Astronomy 103, January intersession 2015


Astronomy 104, Spring 2015, Sections 1-2-3-4.

These are introductory courses to astronomy, with more emphasis on active thinking than memorizing facts. The main points of this course are (1) a general understanding of astronomy, (2) what can be observed in the sky, (3) the Solar System in 103 / the stars and the Universe in 104.


All grades are available for Astr 103 (intersession);

so are the correct solutions to the final test. Click.

In all classes and for all tests,

students need a new scantron # 16485,

one scantron for each class.

What's up in the sky?

The Sun.
There are quite a few sunspots now!

New Moon: Jan. 20, First Quarter: Jan. 27,

Full Moon: Feb. 3, Last Quarter: Feb. 12.


Uranus is up early night in Pisces, but looks little (3.7 as) and faint (5.7 mg) in the telescope.

Neptune sets very early night in Aquarius, and looks very tiny (2.3 as) and quite faint (7.9 mg) in the telescope.

Jupiter rises at 8 pm, and it is great in a telescope.



1. Philae, a space probe off the Rosetta spacecraft,

has landed on comet Churiumov-Gerasimenko after bouncing up twice.

It seems it landed in a hole, and hybernating for lack of power.

An important result of the mission: Earth's water did not originate in comets.

2 The ALMA radio telescope array reveals a super-high resolution image of planet formation.

3. Meteor impact carve new craters on Mars.

4. Jupiter's Great Red Spot is shrinking and fading?

5. J0159+0033, a 19-mg quasar in Cetus, has faded 2 mg in ten years.

Its accretion disk is now depleted: it is switching off!


Unusual events and objects

(Students might want to ask help in how to use the coordinates, ephemerids and finder charts.)

A near-Earth asteroid 2004 BL86 passes at 1.2 million km on Monday, Jan. 26.

At 11 pm it crosses the Beehive, and is seen as a 9.2 mg moving star, with a speed 2.5 as/sec.

Read about it.


Comet C2014/Q2 (Lovejoy) is brightening quickly and moving into our sky by the end of the year.

Best time to observe will be Jan. 6-7-8 right after sunset (before the full Moon rises).

Look at some pretty pictures of this comet!

For observation, a pair of binoculars would be needed. Use the star chart in the article in the link (click it).