AST 114 - Syllabus and Course Rules - Spring 2017

POLICY ON OVERRIDES FOR THE AST 113 or 114 LABS: There is currently still a few AST 114 sections open, so no overrides will be given until all sections are filled. Overrides are generally only available for seniors who will graduate this semester AND who can show written proof of this. Graduating seniors who get an override must be flexible as to which night of the week they get it for, since all AST 113 or 114 Lab sections are usually at maximum room capacity at the start of the semester, and we cannot overload any of the sections.

Overrides can only be obtained from Ms. Becca Dial. Only she can sign off on overrides on behalf of the Instructor, the TA's cannot. Instructor signature is no longer required for course withdrawal. Mrs. Becca Dial can be reached as: or by calling 480-965-2213 or 480-965 5081.

POLICY ON SWITCHING AST 113 or 114 SECTIONS: Since 450-550 students take the AST 113 or 114 Labs and nearly all sections are full at the start of the semester (some are already overfull because of overrides given to graduating seniors), we do NOT allow students to change AST 113 or 114 Lab sections. That is, changing to or attending a different section with a different TA on a different night is not allowed.

POLICY ON MISSED LABS OR MAKE-UP LABS: The Labs will meet, and do indoor exercises, on the nights of inclement weather. In the event of serious illness or death in the family that students can document in writing to their TA, or other exceptional cases approved by your TA or the class instructor, students must get approval from their TA to attend a missed Lab when it is taught during another night that week or the weeks thereafter (check the Schedule button). You must ask the other TA to Email your grade for that missed section to the TA of your own section. [Failure to do the latter will likely result in the grade for that one made-up Lab getting lost in the end].

Important Dates - see:

Lab Section (#12538) for Blind or Visually Impaired students:

Again in Spring 2017, the AST 114 Labs will have one Lab section where we also provide fully 3D tactile surfaces of the necessary images, so that blind or visually impaired students can do the Lab material. The Lab text itself will also be provided in Braille. Please contact the class Instructor, Prof. Windhorst, or the TA for this section, Mr. Rhonda Holton, for details. If you are interested in this, please do sign up for section SLN 12538. Since this section is on Tu 8:30-11:00 pm at night, we will help arrange transportation from campus for blind or visually impaired students after the Lab is over. For more information about the 3D tactiles, please see: Hasper2015JCollegeScTeaching44p82.pdf

Lab Fee:

The AST 113 and 114 Labs have a $ 25 Lab Fee per semester, as approved by Arizona State University. This fee needs to be paid to the Registrar's office upon registration, and if you have not already done so, you need to pay the Lab fee ASAP at the Registrar's Office. As per Arizona Board of Regents' regulations, these Lab fees must and will be used to support the AST 113 or 114 Labs exclusively. This semester, your Lab fees will be used to support the expansion of the AST Labs to 18 or more sections, including new telescopes and other equipment, new computer Labs and AST software upgrades, as well as overhead projectors. This is to assure that we can teach the AST Labs more efficiently to more students this and future semesters.

Required Materials -- see ASU bookstore):

  • Item 3070156: Edmund Scientific's Rotating Star & Planet Locator or ``Starwheel'', with Instruction Manual (about $ 3.00)
  • Item SC001: Constellation Chart-Equatorial (about $ 2.25) --- get the star charts with labels
  • Item: SC002 Constellation Chart-North Polar Region (about $ 2.25) --- get the star charts with labels
  • National Audubon Society ``Field Guide to the Night Sky'' (1991, Chanticleer Press, $ 8.78-21.95 for "rent-used" to "buy-new")
  • You need to purchase the first three items, your TA will tell you if you need to buy the Field Guide --- most likely, this can be shared between students. In the AST Labs, students work typically in small teams of 2-3 students each.

    The used price of the above materials is typically 70% of new, and they can be resold to the bookstore when the semester is over. You can also rent the materials for similarly reduced prices. Our Starwheel is made of blue reinforced paper. Make sure you have the right one. If you bought the wrong one, the bookstore will allow you to exchange it for the correct one. If the ASU bookstore is sold out, the other bookstores around campus carry these materials also, sometimes at better prices.

