Introductory Astronomy Laboratory (AKA astlab) Ast 105: 3 hours, 1 credit hour: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)

Course Website / Extended Syllabus

Syllabus: Short Official Version

: Spring / Summer / Fall, BPB 248/249/250, MTWR, 7:30--10:20 pm ** / ***

** Astro labs always START in the first week of classes. Of course, lab section periods that coincide with UNLV holidays do NOT meet. So lab sections with section periods coinciding with UNLV holidays in the first week do NOT meet in the first week.
*** For summer semester courses, the lab nights are TWR---that is all of TWR for each individual section---it's a compressed course. The lab time period is 7:30--10:30 pm.

Astronomy Lab Coordinator / Instructor:


  1. Lab Schedule
  2. Lab Instructors
  3. Transparent Course Summary: See especially Student Learning Outcomes.
  4. Links: Course Specific and General Links and the Current Sky Map
    1. Astronomy Lab Purchases and Inventory
  5. Short Syllabus Items
    1. Lab Manual
  6. Evaluation for In-Person Instruction (IPI)
  7. Evaluation for Remote Instruction (RMI)
  8. Grading Policy
  9. Evaluation Items Explicated for In-Person Instruction (IPI)
    1. Lab Reports
    2. Required Items For Labs
    3. Quizzes
    4. Lab Final
    5. Makeups
  10. Lab Safety
  11. Student Conduct
  12. Evaluation Items Explicated for Remote Instruction (RMI)
    1. Lab Reports
    2. Required Items For Labs
    3. Quizzes
    4. Lab Final

  1. Lab Schedule: Spring, Summer, Summer RMI, Fall

  2. EOF

  3. Lab Instructors

  4. EOF

  5. Transparent Course Summary

  6. With remote instruction (RMI) qualificatins inserted where needed.

    1. Course Tasks:
      1. Prep for the laboratory exercises doing the prep as specified by your lab instructor. However, it will always include reading over the lab exercise to be done from Introductory Astronomy Laboratory Exercises. For remote instruction, prepartion for and doing the lab exercise are the same thing.
      2. Follow the step-by-step the laboratory exercises which involve answering questions, making diagrams, etc. The labs generally need some extra instructions from the lab instructors. This is group work. For remote instruction, the student is on their own---unless students can get a friend to help out which is recommended because the work should be group work and it's more fun.
      3. Answer lab questions that require a sentence answer with a sentence---at a bare minimum a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period. Almost always whether a question requires a sentence answer or not is implicit---you should just know.
      4. Almost all parts of a lab exercise where the student has to write something down are specified explicitly as tasks: Task 1, Task 2, Task 3, etc.
      5. Prep for the laboratory quizzes doing the prep as specified by your lab instructor. For remote instruction, doing the lab exercise is the preparation.
      6. Do the laboratory quizzes. This is individual work.
      7. Do the In-Person Lab Final or the Remote Instruction Lab Final. This is individual work.
      8. Work as hard as you can in this and every course subject to all the constraints in life.

    2. Criteria for Success:
      1. Really and truly, the most important criterion for success is having achieved those Student Learning Outcomes listed above. Grades are important, but it's what you learn in a class which is most important for the classes to come and the rest of your life.
      2. That said, to get acceptable/good/great grades do all the labs, all the quizzes, and the Lab Final at the acceptable/good/great level. There is absolutely NO extra credit and NO retakes---there are makeups.
      3. If you need a specific grade for some particular thing (e.g., your major, a grant, a scholarship, etc.), don't undershoot. Don't imagine you can fine tune your effort just to get that specific grade. Overshoot.

