exploration worksheet astronomy

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In this assignment, you will become familiar with Stellarium, a planetarium program that will allow you to explore the night sky. In addition, you will describe the effects of light pollution on viewing the night sky, and be able to find certain astronomical objects and constellations.

To complete this assignment you will need a computer that can access Stellatrium. Computers in the Student Technology Centers, and the program can also be downloaded and installed on your own computer for free from http:www.stellarium.org (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Stellarium is also available for Android and IOS for a modest fee.

Stellarium’s program controls appear when you move the mouse to the lower left corner. The User’s Guide provides a good walk-through for the preliminaries like controls, features, and ‘setting home location.’

Icon for setting locationSet the geographic location (home) to Bloomington, Indiana. The top icon on the left toolbar (the compass-thing at left) opens the location window. Find and select Bloomington, or put the coordinates in manually and save them as the default location. (Bloomington: latitude 39 09’ 21’’ north, longitude 86 30’ 06” west).
Icon for time and dateSet the time you wish to see the sky (for example, the current time, or your birthday).
Icon for the SunTurn the Sun off (or on). See which stars are up in the daytime in February!
Icon for the horizonShow landscape on the horizon or just see the sky above and below the horizon.
Icon for planetsInclude the planets…
Icon for constellationsIcon for constellations Icon for constellationsHighlight the constellations (or not…!)
Icon for display optionsSky viewing and options window: Set sky brightness, twinkle, atmosphere (yes or no), what objects & labels to show, etc. Play around with this…
Icon for closing the programClose the Stellarium windows and close the program.

Play with the Sky and Viewing Options Tool to select your favorite view.

View the sky at the “home” location with daylight off and on, “ground” off and on, and light pollution off and on, and comment briefly on the differences that you see. Light pollution is controlled in the Sky and Viewing Options tool. Light pollution can take values from 1 (no light pollution) to 9 (severe light pollution, such as downtown Indianapolis, New York City, or even Bloomington). The default starting value for light pollution is 3. Describe what happens on the Exploration worksheet.

With daylight “off,” drag the field of view up and down and left and right to look at different regions of sky Check that you have found each of the following objects as you explore the sky with Stellarium. To search for an object, click the Search Window button on the left menu. If an object is below the horizon, turn off the ground or flow the time backward or forward until the object is visible. If you have trouble finding an object, check with your neighbors!

Which of the naked-eye planets will be up in the evening or morning sky during late February? Enter your findings on the Exploration worksheet.

You may need to adjust the time that Stellarium is displaying, using the Date/Time icon, or use the arrow buttons on the bottom popup menu to set time moving forward (change the rate that time flows using the double arrows – additional clicks speed up the time). The down arrow in the menu steps the flow backward.

Explore some of the bright stars in the night sky. In which constellation can each be found? Enter your findings on the Exploration worksheet.

Find one of the stars or planets listed in the real night sky, and describe how you found it on the Exploration worksheet.


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