    Cheap version of Star-Charts on-line: SFAStarChartsAll.pdf

Additional materials will be necessary throughout the semester that we will not be providing - make sure you have these available to you (also available in the bookstore or elsewhere):

  • A working low-powered flashlight, preferably with a red lens. Red pen-lights are available for about $ 5 in the Supply section of the ASU bookstore.
  • A scientific calculator. NOTE: It is not allowed to use cell-phones as calculators for this Lab, since texting during the Lab, or exchanging answers with other students is against ASU's policy on Cheating and Plagiarism (see below).

Course Regulations:

Astronomy 113 or 114 is a one credit-hour laboratory class associated with the lecture classes AST 111 or 112. Every student wishing to take AST 113 or 114 must be currently enrolled in AST 111 or 112, or have previously taken either one of those lecture courses. Knowledge of the lecture course material is assumed in the AST 113/114 curriculum and in the Lab exercises.

NOTE: We thus let you take the AST 113 or 114 Labs with EITHER ONE of the lecture classes AST 111 or 112 as prerequisite. That is, if you have taken lecture class AST 112, you may take Lab AST 113 (or 114), and if you have taken AST 111, you may take Lab AST 114 (or 113). (If your College or registrar gives you flack over this, Prof. Windhorst has a written memo for you that will solve your problem. Please contact him during his office hours for this).


Laboratory classes require participation.  As stated above, students are expected to attend all scheduled class periods.  Missing three labs/lab reports (as recorded by attendance or by missing lab scores) will result  automatically in a grade of "E".  Because we drop the lowest lab score in the calculation of the final grade, NO make-up labs will be scheduled, except in documented cases of extreme hardship (see missed labs above). A documented excuse for a missed Lab doesn't prevent you from having to make-up that Lab. Please contact your TA and instructor if you must miss a lab.

ASU policy on Cheating and Plagiarism:

ASU's policy on cheating and plagiarism is clearly spelled out in the ASU Student Code of Conduct ( ) list as prohibited conduct ``all forms of student academic dishonesty, including but not limited to, cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty and plagiarism.'' According to ASU's academic integrity policy, ``Plagiarism'' means using another's words, ideas, materials or work without properly acknowledging and documenting the source. Students are responsible for knowing the rules governing the use of another's work or materials and for acknowledging and documenting the source appropriately''.

In the AST Labs we strictly enforce these policies. For your grade, we only want to measure your abilities, not how well you can copy material from somewhere else. That is, while you may have 1-2 Lab team mates that together collect, e.g., telescope data, you still need to write your own Lab report and answer its questions independently. While you may have Lab data in common with your team mates, you may not copy answers to questions from your team mates. A relatively new ASU sanction for documented, serious cases of plagiarism or academic dishonesty is the grade of XE. This grade will appear on students' transcripts. A postscript indicates that the grade denotes ``failure due to academic dishonesty.''

Morale of the story is that cheating and plagiarism are not worth it, and about as dangerous for your career as falling into a black-hole, see e.g.: .

Grades, see:

Course grades are in proportion to the actual amount of preparation, work, and studying done for each aspect of the Labs, as following:

  • 1-page Pre-Labs, that prepare you for current's week Lab exercise (20%)
  • Short weekly Lab reports, with observations, brief analysis and discussion (50%)
  • Weekly short quizzes (multiple choice or short answer), based on previous week's Lab work (30%)
The final grade for the class will be calculated based on a simple sum of all of your numerical scores during the semester.  The lowest lab score will be dropped.  There will therefore be NO make-up Labs in general, except in documented cases of extreme hardship (see missed labs above). If you need to miss one Lab, that will be the one you drop. The final letter grade may be curved to allow for differences in grading between TA's. The typical grade distribution is indicated by the Table below, but please check with your TA for the likely curve that will apply to your section. Final grades will include +/- grades, so please don't ask about these --- they will appear automatically in the final semester grade if you deserved them based on your work:
% of points possible Letter grade
> 97.0 % A+
94 - 96.99 % A
90 - 93.99 % A-
87 - 89.99 % B+
84 - 86.99 % B
80 - 83.99 % B-
77 - 79.99 % C+
70 - 76.99 % C
60 - 69.99 % D
< 60 % E

Stated simply, your grade will be directly proportional to the number of lab exercises you attend, write-up and hand in. You are expected to attend all class times your section is scheduled to meet. A+ grades require extra effort as defined by your TA.

To simplify the grading system --- and to allow you to get your grades back earlier! --- at the TA's discretion some or all of each Lab's questions may be grades on a pass/half/fail system, i.e. each question may simply get 10/5/0 points, depending on how well it was answered as judged by your TA. Most students in this Lab end up with A's or B's, but you do have to work for these. Students that don't put in the required work get C's or D's, and students that fail or cheat end up with E's or EX.