  7. Links: Course Specific and General Links and the Current Sky Map

    1. Course Specific Links:

      1. Academic Calendars
      2. Astronomy Lab Purchases and Inventory: Access to lab instructors only.
      3. Catalog of Lab Supplements: Obsolescent.
      4. Celestron C8 telescope
      5. Clea (with component Vireo)
        1. Overview
      6. Diane Pyper Smith's astlab pdf files: Access to lab instructors only.
        1. General Instructor notes
        2. Diane Pyper Smith: Telescope Operation
        3. Syllabus Fact Sheet
        4. Suggested Schedule 2013--2014
        5. Syllabus 2013 Spring
        6. Syllabus 2012 Fall
      7. Instructor Notes: Access to lab instructors only.
      8. Introductory Astronomy Laboratory Exercises (IALE): Access to students and lab instructors only. These are the new labs. The old labs are in Catalog of Introductory Astronomy Labs also with access to lab instructors only.
      9. Lab keys: Access to lab instructors only. These are the answer keys to the new labs.
      10. List of Tricks for TheSky: Any suggestions to improve this list are welcome.
      11. NAAP applets
      12. NWS: Las Vegas, Nevada weather
      13. Sky map: Las Vegas, current time
      14. Lab Quizzes: Access to lab instructors only.
      15. Quiz Preps: obsolete: This is obsolete and will be removed sometime.
      16. Telescope Operation: Needs updating. See also List of Tricks for C8 Telescopes: any suggestions to improve this list are welcome.
      17. Your Sky and Sky Maps for the Year

    2. General Links: Click on the link to see General Links.

    3. Sky map Las Vegas, Nevada for Current Date & Time:

  8. Short Syllabus Items

  9. The main items of the syllabus are below.

    As in any course, there are lots of fine details---such as those specific to the individual lab instructors---that are just learnt along the way.


    1. The Course Website / Extended Syllabus---which you are viewing right now---is at URL

      It can be found by googling "david jeffery astlab unlv", but it may NOT turn up as the first item.

    2. The Course Website / Extended Syllabus can be updated anytime.

      Yours truly does NOT like to do that after a semester has started, but sometimes small updates or even large ones are needed.

      Any large updates will be called to the attention of the students by email and during the lab periods.

    3. EOF

    4. Rebelmail: UNLV course policy requires that UNLV (including instructors) email go to their Rebelmail accounts: i.e., sending email with addresses for students.

      This can always be done with Canvas (unlv).

    5. The individual lab instructors have some freedom to adjust the course to suit their own preferences.

      They will make those adjustments known to you in the lab period itself and sometimes by email communications.

    6. EOF

    7. Lab Manual: We use online labs: Introductory Astronomy Laboratory Exercises (IALE). Access to students and lab instructors only.

      There is NO manual to buy.

      The labs are still a bit under construction, and so the lab instructors may need to compensate for deficiencies and gaps for awhile.

      We previously used Diane Pyper Smith's A Guide to Astronomy, but this is now phased out.

    8. NO food is allowed in the lab room. Drinks are allowed, but NOT at the computer tables---it is all too easy to spill them with all the people clustered around the computers.

      Clean up any mess you make with a drink.

      NO food or drinks on the roof where we do our outside observing.

    9. NO smoking inside, of course. NO smoking on the roof.

  10. Evaluation for In-Person Instruction (IPI)

  11. There are 3 evaluation items specified in the table below:

            Table:  Evaluation Items 
            Item       Weighting     Number    Drops   Comment
            Labs         50 %          10        0     Students must pass at least 6 labs
                                                       to pass the course.  A pass is 60%.
                                                       Rationale:  This is a lab course 
                                                       and lab skills are what are to be 
            Quizzes      40 %        6--10     1--5    Lab Instructors can choose
                                                       the number of quizzes to give
                                                       in the range 6--10, but only 
                                                       highest 5 scores count.
                                                       Rationale:  The quizzes enforce
                                                       prep/recap and allow individual
                                                       students to be better evaluated.
            Lab final    10 %           1        0     The lab final must be deemed a pass 
                                                       by the lab instructor 
                                                       in order to pass the course.
                                                       Rationale:  The lab final ensures
                                                       that certain simple skills are 
                                                       learnt by all students. 
            Extra credit  0 %           0        0     There is NO extra credit.

