An Introduction to the Universe

Astronomy 30 Laboratory

Chabot College, Spring 2019

Turning in Material

 Contacting Me 
 Course Goals

 Absences & Late Work

 HST image of Saturn

 Grading Policy

 Lab Review Examples

Course Calendar

 Lab Reviews

Contacting Me!

 Instructor: Scott Hildreth   email:

Office Hours are held in my office #2013 in building 2000, in the Planetarium (1902)
or the Physics study area or labs (1806/1808/1810)

My On-campus Office Hours for Spring 2019:

Monday/Wednesday  1:00 - 2:00 PM 
Friday: Noon - 1:30 PM during Lab setup in 1810
Monday 5:30 - 6:30 PM before Astro Lab in 1810
Tuesday/Thursday 3:00 - 4:00 PM in the planetarium

Text: Please consider staying in touch with me and our class by using the free, secure REMIND app..  Instructions to join are online.

You can also make an appointment to see me at another time that fits your schedule. If you ever come by and miss me, please leave a note with your name, phone number, and the best time to reach you, and I will call you back. I will check email multiple times every day, and I recommend this as the best way to reach me! However, you MUST include a clear SUBJECT message in your email, and your name, to ensure that your email will not be treated as "SPAM" and automatically deleted. I will check my voicemail messages often, but not daily. If you have an urgent need, and cannot get to email, leave me a voicemail message but do not expect an answer back the same day.

Prerequisite: Astronomy 10 or 20, which may be taken concurrently, or their equivalent from another college

Required Text: Hildreth & Smith, Practical Astronomy Labs

Additional Required Equipment: Edmund Scientific Star & Planet Locator (or equivalent); a calculator with scientific notation (exponents); colored pens or pencils.

Course Goals

This 1-unit lab is designed to help you understand astronomy, learn how to use telescopes, make scientific observations, and enjoy the stars and constellations. We will be learning about astronomical calculations, and experimental techniques; in addition, we will have an opportunity to use the telescopes to observe celestial bodies. The lab has proven to be very beneficial to students taking it concurrently with Astronomy 10 or 20, as many of the concepts discussed in lecture will be revisited with these hands-on lab activities. Astronomy 30 satisfies the general education science laboratory requirement. Our Course Learning Outcomes include:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the difference between precision and accuracy through a lab report or capstone survey
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the nature of angular size and resolution with telescopes.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the processes of science typical to astronomical observation and/or astronomical computer simulation.

Course Description:

Astronomy 30 is a laboratory class, not lecture; I will not spend a great deal of time reviewing concepts from the lecture classes. The exercises you will work on require patience, careful measurement, efficient group work, and active collaboration with lab partners. Science today is often done by groups of people working together, sharing data and hypotheses as they search for order in the universe. I strongly encourage you to work with others - the class is not graded on a curve, and you aren't competing with your classmates.

Participation & Lab Review Requirements:

To receive credit for the labs you must:

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Actively participate in gathering data and answering questions.
  3. Fill out your own data sheets for the labs.
  4. Turn in your own data sheets by the beginning of the next class period to be checked and returned.
  5. Also turn in a short, 2-3 paragraph review of the activity, along with the names of all group members, and the date and title of the assignment using the cover sheet template provided.

All students are responsible for complying with the Standards of Student Conduct and all College and District regulations. Please see the District's website for more information: .



Grading & Attendance/Participation Policy

Labs assignments will be graded on a 30-point scale that includes the results of the exercise captured on data sheets from the lab manual (15 points), and your individual lab summary reviews (15+ points, described below), as well as your attendance & active participation in the activity. 

:Lab Assignment


Standards & Factors that Affect Your Grade


Excellent work ("A")

On-time attendance and active participation. Data & review turned in on time, with date & group members listed. All questions answered correctly, and summary reviews are thorough, thoughtful, and useful.


Good Work ("B")

On-time attendance and active participation. Data & review turned in on time, with date & group members listed. All questions answered, mostly correct, and/or the summary review is OK. A few data errors.

