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Astronomy 101

Astronomy 101 is a class I have been teaching since January 2006. It is a course of my own design that I teach twice a year, in the Winter and in the Fall. Each one is 6 weeks in length and is oriented around sky during that time of the year.  I call it "Astronomy 101: The Winter Night Sky, What's Up There?"  I offer it the evenings to adults though the local Community Education Program.  Website:

January 2017 Course Outline:


Do you look into the night sky and wonder what you’re seeing?  Do you know how to locate the “star nursery” in Orion?  Can you find the Winter Hexagon of stars?  Do you see bright, star-like objects at sunrise or sunset and wonder what they are?  Join us and find out the answers.  Throughout the course we should have wonderful views of Venus as it changes its shape in the early evening sky.  Weather permitting, most evenings will include viewing through a high-quality telescope.  A highlight of the course will be at least one visit to my home observatory in Woodacre.  No previous knowledge of astronomy is required for this course, and it is open to anyone who has attended earlier versions. 
Class Details
8 Sessions:  Weekly - Tue
Location:  Sir Francis Drake High School
Instructor:  Rich Lohman 
Tuition:  $89.00
Registration Closes On: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 @ 12:00 AM

                                Astronomy 101: The Winter Night Sky, What’s Up There?
                                              (Course Outline, Jan-March 2017)


The following outline is subject to change due, especially, to weather conditions.  The general plan is to be in the classroom part of the evening and outside observing for a period of time.  If skies are cloudy or it is raining then we’ll likely spend the entire session inside.  We may, as well, spend much of the night outside observing if we have missed many evenings and the sky is particularly clear.

I also may decide to change topics depending on student interest and input, or in the case that I find we need more time on any given topic as the weeks progress.

Jan. 17: The Vocabulary of Astronomy; Orientation to the Night Sky of January 17th. What are the words/concepts of astronomy that you want to know about?
The night sky of Jan. 17 (major constellations, stars, planets)
Use of sky charts (Skymap of January 2017)
The “Winter Hexagon” and the “Winter G”

Outside observing with eyes, binoculars and telescope:  
No moon in the sky to compete with the stars.  Northern Sky:  Polaris (“north star”) and major constellations: Ursa Major and Cassiopeia.  Southern Sky: the constellation Orion (with its Orion Nebula) and surrounding constellations (notably Gemini and Taurus).  Open clusters, Pleiades and Hyades, easily viewed with binoculars.  Major stars that make up the “Winter Hexagon”.  The planet Venus in its quarter (half-illuminated) phase.

Jan. 24: “Orientation to the night sky” (con.); Phases of Venus; Star Color and Temperature

Use of planisphere; Uncle Al’s Star Wheel
Phases of Venus
Characteristics of the stars in the “Winter Hexagon”.
Temperature and color of stars.

Outside observing:

Very near new moon, so sky will be again be dark.  The sky will be very similar to the previous week so we will, once again, be identifying the major constellations of the southern sky and the brighter stars.  We’ll also look for the different colors in the stars.


Jan. 31: **No Class.  I will be out of town, but I encourage you to look towards the west at sunset for a very nice arrangement between a new moon and the planet Venus!!

Feb. 7: Types of Stars; Lifetime of Stars; Constellation Myths

Types of stars: red giants, white dwarfs, main sequence.
Lifetime of stars
Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
Mythology of some winter constellations: Orion, Taurus, Gemini, Cassiopeia, Perseus

Feb. 14: Visit to Over-The-Hill Observatory** (Woodacre-about 15 min from SFDHS)

Feb. 21:  **No class (Drake HS is closed) tonight, however I may decide to offer the opportunity to come out to my Woodacre observatory again.  This will depend upon my personal schedule at the time and, of course, sky conditions.  There will be no moon in the sky to wash out some of the dimmer objects.

Feb. 28:  An Orientation to the Universe (Also a possible alternate night for coming to my observatory.)

Objects within our galaxy: planets, stars, star clusters, nebulae
Objects beyond our galaxy: galaxies, galaxy clusters
Star clusters: open and globular
Scale and distance in the Universe.

Outside observing:  

A nearly new moon in the sky will allow us to have excellent views of all the objects we have been studying, although Venus will be lower in the west.

Mar. 7:  To be determined

Some possibilities:
Completing topics already covered or greater depth on some
New topics suggested by participants
Constellations in 3-D.

Outside observing:  

The moon will be just past 1st quarter, so the sky will be quite light.  We’ll still be able to identify the brighter stars, and the moon will look lovely through binoculars or a small telescope.

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