  12. Evaluation for Remote Instruction (RMI)

  13. There are 3 evaluation items specified in the table below:

            Table:  Evaluation Items
            Item       Weighting     Number    Drops   Comment
            Labs         20 %          10        0     You get a mark just for reporting
                                                       the lab has been done with attempting
                                                       all tasks required for RMI and
                                                       self-checking against all task answers 
                                                       which are posted.
            Quizzes      40 %          10        0     The quizzes are done in the allotted
                                                       with NO outside aids after the
                                                       the corresponding lab has been completed.
                                                       Students are on their honor to follow the
                                                       Rules for Remote Instruction Exams/Quizzes 
            Lab final    40 %           1        0     A 2-hour, 100 question final with about
                                                       70 % of the questions drawn from the quizzes.
                                                       Students are on their honor to follow the
                                                       Rules for Remote Instruction Exams/Quizzes
            Extra credit  0 %           0        0a    There is NO extra credit.

    For remote instruction (RMI), students can always access their current grade record at Ast105: Section 1001 grades with anonymous aliases: remote instruction. WebCampus is NOT used.

    Each grade record consists of 4 lines: example of a semester end complete grade record with line descriptions below:

    Psamanthe  Cumulative Ave.= 93.80  Dev.=  2.500  Letter Grade=A
    Ave=100.0     1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1    1
    Ave= 87.0     9    8    3    7   10   10   10   10   10   10
    Ave= 95.0    95
    Line Description:
    1. Anonymous alias, current cummulative average, deviation from mean 0, current letter grade. All students have anonymous alias already, but they do NOT know what that is until yours truly informs them in the first week of class. Yours truly just uses the names of astronomical objects. If you wish to choose your own alias, you may, but it CANNOT be recognizable as anyone's name: e.g., Kraken@Cthulhu, Iset17, @Doberman.Pinscher.
    2. Lab report average, lab report raw scores all 1 out of 1.
    3. Quiz average, quiz raw scores out of 10. Note that in a real class NOT all quizzes are out of 10: they can be out of less or more.
    4. Final average, final raw score out of 100.

  14. Grading Policy

  15. The final grade is assigned on the 12-point scale (A,A-,B+,B,B-,C+,C,C-,D+,D,D-,F) or the 5-point scale (A,B,C,D,F) at the discretion of the lab instructor.

    Typically, a section GPA will be in the B- to B range, NOT counting the grades of students who withdraw from the class officially or unofficially. Official university section GPAs will often be lower than the section GPA arrived at by lab instructor since the official university section GPAs include students who are officially still in the class, but have de facto abandoned it---such students usually get F's.

    In any section, there do NOT have to be any D's or F's---there do have to be B's and C's. There will usually be A's---but not necessarily.

    The lab instructors keep track of marks and assign the letter grades, NOT the lab coordinator.

    For in-person instruction (IPI), students should check with their lab instructors to find out their current standing in the course.

    As described above the class GPA will probably be in the B- to B range.

    However, until all marks are in, I will be using simplified 5-point fixed scale:

    1. Above 50 %, S. This just means satisfactory or better.
    2. 47--50 %, D+.
    3. 43--47 %, D.
    4. 40--43 %, D-.
    5. Below 40 %, F.

    The reason for the simplified 5-point fixed scale is that is very difficult to find a set full fixed scale or a curve that adequately assesses students before all marks are in. After the marks are all in, yours truly will have a better idea how to distribute the grades fairly.

  16. Evaluation Items Explicated for In-Person Instruction (IPI)

  17. The explication:

    1. Lab Reports:

      Lab reports are the marked results of doing the lab exercises.

      Students typically work in groups of 3. Two-person groups are allowed. FOUR-PERSON GROUPS are FORBIDDEN, unless there are more than 24 people in the lab room which might happen on a rare occasion when many students are doing makeups from another section.

      Generally, each student must write a lab report, unless otheriwse directed by their lab instructor.

      As indicated above in subsection Evaluation, lab reports are worth 50 % of the final grade.

      Lab reports are mainly filled in during the lab period and are usually handed in at the end for grading.

      General questions (i.e., questions not arising in during the lab period itself) can be done ahead of time. This is recommended as part of the preparation.

      If a lab exercise cannot be completed during the lab period---usually because some observation can't be carried out due to weather---the lab can be completed in the next period.

