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Astronomy | Fall

We float through space on terrestrial driftwood. Our Sun is but one star out of hundreds of millions in our galaxy alone, caught up in a river of star swirling about a galactic core nearly 25,000 light years away. We seem to be lost in the vastness, and yet we are not! We are loved, loved to the point of being able to be here, pondering in awe and wonder, as well a deepening understanding of the majestic patterns of the night sky and the laws that govern their mechanics.

Astronomy blends the best of classroom instruction with real-world observation. We have two classrooms, one on Zoom and one outdoors. We will learn about the patterns of our solar system, the constellations of the seasonal sky, and the phases of our moon, first through direct instruction, and then through direct observation. We will learn about the physics behind what we observe, but also about the mysteries left before us as we realize that we can only perceive so much, so far, and that there great questions remaining about even the most fundamental models we have about the cosmos. The course will culminate with a key observation project and a Simulated Space Mission, in which each student enters the role of NASA engineer, conceiving, designing, budgeting for, ‘building’, and role playing a launch-through-landing mission.

No special observing tools will be required for this course other than the basic course materials. If you have binoculars or a telescope, we will learn to use those more effectively in class, but the course is geared for the naked eye observer. In this way, every student can simply walk outside, let the eyes adjust, and have the cosmos unfurl before them.

This same course is available in the fall or spring. See the spring section here

Required Materials:
Books and supplies are not included in the purchase of the course.

  • Notebook paper
  • A binder or binder section devoted to the course
  • Ruler, protractor, and compass
  • Colored pencils
  • Graph Paper
  • A planisphere (Links will be provided ahead of class)
  • A headlamp with a red LED option. (Links will be provided ahead of class.)
  • Resources to be posted as printable and downloadable files on the course web page.

Chris Hall, Lead Science Instructor, has a BA in philosophy from Gettysburg College and an MAT in elementary education from Towson University. He has been a classroom educator and administrator for 25 years, having served in public, independent, and classical schools. In that time, he has served as a classroom teacher in grades K-12, primarily as a science educator, PK-8 Science Department Chair, and a Lower School Academic Dean. Along with his professional pedigree, he is a lifelong practitioner of several of the common arts profiled in his book Common Arts Education: Renewing the Classical Tradition of Training the Head, Hands, and Heart, and the founder of Always Learning Education, an organization dedicated to teaching, learning, and propagating the common arts. He lives on a small, homesteaded farm in central Virginia with his wife and three homeschooled sons. chris@alwayslearningeducation.net

Quarter 1

  1. Introduction to Astronomy- Cosmological Address, Scale, Measurement in Light Units
  2. Introduction to Celestial Observation
  3. Fall Constellations and Asterisms
  4. Celestial Mechanics and Mapping
  5. The Life Cycle of Stars
  6. The Solar System
  7. Meteors and Meteorites
  8. History of Space Exploration- Manned and Unmanned Missions

Quarter 2

  1. Simulated Space Mission
  2. Winter Constellations and Asterisms
  3. Messier and Other Deep Sky Objects
  4. Artificial Satellites
  5. Future Technologies: Propulsion Systems, Space Elevator, Asteroid Mining, Space Telescopes

Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebcam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer. Webcam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. unnamed-e1455142229376 To download Zoom:

  1. Visit zoom.us/download.
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.

Red checkmarkScanner: In this class, students frequently submit homework assignments by scanning pages from their workbooks. Students and/or their parents should have easy access to a scanner and the ability to use it.

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