Cuesta College :: Astronomy 210L :: Fall 2017
Calendar Policies Projects Grades

Preview online presentation (*.blog)

Pre-lab assignment 1 (*.html) 
     Due one hour before start of this lab

Current events study links: 
     Today's sunrise time, sunset time, and moon phase (*.html)
     NASA (*.html), (*.html)
     Hubble Space Telescope (*.html)
           (Reading emphasis is on what was discovered, and/or how it was discovered.)

Laboratory 1 
"Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that's been our unifying cry, 'More light.'  Sunlight.  Torchlight.  Candlelight.  Neon, incandescent lights that banish the darkness from our caves to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators.  Big floods for the night games at Soldiers Field.  Little tiny flashlights for those books we read under the covers when we're supposed to be asleep.  Light is more than watts and footcandles.  Light is metaphor.  Light is knowledge, light is life, light is light."
     --Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure 
       (Falahey/Austin Street Productions (1993).

     Cuesta ThinkPad laptops (wireless networking, internet browser)
          (appropriate, responsible in-class use of personal laptops allowed)
     Summer Triangle light pollution star charts
     "Summer Triangle Stars, Ranked by Apparent Magnitude" table (*.pdf)
     "Number of Celestial Sphere Stars versus Limiting Magnitude" graph (*.pdf)
     meter sticks (1 m)
Current Events Quiz
(First 10 minutes of laboratory.)

Limiting Magnitude (*.blog)

Big Idea
     Star brightnesses in the night sky are quantified by (apparent) magnitudes; man-made (and moon) light pollution limits the stars that can be seen with the naked eye.  

     Students will conduct a series of inquiries about the magnitudes of stars using printed-out simulations of key asterisms, and be able to locate these asterisms using internet simulations and in the night sky for potential observations.  

Computer Setup
Access the Heavens Above website, set for your campus, by clicking on the appropriate link below, and then select "Astronomy > Interactive Sky Chart":
     *Bowen Observatory, San Luis Obispo campus (*.html)
     *Telescope shelter, North County campus (*.html)

You should now see a star chart for the current time/date, where north is at the top, and west is to the right.

(Record your lab partners' names on your worksheet.)
1. Exploration
      The "Summer Triangle" is not a true constellation, but an asterism made up of the three brightest stars (Altair, Deneb, and Vega) from the constellations Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra.  You will determine when the Summer Triangle will be highest overhead on the next available moon-less night.  Then you will simulate counting the visible stars on and inside the Summer Triangle, in order to determine the limiting magnitude, and the total number of visible stars in the sky.  

