AS101nightlab1 - J.I AS101 Night Lab#1 Write-up Observing...

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J.I. AS101 Night Lab #1 Write-up 6/15/07 Observing the Night Sky (or at least trying!) Abstract The first night lab is a jump into putting factual knowledge from class and the homework assignments to practical observations of the night sky. The use of the Celestial Pipes, binoculars, quadrants aid in making observations of the stars apparent to both the aided eye and the naked eye. Even with a bit of trouble from the weather we were able to observe prominent stars, Polaris, Venus, as well as a few constellations. There were also two telescopes that had been trained on celestial objects from the previous open house that night. Overall the lab trains the eye that is new to observing the night sky. Introduction Ancient astronomy takes us back to the concept of all objects in the sky to be in a fixed sphere around the Earth. This is how the movement of the Sun and stars and planets spinning around the sky was originally interpreted. Of course we know now that that is not the right idea. However, the ancient concept of a celestial sphere around the Earth provided an ideal method for navigation and location of your position on the Earth and still to this day provides us with a fairly accurate model for finding your location at any given point on the Earth just by using observations of the stars. By breaking down the celestial sphere into lines of declination and ascension we can easily break down the motions of the stars into an easily readable and predictable map. This lab introduced me to a variety of methods of observing the night sky and certain motions that are critical to understanding the movement of the sky. Procedure Some of the more major observations throughout the night made use of the celestial pipes. These are aligned so that the North-South pipe represents a star’s declination and there is a tab at 90 degrees to mark the North celestial pole. Marked off in 10 degree increments this pipe allows you to estimate the declination of any star when you are standing directly in the center of the setup. The second pipe available is on the Southern side of the setup and is the representation of the celestial equator and is marked off in one hour increments, this allows the viewer to estimate the current right ascension of a given star in the sky. The only issue with the setup of the pipes and the nature of the celestial equator in our location is that is only fairly useful in the southern sky because otherwise it is difficult to measure the right ascension of a star in the northern sky using something that is behind you. It makes sense though that this is the case because the stars in the northern sky have less apparent movement as many of them are circumpolar. Using the celestial pipes we located at least three objects in the sky and measured their declination and right ascension both at the beginning of the lab period and at the end of the lab period noting the time for each observation.
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The next task was to locate and measure Polaris using quadrants. Quadrants are
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AS101nightlab1 - J.I AS101 Night Lab#1 Write-up Observing...

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