Professor:     Scott M. LaBrake, Ph.D.                                    Course:   Astronomy 50 Lab          

Email:                                                Phone:    388-6053 & 6562

Office Hours:   T:  12:00pm – 1:30pm                                                 Office:    S&E N331 & N008B 

                        MW:  10:30am – 1:30pm

                        By Appointment





For this course, you are required to complete five labs in three-hour sessions. Since you get Gen-Ed lab credit for AST-050, the completion of the five labs is a requirement for the course. For each lab you must show up, fully participate in the lab exercises, and turn in a written report. Attendance will be taken. The schedule for labs is posted here with as much notice as possible. If you have any conflicts, contact your lab instructor as soon as you know of the conflict (preferably, at least a week before the lab). If you miss a lab because of illness, contact your instructor as soon as you can and bring your instructor a note from the student health service (or whatever doctor or hospital you visited per department policy). Please note that you cannot assume that you can just switch lab sections in a given week because the labs may not occur in parallel and because equipment is limited.


The main goal of these labs is to teach you about the motions of the sky and several of the techniques by which the dimensions and motions of the Solar System have historically been determined. We’ll find the size of and distance to the Moon, the period of the Moon's orbit, the orbital shape of Mars, and the mass of Jupiter and an extrasolar planet (using Newton’s law of gravitation). Weather permitting, there will be an opportunity for outdoor observing in which you will observe the Moon and any other bright planets visible in the evening hours as well as evening opportunities to observe using Union's 20-inch telescope on top of the Olin Center. Public open houses at the Observatory are scheduled regularly and will be posted on the class webpage. These events are weather-dependent: if it cloudy, they will be canceled. Check the Union College Observatory homepage for updates. ( or click on the link from the class homepage.)



Because evening labs may be canceled, due to weather for example, your lab instructor will send information regarding modifications to the schedule by e-mail and posts on Nexus. If you want email sent to an account other than to your Union College account, please inform the instructor as soon as possible. Not receiving email or checking the posted lab schedule is not an excuse for missing lab, and will result in a failing lab grade.



Lab Reports: Each lab will require some written work to be handed in, and each student must hand in their own report. For some labs, only the completion of the appropriate pull-out pages of the lab manual is necessary. Others may require a written report. Follow the instructions in the handouts for each lab.


Late Policy: Labs should be turned in by the deadline given at the time of the lab. There will be a 15% reduction in grade per day late and this includes weekends. Note that Labs (and class activities) will count 20% towards your final course grade.



·              Attendance is mandatory!  It is expected that you will attend lab at your scheduled time and be present for the duration of the laboratory time.  If you cannot attend a lab class then it is your responsibility to notify the instructor a minimum of 48 hours in advance.  Do not assume that you may merely attend the other section.  The instructor reserves the right to ask you to leave and come to a make-up session at a time convenient for the instructor. 

·              It is the policy of the department of Physics & Astronomy that in order to pass Astronomy 50, you must obtain a passing grade in lab.  In order to do this, you need to do more than just attend the labs.  You need to hand in a written report for every laboratory exercise that you perform.  If you do not attend a lab then you cannot hand in a report.  In short you may not just “take someone else’s data.” 

·              Your participation in the completion of the laboratory will be factored into your final grade.  This means that you should not just sit idly by and let your lab partner perform the lab.  Further, it is the responsibility of the student to have with you at the start of the laboratory, a copy of the week’s laboratory exercise.  The instructor will not provide copies.

·              Make sure that you have copies of all necessary data or graphs to complete the labs before you leave the lab.  Not having the data or graphs is no excuse for not having the lab completed on time. 

·              Further it will be expected that you will have your calculator, textbook and a copy of the lab with you at every laboratory exercise. 

·              Laboratory sections will be capped at 10. 



Brief outline of the theory and techniques necessary for successful completion of the lab will be given promptly at the start of the lab.  It is the responsibility of the student to be ready (know the background theory, have read the laboratory ahead of time and worked out any pre-lab materials) when the laboratory class starts.  Occasionally the start of the lab class will be used as a short lecture class.  In other words, I may use the beginning of the lab class as a time to lecture on the theory behind a topic pertaining to class, but not covered in detail in class.


Honor Code:


Union College recognizes the need to create an environment of mutual trust as part of its educational mission. Responsible participation in an academic community requires respect for and acknowledgement of the thoughts and work of others, whether expressed in the present or in some distant time and place. Matriculation at the College is taken to signify implicit agreement with the Academic Honor Code, available at It is each student's responsibility to ensure that submitted work is his or her own and does not involve any form of academic misconduct. Students are expected to ask their course instructors for clarification regarding, but not limited to, collaboration, citations, and plagiarism. Ignorance is not an excuse for breaching academic integrity.


For Astronomy 50 laboratory, any written work, derivations not done in the lecture or laboratory portion of the class, calculations, computer generated code, interpretations of data/graphs must be your own work and a reflection of your understanding of the material. Data and any graphs made, by using the data taken with your lab partner during the laboratory period, may be created with your lab partner only. Please cite your lab partner when submitting any data or graphs or work that is not explicitly your own and anything that you take off of the internet needs to be cited as well.


Students are also required to affix the full Honor Code Affirmation, or the following shortened version, on each item of coursework submitted for grading: ``I affirm that I have carried out my academic endeavors with full academic honesty.'' [Signed, Jane Doe]


For the Lab Reports and Lab Activities :



Lab Schedule


Week 1            No Lab

Week 2            The Motions of the Sky (Report due in class on Thursday 4/16/15)

Week 3            Size of and distance to the Moon (Report due in class on Thursday 4/23/15)

Week 4            The Orbit of Mars   (Report due on Thursday 4/30/15)                         

Week 5            The Mass of Jupiter (Report due in class on Thursday 5/7/15)                          

Week 6            No Lab                                  

Week 7            No Lab                             

Week 8            No Lab

Week 9            Orbital Period of the Moon   (Report due in class on Thursday 6/4/15)             

Week 10          No Lab