Star Observation

Ha! Go outside and find something specific when the sky looks like this (above - The red star is Alpha Centauri). Now that would be a challenge, but actually, I want you to do something similar to the first sentence. Better yet, pretend that you eyes are as good as a telescope, and the belt of Orion can be seen like this (below)

But first, take care to fill in the first two blanks below or nothing will come my way for me to properly give you the excellent grade that you will earn for this assignment.

Your Name:

E-mail Address (Required):

At some point in the term, you will go outside and try to study something specific, depending on the season when you are doing the observation. For this assignment to earn full credit, you will need to make an accurate drawing of what you observe and either scan the drawing and send it to my email address at or else mail it to me at Tom Franke/16635 39th Place N./Plymouth, MN/55446. The drawing is an essential part of this lab and must be included in order to receive full credit.

You are being asked to go outside on a clear and hopefully dark night and study a particular "star" as carefully as possible. You WILL NEED binoculars in order to complete this assignment, and NWC can help you with this if you do not have binoculars of your own or a pair that you can borrow from a friend or neighbor. Since I am writing this lab up in as general a manner as possible, you will be choosing from the list of questions below as you respond.

First, you will need to access the webpage where a skymap of the night sky can be found for any month of the year. Go to this page and download the map for the month you are doing this observation. Then you will need to look carefully at the map for that month and choose one of the following as your observational goal, depending on what is visible that month. Here are your targets for study (remember to choose one):

Vega ... the bright star in the constellation Lyra - easy to find in fall and summer

The Orion Nebula ... the sword star in the constellation Orion - very obvious in winter

Mizar ... one of the handle stars in the Big Dipper - visible any day of the year

Andromeda Galaxy ... a fuzzy patch found in the constellation Andromeda - nice to find in fall

Once you have made the choice, go outside with your skymap and locate the object of your study. Draw a picture of the object as you see it with your naked eye. Then use your binoculars (or telescope if you are fortunate enough to have access to one) and draw a second picture of what you see ... being really careful to observe every subtle detail that you can. Mail or email these drawings to me at the addresses listed above. The respond to the questions below

Time of observation. Start: Finish:
Location (be specific): ie. what city and area within that city were you
Sky Conditions:
Type of visual aid (if used):

1) What object did you choose to study?

2) Did you have any difficulty finding it?

Choose the most relevant question and respond to it?

3a) What do you see when you looked closely at Mizar with binoculars?

3b) What do you notice about some of the stars near Vega? What color was Vega?

3c) When you looked closely at the sword of Orion with binoculars, what did you see there? Was that a star? What color was Betelgeuse and what color was Rigel in Orion?

3d) Were you able to find the Andromeda galaxy when you used binoculars? What did it look like through your binoculars?

4) Did you see anything else interesting during this observation?

5) What were your joys and frustrations during this evening observation?

Remember to mail in your drawings and to hit the Submit button below, or all of your work will be for naught.


Remember ... if you do not press the "submit" button, nothing will be sent and therefore received and your efforts will have been in vain. After doing this observation, please go b ack to Getting Your Own Telescope, or return to Introduction to Light and Telescopes Page, the Syllabus, or the Home page.

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