People looking at the sky

ASTR 112: General Astronomy Laboratory, Spring 2018 Section 1153

Grossmont College, Department of Physics & Astronomy

Instructor: Dr. Philip Blanco
Phone: (619) 644-7312.

Meetings in Laboratory 34-104, Wednesdays 6:30-9:20pm.

Course webpage:

Office hours: Mon/Wed 2-4:30pm, or by appointment. Please let me know when you are coming, to avoid conflicts with students in other classes.

Tutoring in Physics Computer Room 34-108: - a schedule will be posted inside the room.

News and Links:

Week 17 lab and EXAM 3: Exam 3 will be on: Surface gravity, Density, Moon phases+eclipses. Bring your graded labs, Datalink 26760, pencil+eraser. Our last lab will be a role-playing simulation (no quiz).

Week 15 lab and quiz: Moon phases+eclipses stellarium exercise.

Week 13 lab: Density of planetary materials. For the quiz, also see Density of the planets (no need to watch the videos, but they may help). LAB SAFETY RULES AND REQUIRED MATERIALS (e.g. stapler, calculator) will be enforced!

Week 12 lab: Surface gravity and free fall. Also read Free fall Physics.
We shall also have Exam 2 on: Seasons, Spectroscopy, Angular Size/Resolution, Lens/Telescope optics, Kepler's laws. Bring: Datalink 26760 + pencil, scientific calculator, graded labs, lab notebook, STAPLER!

Week 11 lab and quiz: Kepler's laws and the orbit of Mercury. There will be a quiz, for which please also read Kepler's laws Summary.

Week 10 lab and quiz: Lenses and the telescope. For the quiz, read Optics for kids: lenses.. (Note that we shall only use converging (convex) lenses in our lab activity.)

Week 8 lab and quiz: Angular size and resolution. For the quiz also read Angular resolution on Bring a Datalink 26760.

Week 7 lab: Electromagnetic spectrum. Also for the QUIZ, read Introduction to the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Bring a Datalink 26760 and your lab notebook. Also don't forget the lab safety rules - closed-toed shoes and long hair off the face.

Week 6: Our first review exam will be on Mar 7, covering: Measurements, planisphere, sky mapping, solar system scale model, solar features. You can use your graded labs in the exam, ~ 25 multiple-choice questions. Bring: Datalink 26760 + pencil, scientific calculator, graded labs. After the exam, our lab activity (not on the exam) is Stellarium seasons.

Week 5 lab (Feb 28): Solar features. Also for the quiz please read this web page on sunspots.

Week 4 lab (Feb 21): Solar system scale model. Instructions and background begin on page 3. THERE WILL BE A PRE-LAB QUIZ on this material, closed book. Bring a Datalink 26760 form.

Week 3 lab and quiz (Feb 14): Mapping the Sky with Stellarium. Also for the quiz, read Constellations and Seasons, and watch the two short videos on Ecliptic and Meridian Lines and The Zodiac constellations.

Week 2 lab and QUIZ (Feb 7): Using the "Star Wheel" (Planisphere). Also read Motions in the Sky. Bring: Datalink 26760, scientific lab notebook, calculator, small stapler, pen.
Also don't forget to follow the lab safety rules, and dress warmly for your adopted star observations!

Week 1 lab: Measurements. Please read this lab description in advance; a printed version will be provided for you in the lab. Also please read the lab safety policies at the link below - wear closed-toed shoes and hair off the face!

Quick Links:


A "C" or "CR" grade or higher, or concurrent enrollment in, ASTR110 or ASTR120 or equivalent.


Designed to accompany and augment Astronomy 110 or Astronomy 120. Topics include constellations and astronomical coordinates, astronomical instruments, the solar system, stars and stellar systems, and the Universe. These will be addressed using naked eye and telescope observations, laboratory experiments, computer simulations and calculations.

ASTR 112 satisfies the General Education Science Laboratory requirement of most colleges by covering a range of experimental topics in astronomy.

To learn science is to do science, and this course will show you how. By performing straightforward experiments and observations from Earth, you will learn that the "scientific method" - a systematic way of examining the natural world - is something we can all learn from, and is not just for "scientists"!

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Students will employ laboratory equipment to obtain measurements
  2. Students will interpret data obtained in an experimental setting
  3. Students will communicate experimental results in a coherent manner


The draft laboratory and exam schedule will be updated during the semester - please check back often. In addition, note these important dates:

Feb 16-19 Fri-Mon: Presidents' Day holiday (campus closed)
Mar 2 Fri: Last day to apply for Pass / No Pass (CR/NCR) grading option
Mar 28 Wed: No class (Spring Break)
Apr 27 Fri: Last day to withdraw from course (a letter grade must be recorded after this date)
May 30 Wed: FINAL EXAM 6:30pm-9pm

Exam dates may change with sufficient notice. Note though that there are no make-ups allowed for any reason. Instead, your lowest scoring mid-term exam, TWO reading quizzes, and TWO lab reports will be dropped from your overall grade calculation. Please inform the instructor of any conflicting final examinations as soon as possible.

Required Course Materials:

Course Assignments and Grading Policy

The approximate grading scale for this class is:
> 85% ≈ A
70 - 85% ≈ B
55 - 70% ≈ C
< 55% ≈ D or F
Plus and minus grades will be used to differentiate the upper and lower parts of each range. Actual grade boundaries may change slightly, and depend on the difficulty of quizzes and the final exam - NOT on class performance (i.e. there is no "curve" or set quota for each grade). This means that:
  1. Everyone in the class can get an "A".
  2. You are not in competition with your fellow students. In fact, working together in class will be actively encouraged! However, all work submitted for grading must be your own.