      The lab instructors set their own preparation and quizzes.

      Do the PREPARATION required by your lab instructor.

      The specified preparation is for the labs and the quizzes.

      The lab instructors decide on their own marking schemes for the labs.

      Note, however, that group members often have very similar reports, and so marking them all in detail is time-consuming and redundant. To deal with this situation, here are three suggestions for the lab instructors:

      1. Mark one member of group's report in detail---the favorite report form---and just give all members that mark provided the reports of the other members are complete. Marks are deducted for incompleteness. The favorite report form should be chosen by the students. If the students don't make a choice, the lab instructor will.

      2. Give 80 % of the marks for completeness and 20 % for a detailed marking of an important part of the lab chosen arbitrarily and NOT known to the students in advance.

      3. Ask only for a group report.

      The marks on lab reports are generally fairly high.

      But remember you must pass 6 labs at least to pass the course. See the subsection Evaluation.

    2. Required Items For Labs:

      1. A printout of the lab report form for the lab of the night.
      2. Ordinary pens, pencils, erasers.
      3. Students should have a light source for working on the roof since it will be quite dark. A flashlight or a penlight will do. A cell phone light is not ideal, but suffices. Absolutely, NO laser pointers: they do not serve the function and are dangerous.

    3. Quizzes:

      As indicated above in the subsection Evaluation, quizzes count for 40 % of the final grade.

      The quizzes are usually given at the start of the lab period.

      They will consist of about 10 questions and take about 10 minutes.

      People who come late have to do the quiz out of the classroom---if the lab instructor permits late starts at all.

      The specified preparation is for the labs and the quizzes.

      The lab instructors may make up their own quizzes. However, the lab coordinator does provide a standard set for the lab instructors who wish to use it---but this set is NOT yet quite complete for the new labs---quizzes 6 and 12 have yet to be completed.

      For the rules on makeups for the quizzes, see subsection Makeups below.

      There will be 6 to 10 quizzes and only the top 5 count.

      So you can afford to miss or not prepare for at least one quiz.

      But the since the quizzes count for 40 % of the total grade, you should prepare for at least 5 of them seriously.

      It is recommended that you do all the quizzes and prepare for them all seriously.

      The lab report marks often do NOT vary much between students. The quiz marks often vary a lot. So the quiz marks often have a strong influence on the letter grades students get.

    4. Lab Final:

      As indicated above in subsection Evaluation, lab final is worth 10 % of the final grade.

      But you must pass it to pass the course.

      The rationale for the lab final is that it ensures that certain very simple skills (observational and otherwise) have been learnt by all students.

      If you do the preparation for the lab final, then you should pass it easily.

      The lab final is usually given during the last period or last two periods of the semester with different groups of students doing the lab final at different times. Students only come for their allotted times.

      Early lab finals (if the lab instructor permits them) and lab final makeups are arranged with the lab instructors.

      The lab instructors set their own lab final and set the preparation for it.

      The lab coordinator acting as a lab instructor has his own lab final which the other lab instructors can use if they like.

      If you are in the lab coordinator's sections, see DavidJ's Lab Final Instructions. These instructions are updated for each new semester as the lab final time approaches.

    5. Makeups:

      Makeup Notes:

      1. For regular/summer semesters, there will ALWAYS be a makeup-practice week/period before the lab final week, unless the class unanimously decides in an unpressured way to postpone the makeup week/period until after the lab final week.

        So students can always makeup at least one lab and one quiz before the lab final.

        Students do need to take the initiative if they need makeups.

      2. For regular semesters, there will be a SECOND makeup week after the lab final week if NEEDED.

        For summer semesters, special arrangements are needed if a second makeup period is needed.

      3. More than 2 makeups are possible if a student can come multiple nights or pack more than one set of makeups into one night. For mutliple nights, students may have to make arrangements with lab instructors other than their own. Students need to take the initiative on this.

      4. The lab instructors are NOT required to offer more than 2 makeups if a student has volitionally missed more than two labs.

