Astronomy Course: Explore the Universe
Location: Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre
When: Wednesdays from 7:00 – 9:30 pm, October 3, 10, 17, 24
Instructor: Curt Nason
This course is based on the Explore the Universe beginner’s observing program of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). By locating, observing and recording 55 of 110 objects you can receive an Explore the Universe certificate and pin, and you do not have to be a member of the RASC. This can be achieved using only your eyes and binoculars, although a small telescope might be required to observe all 110 objects. The observing list and observation report forms may be printed from the RASC website: RASC.CA/Explore the Universe.
Although the course is four evenings, it could take you several months to locate and observe enough targets by yourself to earn a certificate.
October 3: Program overview, using binoculars, understanding star maps (star names and brightness)
View pdf recap~Explore the Universe Course~1st Evening
October 10: Locating constellations, observing the Moon
View Recap–Explore the Universe Course~2nd Evening
October 17: Observing the solar system: planets, conjunctions, eclipses, meteors
View Recap–Explore the Universe Course~3rd Evening
October 24: Locating and observing stars and deep sky objects: double stars, clusters, nebulae, galaxies
Register: by email to Curt Nason
We are limited to 35 attendees. Please do not register unless you are certain you will attend. The course is intended for those who are keen enough about learning the sky to go outside at night and actually do it and maintain a record of what they see.
Requirements for earning your Certificate~
The above is a screenshot (click to enlarge) of the observing requirements to obtain your certificate in the RASC Explore the Universe astronomy course program. As you can see, you have some options on what you might observe (55 out of 110). You can view an explanation and the program requirements in pdf form here.
Category Requirements and things you might observe~
These are in order as listed in the program requirements pdf guide:
Constellations and Bright Stars~
12 out of 24 are required, all listed by season for best viewing. Here are 2 of them:Above~Paul Owen photo with labels of the constellation Cygnus with the stars Deneb and Albireo. Below~The beautiful bluish star Vega, high overhead in the Summer night sky in the constellation Lyra (The Harp). Photo by Jim Stewart
Observing the Moon–Lunar Phases~
4 out of 8 Moon Phases are required for observing.
Above–the 2nd Quarter Moon, 22 days after the New Moon. The certificate program requires this phase to be observed within 18 hours before or after the phase time. Photo by Jim Stewart, October 2, 2018.
Above~ the Waning Cresent Moon, 26 days after a New Moon. The program requires this phase to be observed within 3 hours before sunrise on the 26th day. Photo by Paul Owen, October 6, 2018.
Below~ the Waxing Cresent Moon appears to be on fire due to clouds. The program requires this phase to be observed within 3 hours after sunset, 3 days after a New Moon . Paul Owen, October 12. 2018. Note earthshine on left side in this image.
Observing the Moon–Lunar Basins and Maria~
6 out of 12 Basins are required. While you may not see the Great Straight Wall fault line and it is not required for an observing certificate, it is on the eastern side of the Lunar Basin (Maria) Mare Nubium, which is 1 of the 6 out of 12 Maria required to be observed. Photo by Paul Owen.
Observing the Moon–Impact Craters~
The Solar System~
5 out of 10 observations are required, from a choice of 7 planetary (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), 1 observing orbital motion, 1 Satellite or Meteor (3 of a satellite (such as the ISS) + 3 meteors), and 1 Sunspot. See the RASC Course requirements for an explanation. Photos by Paul Owen.
The Solar System–Optional Observations~
Depending on the type of solar filter and type of telescope used, safe observing of the Sun might appear as white such as the photo by David McCashion above or orange as the photo by Paul Owen below. These photos are showing a solar eclipse AND sunspots in August 2017. The Certificate Program has 7 optional observations which count towards getting your certificate and pin. They are Eclipses, Conjunctions, Meteor Showers, Aurorae, Comets, Zodiacal Light, and Dwarf Planets or Minor Planets.
Above~ A closeup of The Pleiades or M45 in Taurus by Paul Owen.
12 out of 24 Deep Sky are required for the beginner certificate. All of them can be observed with binoculars, and are listed according to season for best viewing opportunity. They may include Open Clusters, Globular Clusters, various types of Nebulae, and Galaxies. Many are spectacular through binoculars. Above, The Double Cluster NGC 869/884, best seen in Autumn, and below, The Sagittarius Star Cloud M24, with its neighbour M17, The Swan Nebula, best seen in Summer. Click any pic to enlarge.
Above, The Eagle Nebula M16, and below the Lagoon Nebula M8 and Trifid Nebula M20, are best viewed in Summer. Although M20 is not required, it is hard to miss since both are within a 10X50 binocular field of view, especially with Saturn thrown in on this particular Summer night.
Double and Multiple Stars~
Variable Stars–Optional Observations~
Two variable are available for optional observing–Mira in the constellation Cetus and the more famous Algol “the Demon Star” in Perseus. (no photos)
Even if you aren’t able to obtain your certificate, the RASC Explore the Universe.pdf makes interesting reading, and the Explore the Universe Guide book is one of the best introductory astronomy books anywhere.