PHYSICS 1091 ``Stars and Galaxies Lab''  Spring 2022

CRN: 31899
Credits: 1.00
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Class Home page:  (this page!)

Instructor: Dr. Jason Pinkney
Office Hours in 111 Science Annex at 10 am Tues, 1-3 pm W, and 10 am - noon on Thu.
Email or call 419-772-2740.
Observatory Phone: 419-772-4028
Instructor's Home page:

Class time and place: 
     Weekly meeting at 108A Sci Annex (Astro Lab): Wednesday 3:00 pm.
     Default observing time: Mon, about 8:30-9:45 pm (will shift later as seasons change).
     Backup observing: Wed, about 8:30-9:45 pm.
We will try to observe once per week, but clouds inevitably interfere.
We use the Weekly meeting to assign new indoor and outdoor labs, turn in labs, and go over labs. (Every other Wednesday, the Astronomy Club meets at 9 pm, so Wednesday will not always work as a backup.)


     (The place for any additions.)

Lab on Proper Motion.
PowerPoint file to insert CCD images into. (Or sketch on.)
Canon image of Rosette (random orient.)
Canon image of M66 (random orient.)
Canon image of M66 (random orient.)
Canon image of Horsehead (random orient.)
Canon image of Horsehead (random orient.)
Canon image of NGC 2024 (Flame Neb. random orient.)
Canon image of NGC 2024 (Flame Neb. random orient.)
Canon image of Castor (random orient.)
Canon image of Castor (random orient.)

Canon image of NGC 1502 (N up)
Canon image of M67 (N up)
Canon image of M3 (N up)
Canon image of 3C 273 (N up)


This is the lab associated with introductory astronomy course Physics 1061, "Stars and Galaxies". There is only 1 section, since only astronomy minors (or physics majors with astronomy concentrations) really have to take this lab. You will have an informational meeting with me on the second week where you will be assigned your first lab.

Textbook and Notebook: No textbook is required. (Handouts will be provided for some labs while others will be computer-based.) However, you should have a notebook for the lab. Use it to record notes on our weekly meetings, and to write out a description of the computer-based labs.

Course Description:
Astronomy labs requiring math at the algebra level. These labs will reinforce the material presented in the Stars and Galaxies class (PHYS 1061), including: the celestial sphere, coordinate systems, proper motions of stars, the HR Diagram, Cepheid stars, Galaxy rotation and the Hubble Law. The course combines indoor, computer based labs with observing sessions at the ONU Observatory. The outdoor sessions intend to give you practice in finding your way in the night sky, and also give you experience in using telescopes and CCD detectors for imaging.

Here is a link to the ONU Observatory web site (including maps):


Telescope & sky quiz Telescope & sky quiz 5%
Labs Indoor and outdoor labs (see schedule) 95%

Your final letter grade is calculated roughly as follows:


I will not grade any "harder" than the above. 
Grading is based primarily on completion of the required indoor and outdoor labs. The labs are worth between 5 and 20 points, depending on how much work is required to complete them. A 1-week indoor lab is worth about the same as a 1-week outdoor lab. Most labs will be graded with a "quality control" mindset in which I ask you to redo parts in order to get full points. Some may just be returned with deductions for missed steps or doing things wrong. I like to see thoroughly done labs.

Course Policies

Attendance  is essential for the night time lab sessions. It is nearly impossible to "make up" a data gathering session since good observing conditions are so rare. The Monday meeting is also important to intend, but you may be able to obtain the information by communicating with me (by email or in a special meeting). Let me know as soon as possible when you know you will have to miss a lab.

Calculators. I encourage you to have a calculator in this lab.

Notebooks . You need a notebook for this lab. Preferably one which allows you to remove paper without frills.