Laboratory Reports (60% of final grade)

There will be a laboratory each week. Most lab reports consist of worksheets that can be completed and handed in at the end of the lab period. A few fa16 will require some extra work at home - these will be due at the start of the following week's lab period. Reports can be typed, or written in black or blue pen (no pencil, except for diagrams).

There are no make-ups for missed lab periods. Instead, your lowest scoring TWO lab reports will be dropped from your overall grade calculation.

Note that while you complete the lab experiments in a group, the report handed in for grading must be entirely your own work.

Exams (15% of total grade):

There will be 3 or 4 multiple-choice exams during the semester, to be held at the start of the lab period. Exact dates will be announced well in advance. Exams will be on the basic concepts which have already covered during the laboratory periods. Note that there are no make-ups for missed exams. Instead, your lowest exam score will be dropped from your overall grade calculation.

To help you in each quiz, you may refer to your graded laboratory reports from prior weeks - this is an additional "reward" of writing complete, neat and useful reports!

Reading Quizzes (15% of total grade):

Most labs will begin with a short multiple-choice reading quiz consisting of pre-lab questions - the assignment will be announced the previous week and posted on this web page under News. Note that there are no make-ups for missed quizzes. Instead, your two lowest quizze scores will be dropped from your overall grade calculation.

Final Exam (10% of total grade): Wed May 30, 6:30-9pm

The final exam will be a short but comprehensive review of all material covered in laboratory to see how much you learned, and will consist of multiple-choice, short answer, or diagram questions. You may bring:
  • Your graded labs, with any additional notes you have made on them.
  • Scientific Calculator, pens (2 colors, not red), small ruler.
  • Student ID.
  • All cellphones must be "off" for tests.

    Academic Integrity

    Collaboration in the laboratory setting is an important part of the learning process, and you are encouraged to help your fellow students in class. Note, however, that any work submitted for grading must be all your own work. If you have doubts about the allowed level of collaboration, please ask the instructor.

    Mid-terms and the final exam are be designed to test understanding, not memory, so cheating by plagiarism or smuggling outside material will not help you - and you will probably be caught! Academic dishonesty is a serious action and will not be tolerated, since it compromise the integrity of scholarship and the value of hard-earned grades for all students at Grossmont. It includes, but is not limited to, copying another's work, allowing someone to copy your work, talking during an exam or quiz, giving information to another student during an exam or quiz, using unauthorized notes on an exam or quiz, or having another person take a test for you.

    Grossmont's policy will be strictly enforced. Cheating and plagiarism (using as one's own ideas writings, materials, or images of someone else without acknowledgement or permission) can result in any one of a variety of sanctions. Such penalties may range from an adjusted grade on the particular exam, paper, project, or assignment (all of which may lead to a failing grade in the course) to, under certain conditions, suspension or expulsion from a class, program or the college. For further clarification and information on these issues, please consult with your instructor or contact the office of the Associate Dean of Student Affairs.

    Classroom Conduct

    "Be excellent to each other!" - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

    All students should be familiar with the Student Code of Conduct, which will be strictly enforced. The Code of Conduct may be found in the course catalog.

    In addition, you will be asked to read and sign a short Lab Agreement which outlines some additional safety requirements.

    Arriving at class:

    Attendance can be taken at any class meeting. Please arrive "ready to learn", i.e. with your belongings in order, no food or drink, and no need to use the restroom during lecture (see below). If you are more than 20 minutes late to class, this will count as an unexcused absence. Furthermore, you will probably not have enough time to complete the lab (or quiz, if one is scheduled for that day) and so you may be asked to leave. Note that after 3 consecutive absences, Grossmont's policy allows the instructor to drop a student from class, but do not assume this will happen automatically if you simply fail to show up.

    Leaving class:

    If you have a good reason to leave early, please notify the instructor.

    In the Laboratory:

    Safety should be a priority for all students. A separate document outlines the laboratory safety guidelines and policies, and copies of this are posted on the walls of the lab.

    You must wear closed-toed shoes in the laboratory, and keep long hair and jewelry secured out of the way of equipment and open flames. No food of any kind is allowed in the lab, nor are beverages other than a bottle of water which can be closed. You will be asked to keep your bottle of water on the side benches next to the wall, out of the way.

    Productive, respectful and safe interaction with classmates and instructor is encouraged, while any behavior which disrupts the learning environment, damages equipment, or compromises safety will not be tolerated.

    Disruptive behavior includes talking while the instructor is talking, chewing, gesturing, passing notes, sleeping, reading, using personal electronics, or anything unrelated to that day's class.

    Possible sanctions include ejection from the laboratory, a 2-laboratory suspension, and disciplinary action by the college.

    Electronic Devices:

    During the laboratory period, either silence your cellphone or place it where you can cancel the ring-tone within 2 seconds. You should bring a non-programmable scientific calculator to each lab period. Other devices - including laptop computers, MP3/iPods, radios, and electronic dictionaries are not allowed. (Printed foreign language dictionaries are permitted, subject to instructor's approval). For safety, any earphones or Bluetooth headsets must be removed. During exams, all electronic devices must be switched off and put away.

    To protect the privacy rights of your fellow students, and the integrity and academic freedom of our learning environment, no recording of audio, images, or video is permitted in this class. Use of recording devices is considered disruptive behavior even if done in a clandestine manner.

    Help is available!

    In addition to office hours, please feel free to contact me via email if you are "stuck". Also, Grossmont offers some great resources to help you do well:

    Philip Blanco, Astronomy Laboratory, Grossmont College