Astronomy picture of the day [Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Atmospheric Imaging 
Assembly (AIA) image at 30.4 nm]

PSci 21 Elementary Astronomy Lab Syllabus - 2018 Fall

Please read carefully.

  • For PSci 21 (Elementary Astronomy) labs:

    ALL remaining PSci 21 labs for Fall 2018 semester
    will meet in the regular lab classrooms (McLane 258 and 264)
    at the regular lab times (5:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.).

    For PSci 21 labs on November 26, 27, and 28, do:

    Lab 10 (Life from Outer Space)

    Bring to all PSci 21 labs:
    PSci 21 labs on December 3, 4, and 5 will be the Lab Final Quiz, covering all labs except for Lab 11.

    PSci 21 labs on December 10, 11, and 12: Lab 11 (Classification of galaxies) will be due. Also, the Lab Final Quiz will be returned and discussed, to prepare for the PSci 21 Final Exam.

  • Please note: All students must register for a lab section, separately from the lecture section.

    Lab objective: PSci 21 laboratory is designed to give students the opportunity to learn and recognize the constellations, deep-sky objects, planets, lunar phases, and stars with the unaided eye and with telescopes. We will also study basic astronomical concepts in labs held in classrooms. We want you to succeed in this course and to have fun learning about the night sky. Some of the topics may be difficult to understand so please feel free to ask questions both in and outside of lab.

    In addition to the activities in the lab manual, students will become familiar with the constellations, asterisms, and bright stars. We will also learn how to use a telescope to view the Moon, the planets, star clusters, gaseous nebulae, and galaxies.

    Attendance: Attendance to all labs is mandatory. You must attend the labs in the lab section in which you are registered: exceptions will be made only by written consent in advance of the instructor of the lab section in which you are registered, and even then, only for compelling reasons (e.g. job interview or illness documented by a physician's note). If you must miss a lab for a compelling reason, the part of the lab grade that lab would have counted will be voided, and the rest of the lab grade will be counted as 100%. If you miss a lab without a compelling reason, or without written consent in advance from the instructor, or if you attend a lab other than the one in which you were registered without prior written consent of the instructor of the lab section in which you are registered, you will receive a zero for the lab. Any student with three or more unexcused absences from lab will receive an F in the entire PSci 21 course, which includes the lecture section.

    Field trips, also called Range Labs Three times this semester, PSci 21 is scheduled be observing the sky at a dark site a half-hour drive from campus called the CSUFresno San Joaquin Experimental Range. There are directions to the Range on the last page of the blue PSci 21 Lab Manual. It is therefore essential for all students to plan their schedules accordingly, at the beginning of the semester. Evenings this semester to set aside for Range labs are: September 17-19 (or September 24-26 in case of bad weather), October 1-3 (or October 8-10 in case of bad weather), and October 29-31 (or November 5-7 in case of bad weather).

    All labs held at the Range during 2018 Fall semester will start at 7:30-8 p.m., regardless of whether you are registered for a 5:30 or 7:30 p.m. lab. Plan to stay for two hours for all labs. All students are responsible for their own transportation to these field trips: the university cannot guarantee it can provide transportation to Range Labs.

    These dates are subject to change due to poor weather. After noon on the days of the labs, before going out to the Range, check the weather report on the instructor's voicemail (at 559-278-8426) or web page (at ), in case there have been any such last-minute changes.

    We do not cancel labs for bad weather. If the weather is bad, we will meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264) at the regular lab times (5:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.).

    If you are ill or an emergency arises beyond your control and you cannot attend lab please contact your lab instructor. Valid absences can be excused, and that part of the grade voided, so that the remainder of the grade will be counted as 100%. Still, even for valid, excused absences, we can't give make-up or advance labs. This is because most labs use equipment (or views of the ever-changing sky) that will only be avaliable for the week they're scheduled to be used.

    All PSci 21 lab instructors discourage students from attending any lab sessions other than the one in which they are registered. We tried this in the past, and we found that it just isn't possible to keep accurate records for classes as large as PSci 21.

    The Department of Physics cooperates with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) to make reasonable accommodations for qualified students with physical, perceptual, or learning disabilities (cf. Americans with Disabilities Act and Section of 504, Rehabilitation Act). Students with disabilities should present their written accommodation request to Professor Ringwald within the first two lab sessions.

    Lab Safety: These astronomy lab sessions necessarily take place after dark, since the object of study is the night sky. If safety becomes a concern, the Campus Police provide an escort program. Radio-equipped, uniformed, trained escort officers will accompany persons to their destinations on campus during hours of darkness. Call 278-2132, or pick up an emergency phone to request an escort officer. Be sure to check their badges, before going anywhere with them. The Campus Police also provide car battery assistance and other services, and can be reached in an emergency by calling 911.

    Assignments: At the end of each night's lab, turn in your completed work for credit. Each lab is worth 20 points, and you will receive full credit only if all work is shown, correct, and complete. If the lab requires calculations, show your work! Also include the correct units: doing otherwise, or not showing your work, will be grounds for points being taken off.

    Sometimes, it may take more than one week to complete the lab assignment. You will still be held responsible for showing the lab instructor your work before you leave each night. If you finish the assignment by the following week, you will be responsible for turning it in for complete credit.

