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Course Title
The Night Sky - Unlocking Its Secrets


The night sky holds many wonders for the star gazer. How did man discover the solar system? The tilt of the earth's axis? What have we discovered in recent years that can tell us more about our universe? In this course we will examine the planets, our solar system, constellations and the night sky using the principles of astronomy and fundamentals of celestial navigation using binoculars and/or telescopes and the naked eye. You will never gaze upon the stars again as a novice; instead you will come away with a new perspective on the night sky and all the wonders it holds. *Please note: binoculars and/or telescopes are recommended but not required. The instructor will bring a telescope to class.


  • 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
  • Opportunity for opitional field trip to an amateur astronomy observatory for further study/observations at the conclusion of the class.


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
  • Astrophotography
  • Conclusions and summaries

5. Week Five

  • Wrap up, viewings and celestial exploration of the heavens



None; expcept a desire to explore the night sky

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, optional field trip to SC Amateur Astronomy Club's Observatory after the class ends


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