Since time began, people have been looking to the night sky trying to understand the world around them. Three famous observatories are pictured below.

  • Stonehenge in England is thought to be over 5000 years old.
  • El Castillo in Mexico's Yucatan area was built between 800 and 1100 AD. The entire site is much older, perhaps 3000 years old.
  • Fajada Butte in the Chaco Canyon area of New Mexico was used between 900 and 1200 AD for marking the solstices and equinoxes.


As you can see, there are no expensive optical instruments. Observations were made with the naked eye and recorded with great care, as the future of a civilization was at stake.



Welcome to the very first of 15 labs you will be working on. This Observing Lab (Lab 0) will started with a two part observing project.

  • Observing Project 1 is worth 100 points. Check the schedule for the exact due dates
  • Observing Project 2 and 3 are worth 200 points. Check the schedule for the exact due dates

Check the syllabus and calendar for the exact due dates for each part. By comparison, your normal weekly labs are worth 100 points each, so this two part project is equivalent to three labs.

As this lab requires work outside the classroom, the webpages for this lab only are available both within the lab and from the lab homepage, which you can access from anywhere. Look at links labeled Observing Project 1 and Observing Project 2 and 3 for more information.


  1. Read the background material by clicking on the topics listed on the menu on the left side of this page. For a given topic there may be multiple pages, each of which can be accessed using the drop down navigation buttons.
  2. Answer the questions as they appear by filling in the form fields on the page. Click SUBMIT for each question and the answer area will turn gray. To change your answer, enter a new response and re-click the SUBMIT button. When you have answered all of the questions click the button labeled "Problems". A confirmation page will appear with all your answers displayed. Any questions you did not answer will not have an entry next to the number. If you want to change or add an answer, go back to the page that contained that question.
  3. Do you have a lab partner? If so, please add that person before submitting the lab.
  4. You will need to print a confirmation page and turn it in to your instructor. You can do this by clicking the "SUBMIT LAB" button at the bottom of the page.
  5. A confirmation page will be displayed; from here you must select Print to create a hard copy which is handed into your instructor.