 Fair Work ("C")

Late attendance or inactive participation. Or, data or review late/missing/incomplete. Most questions answered, but some blanks are left, or some data errors.


 Barely Passing Work ("D")

Late attendance or inactive participation. Data or review late/missing/incomplete. Some questions answered, but blanks are left, or lots of data errors.

Course Grades

On-time attendance and active participation throughout the lab activities is expected; repeated late arrival will be treated as absences, as will leaving the lab early.  Missed classes without advance notice and conversation with me cannot be made up.  Copying of work missed from other lab students will not be accepted.

  Course Grade


Average score of 25+ including no more than one lab exercise missed.


Average score between 20 and 25, including no more than two lab exercises missed.



Average score between 15 and 20; including no more than three lab exercises missed.



Average score between 10 and 15,
including no more than three lab exercises missed.

Not Passing
Average score lower than 10 OR more than 3 lab exercises missed.

Important Note

Please note that if you miss more than 3 labs, there is no way to pass the class.  Earning credit for the laboratory course requires you to be present and participate.  You cannot miss class, or come in late, or leave early, and hope to make up work, as labs typically require that you work with other students. 

You can record your lab activity grades on the form in the front of the lab manual; please try to keep careful track of what assignments you have turned in, when you submitted them, who you worked with, and what scores you received.

Lab Summary Reviews

In addition to the completed data sheets from our lab manual, you are expected to turn in a brief review of the activity.  I do not want a formal lab "write-up". Instead, I need to understand whether your time was well spent, and even more, that you are learning about how science works -which is the ultimate goal of the class. Your reviews should address the following questions; missing some of these will reduce your overall lab grade

1. What was the title of the lab; on what date did you do the work, and who did you work with? 

2. What did you find to be your most significant result(s)?
In some labs, you can discuss whether your results were close to what was expected, and/or how hard it was for you to reach those results.  In other labs, you can discuss whether your results were close (or far from!) what others obtained.  Analyze the work you did, and comment on when you  were correct, and why, and when you weren't, and why.  This isn't a question about whether you liked the activity or not, but rather about whether you obtained results that supported any hypotheses you might have had.

3. What piece(s) of the scientific method listed below was/were involved in the activity you did this week?  Which piece(s) was/were the most important?  Why?

Each lab has a major topic or concept from astronomy that will serve as the primary goal for the activity. But every lab also is intended to illustrate how science works. In general, the process of science involves:

  1. Observation (of phenomena, and of patterns in data)
  2. Analysis & Research of the observations, including discussion with peers and investigating prior datasets and hypotheses.
  3. Development of a Hypothesis that can be tested and established to be true or false.
  4. Development of an Experiment to test the Hypothesis
  5. Analyzing Data from the Experiment; identifying explanations and influences.
  6. Reporting of Data to Peers for independent review
  7. Publishing Results for review by others.

As you think about the activity each week, answer question #3 in at least one more paragraph.  You can also suggest improvements to the lab or share what you might do differently to improve your results.

Note: Part 3 of the review is the most important, and worth the most in terms of credit.  Don't neglect this!

Please don't tell me what you did step by step, nor restate the goals of the lab, in the review!  I know what the activity was, and its goals.  In addition to showing me that you are learning about science, the summaries are meant to help me improve the labs for future classes by incorporating your suggestions and criticisms. Feel free to be honest. You won't hurt my feelings (much!) by telling me you had trouble or did not enjoy an activity. But telling me how to make it so that you would enjoy it will certainly earn you a better score for the review and the lab.

Remember that the review is part of your lab report each week.  If the review is missing, you can turn in the lab data sheets alone, but you will receive a lower score for the activity. 

A template for your review is available and is linked in our Canvas course.

Astronomy 30 Lab Review Examples

To give you a better idea of the kind of reviews I am looking for, here are two examples:

A Good Review....

