identify as many constellations as possible. Please make a list of the constellations you find in the sky. Have fun, stay cool, and see as much as possible :) If you are observing during a hot early fall night, remember to bring your bug spray and use it. If you are out in the dead cold of winter, dress warm! Oh, by the way, I am hopeful that you will demonstrate some honesty in these assignments by actually observing for more than a few minutes, or writing later that it was cloudy during every evening you attempted to observe.

Helpful hints for using the star charts:

*****The star charts you get on the SkyMap site will have the east and west directions reversed as you look at the page. But, when you hold the chart up over your heads, with north on the chart pointed to north in the sky, east and west will be oriented properly. Remember, the sky above is not flat like your star chart. To best locate things, curve the paper so it is shaped like the sky above. This will let you see the constellations on the paper as they look in the sky. This is very helpful for things like the Big and Little Dippers.*****

Bring a small flashlight with you to help you see things on the paper while you are outside in the dark night.

Sky Conditions: ie., partly cloudy, great seeing, bad lights, etc.
Type of visual aid (if used): ie., binoculars, telescope, etc.
1) Please make a list of the constellations Found: I expect an honest reply here!

2) Did you find any of the circumpolar constellations, and if so, which ones did you observe: (Circumpolar constellations are those that appear to rotate around Polaris in the north sky. These constellations are visible on any night of the year from Minnesota. They include Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cassiopea)

3) Constellations you tried to find but could not:

4) Other things you saw during this observation like planets, shooting stars, space satellites, aurora, ufos?:

5) Joys and frustrations you felt while outside:

6) What constellation was at your zenith when you were observing?

7) What constellation was near the western horizon?

8) What was the position of the Big Dipper relative to the northern horizon?


***Remember, all of your efforts and filling in of these boxes is moot unless you press the submit button at the bottom of this page.***


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