**Syllabus for the observational astronomy portion**

**of**** the course**

**Instructor:** Horace Smith

3272 BPS

517-388-5615

smith@pa.msu.edu

**Time**: T 8:00-9:50 PM
(observational). Observing opportunities will also be available at other times
during the semester.

**Location**: 1420 BPS

**Office hours** (Horace Smith):

M:
2:30-3:30pm; T,Th: 2:30pm - 3:30pm, or by appointment,
in Prof. Smith’s office (3272 BPS).

**Observations**

This
part of AST 208 is an introduction to making, reducing, and understanding
astronomical observations. We will also discuss how to use basic astronomical
web resources, such as the Astrophysics Data System
and SIMBAD.

The
observational part of this course is nominally scheduled for Tuesday
evenings. In practice, this part of the
course will require observations made on other days of the week as well. For example, when we observe at the campus
24-inch telescope, we will break the class into smaller groups and take
advantage of such clear nights as are available. However, at least for the first part of the
semester, we will meet as a class at the regularly scheduled Tuesday times. The
observing weather is frequently poor for the first half of the spring semester,
but we can hope for improvement in the second half. Work with computer simulations of observations
can help us out if the weather remains particularly difficult.

**Topics to be covered
in the observational part of the course**

1.
Naked eye astronomy

2.
Web tools

3.
Motions in the sky

4.
Time

5.
Coordinate systems

6.
Magnitude systems

7.
Telescopes

8.
Astronomical Instruments

9.
Photometry

10.
Astrometry

11.
Astronomical surveys

12.
Discovering exoplanets

**Observing Projects**

Exactly
how many observing projects we get through will depend somewhat on how many
clear nights we get. If we get poor
weather, we may have to substitute more computer work for work with the actual
sky. Here are some projects we hope to
complete:

1.
Identifying the constellations (naked eye and computer)

2.
Calculating the synodic and sidereal periods of the moon (naked eye)

3.
Understanding celestial motions (computer)

4.
Estimating apparent magnitudes and angular distances (naked eye)

5.
Obtaining a CCD image of a celestial object (campus observatory)

6.
Determining the distance to an asteroid (campus observatory)

7.
Determining the distance and age of a star cluster (campus observatory)

8.
Determining the periods of variable stars (computer)

9.
Measuring the orbital periods of exoplanets (computer)

**Grading**

40%
of the final course grade will be based upon the observational part of the
course. Besides observing projects and
homeworks, we will have at least two quizzes.
A portion of the final exam will also be based upon the observational
astronomy material.