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Natural Science - Year I

Unit 26 Lab: Planetary Observations

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Lab: Basic Planetary Observations

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Natural Science Unit 25 Laboratory Activity: Copernicus and the Solar System

Goal: Observe celestial objects with a telescope or binoculars.

Materials and Equipment:


  1. Make at least two observations, two weeks apart.
  2. For the nights of your observations, determine the location of the moon and any planets easily visible with your equipment (the naked-eye planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). You may use a magazine such as Sky and Telescope, or an online source such as Tonight's Sky.
  3. Observe the moon with and without your telescope (note that you will need to plan your observations so that you can see the moon two weeks apart, so choose times just after new moon for your first observations; then you'll have a full moon for the second set). How does what you see through the telescope differ from your naked-eye observation?
  4. Observe at least one planet and one star with and without your telescope. Make notes on what you can and cannot see in each case.
  5. Can you duplicate Galileo's observations of the changing phases of Venus, the moons of Jupiter, and the craters on earth's moon? He did it with an 8X telescope--even binoculars will show you what he saw!
  6. If you want to view sunspots, follow the directions at NASA's How to Make a Pinhole Camera, which explain how to project the image of the sun onto a screen or paper. NEVER try to view sunspots directly through any telescope or binoculars!


Your report should have the standard sections (purpose/hypothesis, equipment and procedure, data, and conclusions). Your answers to #3-#6 comprise your data. Draw some general conclusions about the differences between naked-eye and assisted observing.