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Practical Observational Astronomy Course in the Sierra Nevada, California

Berkeley, CA 94710
United States
415 722 5881 (Main Phone)
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Practical Observational Astronomy is a field-based laboratory course that provides an opportunity for students to understand our place in the universe. Using the naked eye, binoculars, and large telescopes, we will explore celestial objects including constellations, the solar system, the stars, the Milky Way, and other galaxies. Set within a beautiful national forest in the mountains far from bright city lights, San Francisco State University's Field Campus area has the dark sky ideal for observing deep-sky objects and meteors. Do you own a telescope but have never used it successfully? Throughout the course we will teach hands-on use of telescopes and their accessories. You will also learn how to use star charts and atlases to locate faint celestial objects.

San Francisco State's Sierra Nevada Field Campus is a place where you are immersed in one of the most beautiful and wild regions of the northern Sierra Nevada. It has been called a nature camp for adults. Here professionals working in environmental fields can upgrade their knowledge, and people from all walks of life can come together, energized by the easy camaraderie and humbled by nature's magnificence.

Class Dates July 28 to August 2, 2019
For more information and registration go to

Instructor Martin Sirk
Space Sciences Laboratory
University of California, Berkeley

"I can't overstate how incredible this course is. I learned the basics of stargazing, including how to recognize common celestial bodies, use a star chart, and operate a telescope. We also learned why telescopes work, and what professional scientists can see when they look at distant star systems. I even learned about the fundamental properties of the universe! But the best part was that every night, we would put what we learned in class into practice. There is nothing like watching the sky from the beautiful, quiet Sierras, seeing the summer constellations slowly rise and knowing each of them by name. My appreciation for the night sky is forever changed. " -Annalee Newitz, science journalist

Course Specifics

ASTRO 216 - Practical Observational Astronomy

This is a 40 hour, 1 unit (semester) class that satisfies the quantitative
science laboratory requirement at San Francisco State University which combines
classroom activities with many hours of observing with a variety of telescopes.
Students may choose to audit this course.

Topics covered:

Constellations and Sky Motions
Earth's Seasons
Lunar Phases
Planet Motions
Celestial Coordinates
Use of Sky Atlases and Planispheres
Basic Optics
The Milky Way and Galactic Structure
Atomic Spectra
Blackbody Radiation
Stellar Spectra
Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
Stellar Evolution
Neutron Stars, Black Holes and Kepler's Laws
Cosmic Distances

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