Visit Griffith Observatory and Planetarium
(15 points maximum; if also go to other planetaria, observatories, or "star parties", may earn up to 10 additional points as noted below)
Take a trip to Griffith Observatory and Planetarium, and write a report on the astronomy exhibits and the astronomy planetarium show (non-astronomy shows do not count, but partial credit is available, even if you don't see a show). The report should be two or three pages if hand-written, or a page or two if typed, and describe what you did there, and what you liked or didn't like about it in a way similar to what you would tell a friend who is thinking of visiting the planetarium.
Local Star Parties (5 to 10 points)
Go to a local "star party" and turn in a report (drawings and discussion) summarizing what you were able to do by going that you could not have done if you hadn't. Credit would depend upon the detail of the report, and the useful effort involved. Dismal example of "useful" effort: If the weather was poor and the star party was canceled, no credit would be given, as nothing would be accomplished by going.
LBCC Open Houses (no points)
What I want people to do for extra credit is something related to observational astronomy, but different from what they do in the lab class. Going to one of my open houses is not that different from what we do in class, so I no longer give extra credit for doing so (however, some of the other lecture instructors do; so if you are taking one of their classes you should check with them about that possibility).
Jupiter and/or Saturn Satellite Systems (requires a telescope)
If these planets are up and you have a small telescope you can observe and plot the motion of the planet's satellites over a period of days or weeks (details would be discussed with individual students as needed). This is easy for Jupiter, whose satellites are very bright, but much harder for Saturn, which has only one easily visible moon.
Planetary Motions (may require binoculars for accurate results)
Observe the position of one or more planets relative to the stars, and plot the change of position over time on a star map. Accurate results require the ability to see faint stars using binoculars. However, if you observe the motions over most of the semester, you may get good results without any optical aid. In fact, we often do a brief version of this project as a required project.
Variable Stars (usually requires binoculars or a telescope)
Observe the brightness of a variable star over several weeks or months, and draw the star's light curve. We will be discussing this in class, but usually don't have a chance to do much with this, because of the limited number of hours that we are in class each week.
Meteor Showers (requires travel to a dark sky site)
Observe meteors for a few hours (usually, this is best done between midnight and dawn), and plot their positions, motions and speeds on a star map, to see whether you can recognize any shower meteors. Unfortunately, the best shower of the year (the Perseids) occurs during the summer, but there are others which can be interesting to try observing, each semester.
Asteroid Orbit Calculations (requires algebraic and trigonometric calculations)
Calculate the orbit of an asteroid, using data and instructions provided by the instructor. (Temporarily unavailable; as the materials are in storage during my home remodel)
Spectroscopic Binary Orbital Period Calculations
(requires considerable but very simple arithmetic)
Calculate the orbital period of the spectroscopic binary HD15144
Celestial Navigation Using Non-Transit Observations
(requires algebraic and trigonometric calculations)
Use spherical trigonometry to calculate your latitude and longitude from stellar observations which are NOT due North or South.