      5. Note that if students have missed many labs, it may NOT be possible do them all in an educationally useful way as makeups.

        If it's NOT, the makeups won't be offered. Each student's case will have be judged on its own merits.

      6. Actually, it is overwhelmingly BEST if students can arranged makeups in the time frame (same week, adjacent week) when they missed a lab. Usually, the same lab is being done in another section in the same time frame. They should contact their lab instructor about such makeups as soon as possible.

      7. Missed quizzes are usually easy to makeup, but the lab instructor sets the rules about that.

      8. See UNLV Policies: Click Executive Vice President and Provost Policies & Forms/scroll 5 % down/semester memos/UNLV Policies for Faculty and All Teaching Staff.

        The policies require that students be given the opportunity, if reasonably possible, to make up marked items missed for excusable absences: these being religous holidays and official extracurricular activities.

        Thus, in general, you do NOT have to take a drop or a zero for such missed marked items. You can request a makeup and your lab instructor will try to accommodate you.

        In the lab course, we do NOT have a dropped lab, but quizzes beyond 5 are drops.

  18. Lab Safety

  19. This applies to only to classes taught by in-person instruction (IPI), of course.

  20. Student Conduct

  21. It is the responsibility of students to be well behaved and to carry out the lab activity in a serious manner.

    It is the responsibility of the instructor to stop all disruptive or other inappropriate behavior in class.

    Instructors can require that misbehaving students leave the classroom for the remainder of the period. If the students refuse, the instructor will call the UNLV Police at 911 and have the UNLV Police deal with the situation.

    Any serious misbehavior may result in the instructor filing a student of concern report with the Office of Student Conduct (OSC). Anytime the instructor has to the call the UNLV Police, there will be a student of concern report.

    Under certain circumstances, the instructor is required to contact the UNLV Police: e.g., in the case of a distressed student showing signs of alcohol or drug abuse.

    Lab instructors and students are encouraged to review the UNLV Student of Concern Guide Book. If the link is dead, UNLV IT has moved the guide book again and try googling UNLV Student of Concern Guide Book.

    The most relevant pages are 9--10.

    If you are having problems in life, the university does have resources to help you:

    1. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): Tel. 895-3627.
    2. Jean Nidetch Women's Center: Tel. 895-4475.
    3. Office of Student Conduct (OSC): Tel. 895-2308.
    4. Student Health Center: Tel. 895-3370.

  22. Evaluation Items Explicated for Remote Instruction (RMI)

    1. Lab Reports:

      Students should do the labs per Lab Schedule. It is best to do the lab on its recommended date. However, there is NO absolute deadline for any lab---except the ABSOLUTE deadline for all items is the Monday after the course ends since grades are due Tuesday.

      You work through each lab thusly:

      1. Do NOT print out the lab itself. It is very lengthy and consumes lots sheets of paper. Just read it from the screen. You can if you wish and have a printer, print out the report form and fill that out as you work through the tasks. However, even the report form is rather long. So you may prefer to do any writing for the tasks just on a piece of paper. Note that you are NOT handing in lab answers at all. You will just report having done the lab as explained below.

      2. Read along and whenever you come to a numbered task (e.g., Task 1, Task 2, etc.), do the task as best you can to do it: give an answer of some kind---a right one is best. Hopefully, the narrative and the suggested links of the lab will give enough information. Some tasks are easy. Some will take some effort. Inevitably, the student must think sometimes.

        The student can email the lab instructor for help, but that is often inefficient since the response might be relatively slow and email responses often have their own ambiguities relative to students.

        Yours truly has noticed that students often try to skip the lab narrative and just do the tasks, but then they don't know how and start doing Web searches for information which is usually hopeless---the Web doesn't have the specific information anywhere the student can find and for definitions, the online definitions for astronomy terms that first appear are often misleading. Inevitably, the student must think sometimes and the lab narrative is designed to give the student the information to think on.

      3. The student can have a friend work through the labs with them. This recommended. The labs are intended to be activity-based group learning. The student, of course, should make sure that they understand things---it's NOT so important if the friend does NOT---they're just doing the labs for fun---they do NOT get marks or a grade.