Schedule (tentative):
Week of Indoor Lab (if cloudy) Outdoor lab   (if clear)
W1 (1/18) I choose a meeting time.  Provide syllabus.
Choose meeting time.
W2 "Plan an observing run."    (Use field guides,  planetarium programs, celestial globe, star locators to choose objects.)
Telescope intro.  Using star atlases; Messier & Caldwell catalogs.  
"Plan an observing run"
Creating & using finder charts
VAL Unit 14/19*. Stellar Parallax
Image a high-PM star (B&W CCD)
W5 (2/16)
VAL Unit 15/20. Proper Motion of Stars
Image a high-PM star
VAL Unit 17/22. Visual Binary Stars
"Observ Run" objects
W7 (3/2)
VAL Unit 21/26. HR Diagram "Observ Run" objects
W8 (3/9)
VAL Unit 21/26. HR Diagram Imaging star clusters (DSLR)
W9 (3/16)
VAL Unit 19/24. Cepheid Variable Stars Imaging star clusters (DSLR)
VAL Unit 19/24. Cepheid Variable Stars Imaging nebulae (color CCD).
Distribution of Mass in a Galaxy (VAL Unit 25/30) CCD imaging of galaxies
Distribution of Mass in a Galaxy (VAL Unit 25/30) CCD imaging of galaxies.
Galactic Speeds and Hubble's Law (VAL Unit 23/28) Supernovae & SN remnants .
Galactic Speeds and Hubble's Law (VAL Unit 23/28) Certification: telescope practice
Certification: sky quiz (done on computer)
Certification: telescope set up.

(Finals week) Finish certification if not done. Finish Certification if not done.

* First unit number is for Ver. 2, second unit number is for Ver. 3.

Telescope Certification and Sky Quiz:  You can be "certified" to operate our goto telescopes. First, you need to understand how coordinate systems work (RA and Declination, Alt and Azimuth, NCP, celestial equator, ecliptic). Then you need to know the basics of operating the goto telescopes (currently on Celestron CGPro mounts). You should be able to start up the telescope, track down objects that are too faint to see with the naked eye, and then safely shut down the telescope. The Sky Quiz will also require you to identify constellations (at least 7) and bright stars and planets (at least 5). If we can't get nights during the last 2-3 weeks, this may be dropped as a requirement.

Doing indoor labs: the indoor labs are usually computer-based.  Therefore, you will have the option to work on your lab at any time.  You will be shown the 3-4 computers that have "Virtual Astronomy Labs" installed on the first meeting. I will also try to give you important astronomical background and context for each VAL lab. Your completed lab should include: 1) tables of data (with units and clear column headings), 2) Your name and date, 3) answers to all questions posed in the VAL lab, 4) answers to any other question posed by your instructor, 5) graphs of data, if important for answering the questions. I encourage you to use Excel or Libreoffice to create your data tables and graphs.
Obtain a key from Cyndy Harris or Megan Morris in the STM office on the 1st floor of Meyer (Me 165).

Doing Outdoor labs: You will typically receive a worksheet during the Monday meeting or at the nighttime session. Do your best to neatly fill these out. (It's not easy in the cold and dark.) Use a clipboard and clip-on light stored near the observatory's entrance. You may need to take the sheet home in order to complete the questions and neaten things up. For some labs, I will probably need to provide you with hardcopies of images/data we take at the observatory. You can staple these to your final lab. I also hope to take you out when weather conditions are good.  In general, if the weather is good (<20% cloud cover, >20 deg F) we will go out.

First Lab (weeks 1-3):  We will start with "Planning an Observing Run", a lab designed to introduce you to star maps (including field guides and planetarium programs). You will use field guides or other star maps with labelled objects to find interesting an interesting class of objects to observe with a small telescope.  Choose a theme, like "globular clusters". You will then write out a detailed schedule as if you will be observing your objects for a 4 hour period during the second month of the semester. In fact, we will allot at least 10 minutes to just one of your objects. The observation will most likely be a CCD or digital camera observation, but could also involve an eyepiece viewing. You must be sure that your object will be accessible at the scheduled time!

Other Mandatory Syllabus Information:

  Disability services

  Academic Honesty (Append. F, p. 97)

  Title IX

  Cool astronomy Links Pinkney's Homepage The ONU Physics Homepage