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Course Title
The Night Sky - Unlocking Its Secrets


Looking up at the panoply of the heavens on a crystal clear night, the wonder of your childhood returns. How did man discover the solar system or the tilt of the earth's axis? What have we discovered that reveals the secrets of our universe? Join us as we learn about the planets, solar system, constellations and the celestial sphere through the principles of astronomy and fundamentals of celestial navigation. Using telescopes and the naked eye, your wonder will skyrocket with each new discovery.



  • Learn the principles of amateur astronomy and the fundamental concepts of celestial navigation;
  • Use of telescopes, binoculars and the naked eye.
  • Outside field work viewing the night sky it's wonders and secrets


1. Week One

  • Brief history of Astronomy
    • Early Greeks, Aristotle, Brache and Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Edwin Hubble (think Hubble Telescope)
  • Modern Astronomy
    • Land and space telescopes
    • Different wavelengths
  • Concepts and Principles of Optics
    • Light and photons
    • Human eye
    • Light pollution and how this effects viewings
  • Scale and distance
    • Earth, solar system, galaxy and universe

2. Week Two

  • Objects and Targets
    • Planets, galaxies, nebulae, Messier objects and stars
  • Stars and spectral types
  • Luminosity and magnitude
  • Constellations and asterisms
  • The Celestial Sphere
    • The ecliptic, horizon and zenith and North Star
  • Earth Axis Tilt
    • Solar and lunar eclipses, transits and occultation caused by the earth's axis and tilt; why solar and lunar eclipses occur

3. Week Three

  • Orientation and Navigation
    • Using compass, hand and finger measurements
  • Right ascension and declination
  • Using Planispheres
  • Understanding Time Zones
  • Naked Eye Observations
  • Binoculars
  • Outside Observations and Star Gazing

4. Week Four

  • Types of Telescopes
    • Refractors
    • Reflectors
    • Cassegrains
  • The Go-To Telescopes
  • Astro-photography
  • Conclusions and summaries

5. Week Five

  • Wrap up, viewings and celestial exploration of the heavens


Method of Instruction

  • Classroom instruction, class participation which will include telescopes, binoculars and basic eye observations of the night sky.
  • Outside night sky viewing
  • Depending on interest and observatory availability, optional field trip to SC Amateur Astronomy Club's Observatory after the class ends


  • Exam: No
  • Class participation: Yes
  • Demonstration of skills: Yes