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Astronomy Activity and Laboratory Manual

Author(s): Alan W. Hirshfeld, PhD, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
  • ISBN-13: 9780763760199
  • Paperback    136 pages      © 2009
Price: $86.95 US List
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Through a series of twenty in-class, modestly mathematical, paper-and-pencil activities, students review the epic advancement of astronomical thought, from the rudimentary observations of prehistoric skywatchers to the development of modern astrophysics in the 20th century. In following the groundbreaking work of some of history's most famous astronomers, students better appreciate the fruits of modern research. Astronomy Activities and Laboratory Manual supplies what is missing from the standard introductory college astronomy course; the essential story line that tells how astronomers came to know as much as they do about the universe.

The activities require no specialized instructor training, equipment or individual materials beyond a pencil, straightedge, and standard calculator. They are designed for use in a classroom of any size, and are an easy way to introduce active-learning into the teaching of astronomy. The activities are also ideal for individual homework assignments or team study. The necessary mathematical background is introduced on an as-needed basis for every activity and is accessible for most undergraduate students. This learn-by-doing approach is sure to engage and excite your introductory astronomy students!

Features & Benefits

Provides a cost-effective way to introduce active learning into the astronomy classroom.

Engages students with a compelling narrative overlay to the fact-based approach commonly used in introductory astronomy course.

No specialized tools required.  All activities can be completed with a pencil, straightedge, and calculator.

Suitable for any class size, from a large lecture hall to small seminar. The activates are equally suited to individual or team study.

Each activity is self-contained, allowing instructors to customize the selection of activities for their particular course.

Applicable Courses

Appropriate for Introductory Astronomy, especially those designed for non-science majors.

Activity 1: The World’s First Skywatcher – YOU!
                Worksheet, Activity 1

Activity 2: Shadowland

                Worksheet, Activity 2


Activity 3: Shadowland – the Sequel

                Constructing a Table of Data

                Constructing a Graph of Data

                Formulating an Equation

                Worksheet, Activity 3


Activity 4: Shadowland Follow-up

                Worksheet, Activity 4


Activity 5: The Phases of the Moon

                 Practice Run

                The Real Thing

                 Last Lap

                Worksheet, Activity 5


Activity 6: Eratosthenes Measures the Earth

                  Dividing the Circle

                  Parallel Lines

                  What Eratosthenes Saw

                  Finishing Up

                  Worksheet, Activity 6


Activity 7: Aristarchus Measures the Size and Distance of the Moon

                 Worksheet, Activity 7


Activity 8: Aristarchus Measures the Size and Distance of the Sun

                 Worksheet, Activity 8


Activity 9: The Copernican Cosmos

                 Inferior Planets: Mercury and Venus

                 Superior Planets: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn

                 EXTRA CREDIT: Jupiter’s and Saturn’s orbits.

                 Worksheet, Activity 9


Activity 10: Kepler’s Third Law

                Worksheet, Activity 10


Activity 11: Isaac Newton and the Moon

                Basics of Acceleration

                Predicted Acceleration at the Moon

                Acceleration in Orbit

                Was Newton Right?

                EXTRA CREDIT (for the truly adventurous)

                Worksheet, Activity 11


Activity 12: Galileo Measures a Mountain – on the Moon!

                Worksheet, Activity 12


Activity 13: Precision Astronomy After Galileo – Stellar Aberration

               Worksheet, Activity 13


Activity 14: Precision Astronomy After Galileo – Stellar Parallax

                Wobbly Star

                How Far is Your Finger?

                The 3D Cosmos

                Worksheet, Activity 14


Activity 15: Picturing the Universe – How Photography Revolutionized Astronomy

                Faraday’s Face

                The Moon’s Face

                Jupiter’s Face

                Diffuse Nebulae: Clouds of Gas in Space

                A Galaxy Revealed

               Worksheet, Activity 15


Activity 16: How Bright is That Star? A Tutorial on the Magnitude System

              Worksheet, Activity 16


Activity 17: The Realm of the Spiral Nebulae

              Worksheet, Activity 17


Activity 18: Hubble’s Law – in the Kitchen and in the Universe

             Worksheet, Activity 18


Activity 19: The HR Diagram

            Classification, Quantification, Correlation

            Plotting the HR Diagram

           Worksheet, Activity 19


Activity 20: Binary Stars and Stellar Masses

            Orbital Period

            Orbital Radius

            Combined Mass of the Sirius System

            Masses of the Individual Stars

            Worksheet, Activity 20


Appendix: Mathbits

            A Taste of Trigonometry

            Scientific Notation


Alan W. Hirshfeld, PhD-University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Alan W. Hirshfeld is Professor of Physics at the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth and an Associate of the Harvard College Observatory. He received his undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Princeton University in 1973 and his PhD in astronomy from Yale University in 1978. He is the author of two widely praised books: Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos, which chronicles the human stories involved in the centuries-long quest to measure the first distance to a star; and The Electric Life of Michael Faraday, a biography of the 19th century pioneer of electricity and magnetism. His writings have appeared in numerous magazines and he has lectured at educational institutions nationwide about scientific history and discovery.

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Instructor Solutions Manual to accompany Astronomy Activity and Laboratory Manual


Click HERE to request access to the online Instructor Solutions Manual. 

The following instructor resources are available to qualified instructors for download

ISBN-13: 9780763760199

Answers to In-Text Questions

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