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What should go into your report?
o What did you observe?
o How many observations did you make (different days or times)?
o Did you observe different objects? If so, did you encounter any differences?
o What instruments did you use?
o How do you rate their quality?
How precise do you think they are?
How practical were they for your observations?
o What problems did you encounter using the instruments?
Did you try to improve the instruments (or maybe even rebuild them)? If so, did that work?
· Your practice
o How would you rate the quality of your performance in the observations?
Given that these might have been your first observations we will not judge your performance. So try to give an honest self-assessment, i.e. one that is both fair and critical. The important part is that you provide good reasons on how you arrived at your assessment.
o Did your performance improve during the week? If so, why?
o How did you interact with the different instruments? Were there instruments, with which you performed better than others? If so, why?
o Give a brief account of the results of your observations
o Make an estimate as how exact and how reliable your results are
Exact’ means how large the margin of error of your measurement was (e.g. ±2° or ± 5mins.). Don’t do any statistical calculations, just assess how far you would be of the actual values at worst.
Reliable means how sure you are your results are correct in the given error margin and how sure you are that you’ve correctly identified the celestial bodies (if applicable, e.g. doesn’t make much sense for the sun)
Provide reasons why you’ve arrived at these estimates!
o Please do not check with an outside reference before making your estimate!
You will not be penalised, if your estimates (or your results) are completely off! This assessment is about you getting acquainted with astronomical observations. As such it is a learning experience. So, your report is the documentation of your own learning and it will be assessed on how well you understand your own learning in the process!
o Once you’ve done your estimates, you can check with astronomical references (the Stellarium program makes this very easy).
If your estimate and the reference do not match, provide reasons for this. Where do you think you went wrong or where do you think you were too distrustful of your own work? Why was that?
What do we expect in this assignment?
The object of the assignment is for you to get a better understanding of observations that have been made in history. Therefore, it is intended that you use simple instruments and try to be as certain and accurate as possible with them. Especially, if you’ve never done an astronomical observation yourself before, you should spend some time observing the sky. You will not be expected to reach any kind of scientific standards, but rather think yourself in a position where you are alone somewhere in the world with limited means and have to give your best shot at observing, identifying and measuring celestial bodies.
Questions you should ask yourself during the observations are:
How can I make sure to have correctly identified a celestial body?
How accurate are my measurements? How can I improve their accuracy? What are obstacles against more precise measurements?
How do my measurements relate to historic measurements done by astronomers or by laypeople?
What do I learn during the observations? About astronomy? About my own understanding?
What can be observed or measured?
Time of apparent solar noon (highest position of the sun at the sky),
Rising and setting of celestial bodies,
Highest position of a celestial body at the sky,
Position of a celestial body at a given time.
What instruments can you use?
We would like to encourage you to focus on simple instruments, but try to do the same observation with different instruments. So, please do not use telescopes (astronomers before Galileo hadn’t them, either). Instruments that you could use are:
strings, ropes, chains (anything that can measure a length),
sundials (there are a few sundials on campus that we can use),
simple astrolabes you can make yourself (see here for details on how to make and use them, if you want to be a bit more ambitious, you can try this one),
a more complex astrolabe (we will have a few to use),
simple cross staffs (a bit more tricky to build, but NASA tells you how to do it; alternatively, here’s another way to build one),
an even simpler
an instrument for timekeeping (i.e. a watch, feel free to inquire if you want to use historical ways of telling time),
a magnetic compass (not always historically accurate, but telling North and South otherwise takes a bit of preparation),
a sextant (we will have one at our disposal you might try out).
Sextants are not really simple instruments, but using it will give you a good idea whether using more complex instruments is actually getting you to be more accurate. At any rate, you are encouraged to try out different instruments.
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