Inwood Astronomy Project 2010
-Every Saturday, there is an opportunity to perform stargazing and astronomy activities with the Inwood Hill Astronomy Project. The project is led by Jason Kendall and sponsored by NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Program. The link below directs you to the website, which will have all the information for stargazing opportunities in the city.

Jason Kendall also leads a lecture series at the Planeterium in the Inwood Branch of the New York Public Library. Here is a schedule of the upcoming lectures, the ones in bold are one's I plan on taking my class too:

1) July 24: "The Problem with Pluto" Join us for a lively discussion on
the discovery of the dwarf planet Pluto, and the huge debate surrounding
its demotion from full planethood and the science of the Outer Planets.
We'll learn a lot about all the other planets as we strive to understand
this one mysterious, icy world at the farthest reaches of the Solar
System. We'll also see the latest updates from the New Horizons
spacecraft as it continues its long journey to encounter this beguiling
body. We'll also show a quick planetarium show, and we'll see what's up
in our night sky.

2) August 21: "Planets Around Other Stars: The Exoplanets". Planets
around other stars used to be in realm of science fiction. However, in
the past 10 years, more than 450 planets have been found orbiting other
stars. We will look at some of these odd worlds, and how they shape our understanding of our own Planet Earth. We'll also look at the first
space mission dedicated to finding Earth-like planets around Sun-like
stars: NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. Later that night, we'll show you
where to look in the sky to see where Kepler is looking. We'll also show
a quick planetarium show, and we'll see what's up in our night sky.

3) September 11: "Our Sun; the Nearest Star." Views from the Solar
Dynamics Observatory, NASA's mission to the Sun. The Sun is no ordinary
place; a million times bigger than the Earth, its storms cause power
outages and aurorae here on Earth. SDO seeks to uncover mysteries too
bright to look at. We'll also show a quick planetarium show, and we'll
see what's up in our night sky.

4) October 30: "Saturn: the Ringed Planet Up Close and Personal." NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn has lasted a decade, and this great planet has provided us with amazing vistas and tantalizing possibilities for looking for life in our Solar System on Enceladus and Titan. We'll also show a quick planetarium show, and we'll see what's up in our night sky.

5) November 20: "Spirit and Opportunity: our Eyes and Ears on Mars" As
our Winter sets in, we'll take a look at the cold, Red Planet, Mars.
We'll get the latest updates from those favorite Mars Rovers Spirit and
Opportunity, whose 90 day mission extended to more than seven years, and
counting! We'll see the amazing views they have seen on their long
journey, see their profound evidence for past water on Mars, and share
in the heartbreak of Spirit's encounter with Troy. We'll also show a
quick planetarium show, and we'll see what's up in our night sky.

6) December 18: "The Hubble Space Telescope: Images that Changed the
World." The Hubble Space Telescope has profoundly impacted our
understanding of the universe. We'll look at the amazing discoveries and
see the Universe in a whole new light. We'll also show a quick
planetarium show, and we'll see what's up in our night sky.

Intro to Science Unit
The hook is to use the idea of astronomy and earlier scientists use of those observations to develop the initial ideas of how our universe operates. It relates the idea to the students that science is confusing and challenging, but thats the joy of science. The endless pursuit to understand and comperehend....

Week 1:
In exposing the students to science literature, the first week will be used to read the book - 137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession by Arthur Miller

The first five chapters are an interesting hook, providing a window into the lives of two highly repsected giants of their fields. And leads into an interesting take on scientific developments of early astronomers, which works as a great transition into week 2...

Week 2
This unit deals with developing models and develops the use of the scientific method and tools necessary. Math concepts for physics can be introduced and coordinate systems. Using the debate between heliocentric vs. geocentric models as the main theme, you can also talk about the public factors that influenced the scientific world.

WIth coordinate systems, you can introduce the celestial sphere and celestial coordinates. They can see how coordinate systems are interchangeable since its a new coordinate system in addition to the traditional cartesian coordinate system.

An excerpt from Observational Astronomy by D. Scott Birney, Guillermo Gonzalez and David Oesper. Its the first chapter that covers the celestial sphere.

Here is a lab for the celestial sphere. It is adapted from the Astronomy Labs offered at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

In covering the heliocentric vs. geocentric models theme, you can introduce how the observations of the wandering planets made it difficult to explain the motions of celestial objects. The observers were limited to their local frame of reference and had to develop the larger scale model of the universe.

Here is a in class retrograde motion lab that students can complete to develop graphing skills and inquiry skills. It is adapted from the Astronomy Labs offerd at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Week 3
This week introduces the year long astronomy observation project the students will complete at Inwood Hill Park. In groups of 3, students will track the motion of planets and constellations at least once a month. The goal is for them to observe the retrograde motion of planets as compared to the constellations which are used as reference points.

Here are sites and resources that will help out with the project:

Rise/Set Data for Sun, Moon, and major celestial objects
Constellation Background Info
Skymaps for Observations
Location of Observer
Computer Simulated Star Tracking

Here is an in-class lab buidling and using an astrolabe, the main tool the students will use to perform their observations:

Here is the powerpoint that outlines the major points for this first unit, Nature of Science. It aims at developing a key hook for a physics class, developing scientific thought and inquiry.