  1. Advance the time such that the Summer Triangle is highest overhead tonight. If the sun and/or moon is visible anywhere in the sky, you will need to advance the date and adjust the time to find a moon-less date/time later this semester, within the next month or so when the Summer Triangle is highest overhead at night. Record the following date/time below: Available moon-less night within next month or so: __________. Summer Triangle highest overhead time (to within +/- 10 min): __________.
  2. Use a meter stick to space yourself at least 1.0 meter away from charts showing the Summer Triangle under various conditions (dark sky, suburban sky, and urban sky). Count the number of stars visible on or within the Summer Triangle (include the "corner stars"). Do this individually first, then determine the average result in your group for each viewing condition. Dark sky average count: __________. Suburban sky average count: __________. Urban sky average count: __________.
  3. Refer to the "Summer Triangle Stars, Ranked by Apparent Magnitude" table (*.pdf), which lists the Summer Triangle stars, ranked from brightest to dimmest, along with the value of their apparent magnitude, denoted by m. List the names of Summer Triangle stars (if any) that are brighter than Polaris (the "North Star," a +2.00 magnitude star). Stars brighter than Polaris in the Summer Triangle (if any): __________.
  4. The limiting magnitude corresponds to the dimmest star that can be seen under given viewing conditions. Using the "Summer Triangle Stars, Ranked by Apparent Magnitude" table (*.pdf), determine the average limiting magnitude value for your group for each viewing condition. Dark sky limiting magnitude: __________. Suburban sky limiting magnitude: __________. Urban sky limiting magnitude: __________.
  5. Refer to the "Number of Celestial Sphere Stars versus Limiting Magnitude" graph (*.pdf), which allows you to look up the total number N of visible stars in the entire celestial sphere, given a limiting magnitude from +1.00 to +6.00. (Divide N by two to get the number of visible stars in the sky, as it is only possible to see half of the entire celestial sphere at any given time.) From your limiting magnitudes in (d), use this graph to determine the total number of visible stars in the sky for each viewing condition. Dark sky visible stars: __________. Suburban sky visible stars: __________. Urban sky visible stars: __________.
  6. What generalization statements, in a complete sentences, can you make about (1) how the limiting magnitude changes with respect to light pollution; and (2) how the number of visible stars in the sky changes with respect to light pollution? Generalization statements: __________.
Each person in your group should summarize their own Exploration answers, to be turned in today and selected randomly to be graded for their group(*). 2. Does Evidence Match a Given Conclusion? Consider the following claim:
"In the center of a city, where the naked-eye limiting magnitude due to extreme amounts of light pollution can be [+4], as few as 200 to 500 stars are visible [in the sky]." --
Would you agree or disagree with this generalization based on the methods/evidence used in the previous task? Explain your reasoning and provide specific evidence from data to support your reasoning(*). 3. What Conclusions Can You Draw From This Evidence? Due to campus streetlights, and from the neighboring Camp San Luis Obispo and the California Men's Colony, the Bowen Observatory on the roof of Building 2400 on the San Luis Obispo campus experiences a certain amount of light pollution. What conclusions and generalizations can you make from data collected by Cuesta College Astronomy 210L students in spring 2006-2010 in terms of "Does the Bowen Observatory experience light pollution comparable to other suburban areas in San Luis Obispo county?"
Location:Summer Triangle stars:
Poly Canyon31, 31
Base of Bishop's Peak74
Tank Farm Road30
Avila Beach Road86
Los Osos40
Paso Robles61, 26, 79
Sand Spit Beach, Montaña del Oro    36
Highway 4176, 45
Bowen Observatory20, 48, 9, 18, 17, 10, 50, 12
Explain your reasoning and provide specific evidence to support your reasoning(*). 4. What Evidence Do You Need to Pursue? Describe precisely what evidence you would need to collect in order to answer the research question of, "Is there more or less light pollution at the star party location on the North County campus (at the Telescope Shelter) than at the Bowen Observatory on the San Luis Obispo campus (Building 2400)?" You do not need to actually complete the steps in the procedure you are writing. Create a detailed, step-by-step description of evidence that needs to be collected and a complete explanation of how this could be done--not just "Drive to each location and count stars," but exactly what would someone need to do, step-by-step, to accomplish this. You might include a table and sketches--the goal is to be precise and detailed enough that someone else could follow your procedure(*). (Note: be sure to specify a moon-less date/time at least one week from today that these observations can be made.) Write up your procedure on whiteboards(*), to be worked on and presented as a group. Preparation/Reflection Points 1.0 = Pre-lab reading assignment 1.0 = Current events quiz 1.0 = Post-lab reflection assignment Group Work Points(*) Documentation (Tasks 1-3, graded from randomly selected group member) 2.0 = exploration complete and reasoning correct 1.5 = minor problem with exploration or reasoning 1.0 = minor problems with both exploration and reasoning 0.5 = problematic exploration and reasoning 2.0 = Poster/presentation (task 4) (Graded for completion this week) (Backwards Folded Scaffolding framework adapted from: Tim Slater, Stephanie Slater, Daniel J. Lyons, Engaging in Astronomical Inquiry, W.H. Freeman & Company, New York (2010).)

Post-lab assignment 1 (*.html)
     Due one hour before start of next lab
Go to next lab's weblink:
     Preview online presentation 
     Complete online pre-lab assignment
     Read current events study guide links for upcoming quiz