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Physics 406

Physics 406: Introduction to Modern Astronomy, Lab Info Sheet

Note: the bar menu to the left takes you to Prof. Möbius's Physics 406 site. His course is similar to Prof. Hollweg's course, but has significant differences as well.
  • Course Instructor - Spring Term 2000: Prof. Joe Hollweg
  • Course Instructor - Fall Term 1999Prof. Eberhard Möbius Eberhard.Mobius@unh.edu
  • TAs: Chris Siren, Joel Shaw
  • Office: DeMeritt Hall, Room 306 (Physics Grad Cubes), Cube H
  • Chris's Office Hours: Monday 1-2, Tuesday 12:30-1:30, or by appointment
  • Office #1: Morse Hall, Room 113; Phone 862-0712 ask for Chris
  • Office #2: DeMeritt Hall, Room 306 (Physics Grad Cubes), Cube H
  • Joel's Office Hours: TBA or by appointment
  • Office: DeMeritt Hall, Room 306 (Physics Grad Cubes), Cube ?
  • Office Phone: 862-2067 (ask for Chris or Joel)
  • E-mail:

Lab Times: The first labs will be held the week of February 7. Indoor labs begin promptly at 6:10 pm or 8:10 pm. If it looks clear or only partly cloudy, we are likely to go outside, so arrive early (i.e. on the hour) for outdoor labs. If you arrive on your scheduled lab night and time and we are not there, we've left for the observatory. A map showing its location, west of the field house, is on the physics 406 bulletin board. If you arrive late, be sure to check in as we will be taking attendance.

Required Work: Combined with the planetarium visit, lab work contributes to 15% of your overall grade, which works out to 3.33% of your total grade per lab. There will be three indoor labs and at least one (weather permitting) outdoor lab. You are expected to read the labs and recommended readings ahead of time. Bring a copy of Kuhn and a calculator to each indoor lab. You will need a pencil, paper, and a hard surface for sketches for the outdoor lab.

  1. Using a Desktop Planetarium: Kuhn, pp. 13-23; Sky & Telescope - Understanding Celestial Coordinates
  2. Lenses, Mirrors, and Telescopes: Kuhn, Chapter 5
  3. Angles, Distances (Parallax), and Sizes: Kuhn, pp. 47-48, 154-159, 372-373

Discussion vs. Copying: While discussion of the lab with your partner and other classmates is encouraged, wholesale copying is not and will be penalized. In such cases, we typically divide the grade evenly between the copiers. Your final responses should be your own. Plagiarism and academic fraud is seen as a serious offence by the University.

Grading: Each lab will be graded on a ten point scale. Thoughtfulness of response and contributing calculations may count towards partial credit, although there may be little opportunity for this, as most of the labs are broken down step by step. Neatness counts! If we can't read it, we can't grade it.

Make-up Points: We would like everyone to earn perfect scores on at least 8 out of 10 labs; however, this will not always work out. If you are unsatisfied with your lab grade, you may earn back up to half of the lost points in an indoor lab or up to three-quarters of the lost points of the outdoor lab by going through the lab again with your TA during office hours or by appointment. For outdoor lab make-ups, you will be expected to rewrite the sections where you lost the points, but only after conferring with your TA. These make-ups should be done as soon as possible after receiving the graded lab, while the material is still fresh in your mind.

Make-up Labs: Due to various scheduling constraints, these are very, very difficult to arrange, and require a good excuse. Still, if you have one, we will do what we can to accommodate you. It is your responsibility to seek out a make-up lab. Typically, we will try to put you into another section doing the lab that you missed. We may also run a few make-up labs towards the end of the term.

Due Dates: All indoor labs are due at the end of that night's lab session. The outdoor lab requires som additional research and will be due one week after your lab class, at 5 pm. Such labs should be placed inside your TA's lab report bin (with the pressboard doors and envelop drop-slots) on the first floor of DeMeritt; please do not put them in your TA's mailbox, in another TA's bin or in the homework bin for this or other physics classes.

Late Policy: Three quarter credit will be given if a lab is up to a week late. After that it will be given half credit. No labs will be accepted after the last day of classes, December 10th. Notify your TA immediately if you have extenuating circumstances. Late labs should also be placed in your TA's lab report bin.

Outdoor Labs: You should be prepared to go out on any lab night. Weather in New Hampshire can be fickle, so we'll take advantage of it when we can, and it can change from the afternoon to evening. Dress warmly! You are going to be standing around outside in the cold for nearly two hours, so you'll have a lot longer to appreciate the cold than walking between classes. Also, the temperature can drop 20 degrees or more at night. We advise wearing multiple layers, as well as a hat and appropriate footwear: we have to tromp through the field to get there. Be sure to have pencil, paper, and a hard surface for sketching. When writing the report, Kuhn is a good resource, but need not be the only resource for all of your responses. If you want to see more of the observatory, you may wish to attend one of the open nights offered twice a month.

Term Papers: The main guidelines for writing the term papers, due at the end of the semester, are found in the Outdoor Lab Manual, but you may benefit from this additional advice. This is a science course, not a history or philosophy course, so, while historical information and philosophical insights may serve to put the subject of your paper into context, the bulk of your paper should be science-oriented. By science-oriented, we mean that we are looking for both descriptive information about the object, theorem, or phenomenon, as well as justifications for that information. How do we know what we know, and why do we believe what we believe? This kind of material should dominate the paper, and should, on its own, fulfill the page requirements. Even well-written papers which do not include such justification can earn no more than a B. Justifying your assertions in a scientific paper is just as important as in a literary or historical paper. Be sure, also to express yourself in a way that makes it clear that you understand the concepts you are discussing and not merely regurgitating some choice bits from a book or article. If you are having difficulty with an article or an idea you've come across, talk to one of us or to Prof. Hollweg and we may be able to help you figure it out.

If you find yourself having to enlarge the font size, play with margins, or repeat your points in order to meet the page requirements (remember, your TAs were students once, too!), you probably need to do more research or look for a new topic. For this reason, you should start thinking about a topic as soon as possible, and begin reserach at least three weeks in advance. Some books for popular topics, such as black holes, comets and meteors, wind up being all checked out a couple weeks before the due date, so with these especially, the earlier you begin research, the better.

Be sure to select sources other than Kuhn, encyclopedias, or internet resources. While all of these may be helpful in your research, your Kuhn and encyclopediae may be too general resources, and the internet, while often able to provide fairly recent information, doesn't require the same level of editorial control on content as printed material and thus can sometimes be suspect. Net sources are also often highly specialized or very general and one should have a balance.

Wherever you draw your sources from, be sure you cite them in your bibliography. Also if you are making direct quotations or paraphrasing a part of an article, be sure to include a citation within the body of the paper - otherwise you are commiting plagerism.

Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Have a friend read your paper to make sure that it is clearly written and understandable, as well as grammatically sound. This should also help you catch places where you haven't defined jargon. Assume your reader is intelligent, but hasn't necessarily taken an astronomy class.

The UNH Writing Center is another valuable resource for advice on writing papers.

You may wish to check out some Astronomy Links that former Astronomy TA, Chris Siren has found.

This page originally designed by Chris Siren, with the buttons on the left and header by Jan Heirtzler.

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