This section will grow as the class progresses. The sessions will be in reverse chronological order on this page so that the current session is at the top. HSA (Home School Astronomy) slide presentations are available from

November 21


Constellations and Meteors

Objective: The students will understand concepts of constellations, and be introduced to the vocabulary and basic concepts involving meteors, meteoroids, and meteorites.

Continue with Constellations.

Share any Leonid Meteor Shower viewing experiences.

Begin "Meteors" slides (PDF, 2.7mb).

Homework: Do one and/or two. 1. Based on modern-day life, rename a few of the constellations and write an up-to-date story to explain their existence. Feel free to re-group stars to create whatever thing you want. 2. Tell a story that the ancients may have made up about meteors striking the earth. Bring either/both to class to share (2 minutes max each presentation). Optional.

10th - Total Lunar Eclipse (Wikipedia),
13/14th - Geminid Meteor Shower (PDF).

November 14



Objective: The students will share their planet reports and begin constellations.

Continue with Planets and Planet Reports, begin Constellations.

Homework: Watch the Leonid Meteor Shower. The peak period will start the evening of Nov 17 and go to dawn the next morning. The actual peak will occur about 2am-3am the morning of Nov 18. The half-moon (last quarter) will be smack dab in the middle of the Leo constellation (the direction from which these meteors appear to eminate), so viewing is likely to be significantly impaired (too bright). But, you should still see some. Here's a "How To Observe a Meteor Shower" from the American Meteor Society. The moon will not rise until about 11pm on Nov 17th. This is good in that the sky will be darker, but is bad as the apparent source of the meteors (Leo) will not have risen yet either. I intend to concentrate my viewing on Nov 17 from after dark until the moon rises. Optional.

  • Update 11/17/11: Last night we saw several meteors while out on the deck. The skies were quite clear, and the moon was a none issue as it did not rise until after we went in at about 10:30pm. A good omen for tonight. And the weather forecast indicates clear skies at least this evening if not into the dawn hours.
  • Update 11/18/11: As it turned out, the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning were clearer here than Thursday evening. Unfortunately, we didn't see much in the way of meteors at either time (we only spent an hour Thursday night and 30 minutes Friday morning). However, we did see a great space station pass Friday morning about 5:20am!

November 7


The Night Sky: Planets and Constellations

Objective: The student will understand how the constellations were viewed and named by our ancestors. The student will also learn how to find constellations and planets in the sky based on his or her location and by learning the terminology necessary to follow instructions in finding celestial objects.

Finalize the class' GRAIL "name the twin spacecraft" contest entry. NASA GRAIL Mission information: here.

Homework: Prepare a 2-minute report on your favorite planet.

October 31


History of Astronomy (cont.)

Objective: Students will appreciate how our understanding of the universe has developed over the ages.

Finish "Astronomy Through the Ages" (Slides, PDF, 2.9mb). History summary chart 1500-1750 (PDF).

Do Retrograde activity (PDF, 32kb).

Continue developing GRAIL naming contest entries. NASA GRAIL Mission information: here.

Homework: none

October 24


History of Astronomy

Objective: Students will appreciate how our understanding of the universe has developed over the ages.

Astronomy Through the Ages (Slides, PDF, 2.9mb).

Brainstorm in-class names for the twin spacecraft. What do you think people would like? NASA would like? What would make the names "clever"? NASA GRAIL Mission information: here.

Homework: Bring your NASA's GRAIL mission twin spacecraft name ideas to class on October 31st (optional)

October 17


Tides and Eclipses

Objective: Students will understand how tides and eclipses occur.

Tides/Eclipses (Slides, PDF, 624kb).

Introduce NASA GRAIL mission naming contest.

Homework: Start thinking/reading about NASA's GRAIL mission for the spacecraft naming contest (optional)

October 3


Earth-Moon Finish Up and "Test"

Objective: Students will test their knowledge of the Earth-Moon system

Geller-111 Moon/Eclipse Slides (PDF, 700kb)

Jeopardy for Lunatics (the "Test"): Play online.

Write three Jeopardy Answer/Questions that should have been included.

Homework: none.

September 26


More on the Moon and Eclipses

Objective: Students will expand their knowledge of the moon, including its formation, eclipses, lunar months, line of nodes, ancient measurements, center of gravity, its geology, and surface features.

Continue with the HSA Slides

Geller-111 Moon Slides (PDF, 1.5mb)

Demonstration: Phases of the Moon.

Discussion and questions/answers.

Homework: none.

Next Week: Jeopardy for Lunatics.

September 19


So You Think You Know the Moon

Objective: Students will know facts about the moon, and understand how the moon affects the Earth, as well as demonstrate knowledge of missions to the moon and our future there.

Distances and Angular Measurements.

Warm-up Activity: Ponder what causes the ocean tides.

HSA Slides

Homework: none.

How The Moon Affects Ocean Tides.

Missions to the Moon.

NASA's Apollo program.

Wikipedia: Moon.

September 12


Big is Relative


On your own and to turn in, write down the questions you want answered and the topics you'd like to cover during this course. Discussion...

Objective: Students will be able to distinguish the relative concept of size by comparing the size of the Earth progressively with larger objects in the universe of less comprehensible sizes in order to reconstruct the definition of big and utilize this new definition to evaluate other astronomical bodies.

Warm-up Activity: List three items, people, or places that you would consider big. Explain how you know that they are big.

HSA Slides

Discussion and questions/answers.

Homework: For no more than 30 minutes, write/type as much as you can about what you know of the universe, astronomy, space exploration, the solar system, and the like; anything you imagine fitting into the scope of this class. DO NOT USE ANY RESOURCES, just your brain's memory banks. If you finish in the alloted time, write "That's it." at the end. If you run out of time, write "There's more." at the end. Make sure your name is on the document. If you have email access, please email your writing to by Sept 18th at noon. If you do not have email, please bring your paper to class on Sept 19. Do not spend more than 30 minutes on this assignment.

Powers of Ten slideshow video.

Distances and Angular Measurements (PDF).

Fun Facts (PDF).