1. Date & Title:

    3/25/16 Simple Telescope Lab

    Lab Partners: Larry, Jian, Hidenari, Amy

  Looking at your data sheets from the exercises you did, summarize in a sentence or two what you found to be your most significant result.

"Our results with magnification were close to the expected values based on the ratio of distances. I would have liked to know what others got in this step. Overall I found this activity to be much more difficult than I had anticipated, but by the end, things were starting to make much more sense. What I liked best was going outside with the telescopes, and learning how to use the telescope controls to move around and center the stars.  What was most difficult for me was the math ratios; I need to go more slowly, and have more examples in the notebook. But my group really helped, and two of my partners were great in explaining how they got the angular sizes. I don't think I can do a new problem, but I think I see how to set it up.

3. What piece(s) of the scientific method listed above was/were involved in the activity you did this week?  Which piece(s) was/were the most important?  Why?

"This lab definitely involved lots of  experimentation (testing the formula for magnification and whether images are upside down), and in some cases making hypotheses (about what the image would look like). We made observations with the telescopes, and analyzed the measurements to determine the magnification values.  We also published the magnification results to the class at the end, for peer review, and discussed the findings and hypothesized why people had different values for the same lenses.  The most important elements of science in this lab seemed to be the observations, analysis, and discussion of peer reviewed results. Without that discussion we would not have known whether we were correct.

The significant thing this lab taught me about science was the need for mathematical abilities (in the research stage) and patience (in the outside experiment stage). It was hard to locate some of the stars and frustrating that we didn't know them as well as we would like.


And a not so useful review...

"I really liked tonight's activity. We used the telescopes to measure how much the star's shifted, and timed the star's motions. Then we used the math formulas to figure out the telescope field. My lab partners and I felt like we did everything right, and our numbers came out really good. I'd like to do more outside with the telescope."

Notice that the first review touched on all of the desired questions, did not simply repeat what the lab title and goal was, and showed that the author thought about the activity, and even suggested improvements. And it included the date, title, and group members. The second review did not include date, title, and participants, nor did it address the questions, and did not help me to see whether the author really recognized the process of science as it related to the activity.

Absences & Late Work

You must be present and actively participating in a lab to get credit for the activity. If you are late to lab more than 15 minutes, your credit for the activity may be reduced; if you are late by more than 30 minutes, you'll be considered absent, and will not be able to complete the lab - and possibly not be able to make it up.  If you are consistently late, you will be considered absent and may be dropped, but at a minimum your class grade will be reduced as much as two entire grade points. And if you leave lab early, without checking with me, your grade for that activity may also be reduced.

You need to attend labs, and participate in the labs, to pass the class.  Just showing up, and copying work from classmates will not earn you a passing grade.

You are responsible for turning in your lab reports no later than one week after we finish the lab. At a minimum, the written lab reviews can be submitted online in Canvas, or left under my office door (2013), by the start of class.  Data sheets from the previous week's activity also may be scanned and submitted on Canvas, or left under my office door, and then physicallly turned in at the next class meeting.  Late work not submitted by the next class meeting will receive a reduced score (at best a "20", and possibly lower if there are errors or omissions). 

 If you are going to miss a lab, or know you'll have to be late, please notify me ahead of time, and I will see if you might be able do the work during another lab class; depending upon the weather and schedule, those classes may not be working on the same exercise that we would. Please check with me first.  If you are forced to miss a class, it may be possible to do a makeup activity, but only if you contact me in advance.  Please note that for some activities there will not be any way to perform a makeup, and you will take a zero for that lab activity. 

Doing Well in the Course

Please note that just getting the "right" answers on the lab is not sufficient for a good grade. I expect you to get all of the answers correct by talking with your partners, asking questions in the lab of me and others, and collaborating with other groups. In addition to answering the questions, you need to critically analyze your work and the activity itself, to obtain excellent grades on the entire lab. To help you, remember that:

Please Dress Warmly! We will be outside on clear nights for up to two hours, so wear warm socks, gloves, and a hat to keep you comfortable!

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SH - 1/19

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