Lab Exercises, Lab Reports and Pre-Labs:

Each student is expected to complete the lab report during the class period that the exercise is performed.

Each student's work is assumed and required to be their own. NO GROUP LAB REPORTS WILL BE ACCEPTED!  Any cases of plagiarism will be met with a penalty, and possible assignment of a failing grade for the course.

Each lab section has a different schedule. Make sure you know your schedule! Your class time will not change, but the location where the class will be meeting can change from time to time - so know where you are going to be meeting. Click on Schedule or ask your TA when in doubt.

The scripts for each lab exercise are posted on the class web page (click on Lab scripts) in printable form (PDF or DOC format). It is your responsibility to download and print out the lab scripts BEFORE each Lab exercise. (For the first week of the Labs only, the TA's will provide this printout for you). For convenience, you may click on the Schedule button, and then on each Lab of your section, which displays the Lab's PDF file that you need to print before each Lab starts. Your TA will not have paper copies for you to use. All computers in public areas on campus are equipped to read and print PDF documents - so you should not experience too much trouble downloading these scripts. If you do experience difficulty, contact your TA ASAP. Again, the schedule of which scripts you will need each lab meeting are listed under the schedule on the class web-page.

Pre-labs are due at the beginning of class the night of the lab to be performed.  Lab reports are due by the end of the lab period.  No late labs will be accepted.

Lab and Telescope Equipment Use and Care:

Please be careful with all AST Lab equipment (your state tax dollars and Lab fees at work)! In particular, always:

(1) If needed, please ask your TA to remove dust from the telescope's main corrector lens in front with a gentle cloth or brush. NEVER touch or scratch the telescope optics --- they are very delicate and expensive!;

(2) Place the black dust covers back onto the front of the telescopes when done;

(3) At the end of the night, return all eyepieces, binoculars, flashlights, and any other materials that your TA loans out to you at the start of the night. Your TA will put them back in storage;

(4) The TA will ask you to hold your driver's license or ASU ID for the evening, if you must borrow something of value like a Lab laptop or binoculars. Your ID will be returned to you at the end of the night, when you return all these materials (please remind your TA!).

Please help us keep the Lab fees down by returning all borrowed Lab materials at the end of the night. Thank you!

For a summary how to use our automated Celestron 8 inch telescopes, click here.

Useful Astronomical Information:

Observing from Tempe, Arizona:

Longitude = 112º West

Latitude = +33º North

Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time (MST) [MST = UT - 7 hrs]


1 minute = 60 seconds

1 hour = 60 minutes = 3600 seconds

1 day = 24 hours = 1440 minutes = 86400 seconds

1 year = 365.25 days = 8766 hours = 525960 minutes = 31557600 seconds


1 arcminute = 1' = 60 arcseconds = 60"

1 degree = 1º = 60' = 3600"

Full circle = 360º = 21600' = 1296000"

Time and Angles (on the Celestial Equator):

Time  Angle
1 hour 15º
4 minutes
1 minute 15'
1 second 15"


Apparent Angular Diameter = 0.5º = 30'

Sidereal Period (time to make one 360º revolution around Earth) = 27.3 days

Synodic Period (time to return to same phase) = 29.5 days

Earth to Moon = 384000 km = 0.0026 AU


1 light year = 63000 AU = 9.5x1012 km

1 astronomical unit (AU) = Earth to Sun distance = 1.5x108 km

1 parsec (pc) = 3.26 light years = 3.08x1013 km = 206265 AU


Planet Distance from Sun Size (Radius) Mass
Sun   7.0x105 km 2.0x1033 gm
Mercury 0.39 AU 2.4x103 km 3.3x1026 gm
Venus 0.72 AU 6.1x103 km 4.9x1027 gm
Earth 1.00 AU 6.4x103 km 6.0x1027 gm
Mars 1.52 AU 3.4x103 km 6.4x1026 gm
Jupiter 5.20 AU 7.1x104 km 1.9x1030 gm
Saturn 9.54 AU 6.0x104 km 5.7x1029 gm
Uranus 19.2 AU 2.4x104 km 8.7x1028 gm
Neptune 30.1 AU 2.2x104 km 1.0x1029 gm
Pluto 39.4 AU 3x103 km 5x1026 gm