      4. The tasks are all listed in the Task Master for each lab: e.g. Lab 1: Constellations: Task Master.

        You do must attempt all tasks, except those labeled IPI only (i.e, in-person instruction). The IPI only. Tasks usually involve using things NOT available to RMI students: telescopes, lab equipment, licenced software.

      5. After you have completed each task with some kind of answer, you check your answer against with the lab key. For example, Lab 1: Constellations has Lab 1 key. The student must try to understand the answer.

        To access the lab keys, the student will need the SUPER-SECRET username password which the lab instructor will email to the students.

      6. For RMI labs, the last task will usually be Task: Naked-Eye Observation which is done after sunset.

        Note that in the summer semesters during June and July, the stars will start coming out clearly only ∼ 8:30 pm at the latitude of Las Vegas, Nevada: ∼ 36° N.

        For observing, you can always check Sky map: Las Vegas, current time and Weather: Las Vegas.

        If you are NOT in or near Las Vegas, Nevada, you will need to update the sky map's constrol fields. The Task: Naked-Eye Observation gives you directions for doing updates.

      7. The labs do vary in length. Note that Lab 2: The Sky and Lab 5: Planets are particularly long and may take 4 hours of concentrated time. On the other hand, Lab 11: Galaxies and Lab 12: Cosmos are rather short and probably take less than 2 hours of concentrated time. Most other labs are somewhere in between.

        It is understood that RMI students may NOT be able to do a lab single session.

        However, it is best that students do and report the 2 or 3 labs on the Lab Schedule for a given week in that week. It is very tedious to catch up, if you fall much behind Lab Schedule.

      8. A lab has been completed (i.e., the all required tasks of that lab have been completed).

        The student can then:

        1. report that that they have completed the lab. The report should be in an email and should have the form: "Last name, First name, lab X done": e.g., Jeffery,David,Ast105, Lab 1 done.

          That is all. The student gets a mark just for having reported having done the lab.

        2. just go onto complete the quiz for that lab and then report quiz answers. It is ASSUMED that if you report the quiz answers for a lab that you have done the lab too and you do NOT need to make a separate report of having done it.

          This is the recommended procedure since it saves emails and possible confusion.

      9. Required Items For Labs:

        For RMI labs, the student needs access to the Web, pen or pencil and writing material.

        If a student has a printer that would be convenient, but NOT necessary. Without a printer, a student will sometimes have to sketch sky map by hand---but that has its own educational value.

        The RMI labs, do NOT use things NOT available to RMI students: telescopes, lab equipment, licenced software.

      10. Quizzes:

        Every lab has an associated quiz: e.g., Lab 1: Constellations has Quiz 1.

        The lab is the preparation/study guide for the quiz.

        Soon after the student completes a lab, they should do the quiz.

        The quiz is individual work and it is closed book/note/Web: only the student brain can be used for information. A calculator/phone can be used for calculations and only for calculations.

        The quizzes are time-limited. The student has 2 minutes per question. So for X questions, the student has 2X minutes. Students with DRC accommodation for extended time have that extended time. Once a student starts, they much complete in the alloted time.

        The students are on their honor NOT to cheat.

        There are Rules for Remote Instruction Exams/Quizzes which explain how to report exam/quiz answers---follows those rules.

          As explained above, it is ASSUMED that if you report the quiz answers for a lab that you have done the lab too and you do NOT need to make a separate report of having done it.

        Quizzes will usually only be posted on or near the day for the lab in the Lab Schedule.

        Quiz solutions will be posted after all students have complete: e.g., Quiz 1 will be posted at Quiz 1 solutions.

        To access the quizzes and solutions, the student will need the SUPER-SECRET username password which the lab instructor will email to the students. This is the same as for accessing the lab keys.

    2. Lab Final:

      The RMI Lab Final will be posted as per the Lab Schedule.

      The exam is a 2-hour exam will have 100 questions.

      Otherwise, the rules are the same as for quizzes which are also fully explicated at Rules for Remote Instruction Exams/Quizzes.