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Welcome To ASTR 101L:
Introduction to Astronomy Laboratory: Our Place in Space

The introductory astronomy labs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been in place for some three decades, and are now being updated, revamped, and revitalized. Beginning in the Spring of 2009, Dr. Dan Reichart and his group have been working to create a unique astronomy laboratory experience which will both move our students in a more technologically advanced direction as well as motivate them to further explore concepts from the comfort of their own home via our custom web-based software suite.

ASTR 101L now consists of seven labs.  In some of these labs, you will observe astronomical objects using robotic telescopes, called PROMPT, that we have built and currently maintain in the Chilean Andes.  In other labs, you will use observations that we have already made for you with these and other Skynet telescopes around the world.  Finally, some of these labs will be traditional in that you will collect data with materials in class.

Here is a brief summary of each lab:

  • Lab 1:  Introduction to Skynet
    • In this lab, you will (1) learn how to take pictures of astronomical objects with PROMPT and (2) learn how to analyze these pictures with software that we have developed, called Afterglow.
  • Lab 2:  Earth and the Seasons
    • In this lab, you will (1) learn why it is hotter in summer and colder in winter and (2) measure the size of Earth.
  • Lab 3:  The Galilean Revolution:  Earth’s Place in the Solar System
    • In this lab, you will (1) show that Earth is not at the center of the solar system and (2) measure the mass of a Jovian planet.
  • Lab 4:  The Cosmic Distance Ladder I:  Parallax
    • In this lab, you will (1) learn how to measure distances to objects using parallax, and (2) measure distances to solar system objects and a nearby star.
  • Lab 5:  The Cosmic Distance Ladder II:  Standard Candles
    • In this lab, you will (1) learn how to measure distances to objects using standard candles, and (2) measure distances to a globular cluster in our galaxy, a nearby galaxy, and a faraway galaxy.
  • Lab 6:  The Great Debate:  The Solar System’s Place in the Galaxy
    • In this lab, you will (1) show that the solar system is not at the center of our galaxy, and (2) show that our galaxy is merely one of many similar-sized objects in the universe.
  • Lab 7:  The Rotation Curve and Mass of the Galaxy: Dark Matter
    • In this lab, you will learn (1) how to measure the speeds at which matter orbits our galaxy, (2) how to measure the rotation curve of our galaxy, and use it to determine if our galaxy’s mass is concentrated at its center or spread throughout its disk, and (3) how to measure the mass of our galaxy within different radii from its center, and use this information to determine if our galaxy is composed primarily of visible matter or of a combination of visible and dark matter.
  • Lab 8:  Hubble’s Law:  The Galaxy’s Place in the Universe
    • In this lab, you will (1) learn why the Big Bang was not an explosion in space but of space, (2) show that our galaxy is not at the center of the universe and that the universe in fact has no measurable center, and (3) determine whether the universe is expanding at a decelerating, constant, or accelerating rate.

For more information on office hours or individualized teaching assistant instructions, please see your TA's website.