PHYSICS 1081 ``Planetary Astronomy Lab''  Fall 2018

Saturn Image Credits: 1.00
Department: Physics and Astronomy Class Home page (this page!): 
Textbook: none required

Instructor: Dr. Jason Pinkney
Office hours  in 111 Science Annex at  these times: 2-3pm on MW, 3-4pm on MWR.
Email or call 419-772-2740.
Instructor's Home page:

Class time:  Monday ~3:00 PM (brief meetings); Tuesday evenings (with Wednesday and Thursday raindates) 8:30-9:45 pm (outdoor labs).
Class place:  Science Annex 108A (brief meetings); ONU Observatory (outdoor labs).

Observatory Phone: 419-772-4028


     (The place for any additions.)


This is the lab associated with the course PHYS 1051, Planetary Astronomy. There is only 1 section, since only astronomy minors and physics majors with astronomy concentration need to take this lab. You will have an informational meeting with me (the instructor) on the first or second week where you will be assigned your first lab.  

Labs consist of indoor labs (mostly computer-based) and outdoor labs.   The outdoor labs require a mostly clear sky and will be postponed in the case of bad weather. The indoor labs will primarily be from the Virtual Astronomy Labs software which is loaded on various computers in the Physics Dept and the Observatory. We will do the outdoor labs together at the Observatory, while the indoor labs are done independently either at the Observatory, in the Astronomy Lab (SA 108A), or in the Physics Lounge (SA 116).   We will set aside 2 nights a week for outdoor labs, but we won't go out if cloudy weather is in the forecast. Thus, on average, we will end up using 1 (or less) night per week. You can walk to the observatory, or arrange with me a ride from the Physics Department. Let me know your preference.

Text: None.

Course Description:
Astronomy labs requiring math at the algebra level. These labs will reinforce the material presented in class (PHY 1051), including: the celestial sphere, coordinate systems, motions of the planets, planetary surface features, lunar surface features, moons of planets, and small bodies of the solar system.



Tests Quizzes and telescope proficiency tests may be given. 10%
Labs Labs. 90%


Your final letter grade is calculated roughly as follows:


I will not grade any "harder" than the above. 

Course Policies

Attendance  is essential for labs.  One short period per week for the daytime meeting and one night a week is all that is expected.   An extra night is reserved to make up for cloudy nights, but some weeks will be completely clouded out. (This is one reason why the Outdoor labs are allotted 2 weeks on the schedule.)
Most of the lab work will be computer-based labs which are done outside of class time.

Quizzes & Tests may be given occasionally.  They will consist of multiple choice/short answer questions.

Telescope Certification -> Final Quiz We will probably not have time to certify everyone to use the telescopes. However, we will still have the "sky quiz" portion of certification. This may consist of an oral exam component (called "sky quiz" in the schedule) in which you answer questions about the night sky. But possibly it will be done as a written Final Quiz. You should be able to point out at least 7 constellations, and the 5 brightest objects (stars or planets) visible.  Be able to find the north celestial pole, the zenith, and the celestial equator.  If we don't get a clear night during the last week, I will test you using a planetarium program. "Telescope Certification" requires one to set up a telescope and acquire targets in the telescope.

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

Schedule (tentative):
Week of Indoor Lab (if cloudy) Outdoor lab   (if clear)
W1 (8/20/18) We choose meeting times.  Provide syllabus.
Choose meeting time.
W2 (8/27/18) "Observing the planets"   Orientation/"Observing the planets"
(9/3/18) LABOR DAY
W3 (short)
"Observing the planets" "Observing the planets"
W4 (9/10/18)
"Observing the ...", VAL 6 "Observing the planets"
VAL 6 ("Latitude, Axial Tilt, ...")
"Observing the planets"
W6 VAL 9 ("Orbital Motion of a Planet")
"Angles in the Sky"
VAL 9 (Use Pinkney's program)
"Angles in the Sky"
Oct 8-9

W8 (short) VAL 7 (Lunar motion) "Satellite Predictions"
W9 VAL 7 (Lunar motion)
"Satellite Predictions"
W10 VAL 10 "Kepler's Laws"
"Lunar Surface Features"
W11 VAL 10 "Lunar Surface Features"
W12 VAL 11
Imaging Comets/Asteroids
W13 Meteorite identification Imaging Comets/Asteroids
W14 Sky quiz
Finishing remaining labs
W15 Sky quiz.

W16 12/15-19
(Finals week) (Finals week)

  Cool astronomy Links Pinkney's Homepage The ONU Physics Homepage