    You are encouraged to work together in groups. However, this must be genuine collaboration: not one person doing all the work, and the others copying. Therefore, do your write-ups separately: identical write-ups are a form of plagiarism. Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated and will be dealt with according to the terms stated in the University Catalog.

    Lab work will only be accepted as paper copies, turned in during lab. Lab work will not be accepted as e-mail, or as paper copies turned in at any time other than during lab. If there is any concern that an absence from class due to a university-sponsored event such as sports, theatre, or ROTC, or a family emergency, or a risk event such as a broken printer, might arise that would hinder any student from handing in assignments during the lab in which the work is due, the instructor recommends completing the assignment early, and turning it in during the lab in which it is due, or directly to the instructor during office hours, at a time earlier than the due date, and even then only after written agreement in advance by both the student and the instructor.

    Quizzes: There will be a quiz at the beginning of most of the labs (see the schedule, below). The quizzes will cover the previous classroom lab (not at the Range) and also the material that we are covering the week of the quiz. Each quiz will be worth 10 points.

    The Lab Final Quiz: On the next-to-last lab, there will be a lab final quiz, worth 40 points. This will be comprehensive, covering all the material covered by all the previous quizzes and labs.

    Grade: The points earned in the lab will be used by the lecture instructors, Professor Ringwald or Professor White, to calculate your final grade in the course. The laboratory counts for 10% of the course grade. Letter grades are not assigned in the laboratory.

    Bring these to every PSci 21 lab: (1) The (lunar blue) PSci 21 lab manual, available in the campus bookstore; (2) The Stars, by H. A. Rey; (3) A clear plastic ruler; (4) A scientific calculator (that has scientific notation, and can calculate logarithms); (5) A flashlight (preferably with a red filter for night vision).

    Be sure to dress warmly, even if the weather does not look cold that night. You may also bring chairs and blankets, but be sure to clean up after yourselves, before you leave.

    TENTATIVE Lab Schedule (updated 2018 October 19). Always read the lab description (in the blue Lab Manual) before lab and be ready for a quiz.

    Week Dates Moon Lab
    1 August 20-22 First Quarter
    (August 18)
    No labs
    2 August 27-29 Full
    (August 26)
    No labs
    3 September 3-5 Last Quarter
    (September 2)
    No labs: Labor Day holiday
    4 September 10-12 New
    (September 9)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264), and do:
    Lab 1, Star Names, Maps, and Constellations.
    5 September 17-19 First Quarter
    (September 16)
    Meet at the Range at 7:30-8 p.m., and do:
    Lab 2, Introduction to Telescopes.
    6 September 24-26 Full
    (September 24)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264), and do:
    Lab 3, The Mystery Constellations
    7 October 1-3 Last Quarter
    (October 2)
    DON'T go to the Range, the weather is POOR.
    Instead, meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264),
    at the regular lab times (5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) and do:
    Lab 5, Spectra: Fingerprinting the Universe.
    8 October 8-10 New
    (October 8)
    Meet at the Range at 7:30-8 p.m., and do:
    Lab 4, Dark-Sky Observing Lab A.
    9 October 15-17 First Quarter
    (October 16)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264), and do:
    Lab 6, The Basics of Optics and Telescopes.
    10 October 22-24 Full
    (October 24)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264), and do:
    Lab 7, The Hunt for Micrometeorites.
    11 October 29-31 Last Quarter
    (October 31)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264), and do:
    Lab 12, How Many Stars are in the Milky Way?
    12 November 5-7 New
    (November 7)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264), and do:
    Lab 9, The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram

    [NOTE TO LAB INSTRUCTORS: Please grade all labs, record the grades, and return the labs to all students during the November 26-28 labs.]
    13 November 12-14 First Quarter
    (Nov 15)
    No labs: Veterans' Day holiday
    14 November 19-21 Full
    (November 11)
    No labs: Thanksgiving break
    15 November 26-28 Last Quarter
    (November 29)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264), and do:
    Lab 10, Life from Outer Space.
    After briefing in the lab classrooms, we will see
    a show at the Downing Planetarium.

    [NOTE TO LAB INSTRUCTORS: Please brief your classes first,
    then bring them to the planetarium
    at 6:15 p.m. (for the 5:30 labs)
    and at 8:15 p.m. (for the 7:30 labs).]
    16 December 3-5 New
    (December 6)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264), and do:
    The Lab Final Quiz, covering all labs except for Lab 11.
    Also: Lab 11, Classification of Galaxies will be assigned, to be due next week.
    17 December 10-12 First Quarter
    (December 15)
    Meet in the lab classrooms (McLane 258 or 264):
    Lab 11, Classification of Galaxies will be due.
    Also: Return and discuss the Lab Final Quiz, to prepare for the Final Exam.

    Always bring to all labs:

    (1) The (lunar blue) PSci 21 Lab Manual,
    (2) The Stars, by H. A. Rey,
    (3) A clear plastic ruler,
    (4) A calculator,
    (5) A flashlight (even for labs in the lab classrooms).

    Driving directions to the Range and a map to the Range
    are given at the end of the (lunar blue) PSci 21 Lab Manual.

    Go to the PSci 21 page

    Go to Professor Ringwald's home page

    Last updated 2018 October 27. Web page by Professor Ringwald (ringwald[at] and replace [at] with @)
    Department of Physics, California State University, Fresno. Please read this disclaimer.