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This spring I became an educator member through Civil Air Patrol.  In June, I lead a civil air patrol lesson on the weather, the atmosphere, the climate, and weather forecasting.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  In October my Civil Air Patrol educational materials were the Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit. I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  This time it is Astronomy.  This time the kit came with a telescope and activity guide.  Thanks to having access to a dark spot in Houston, we will be taking the kids to the Greater Houston Soaring Association’s Gliderport in Wallis where 2 of their members will be demonstrating their powerful scopes compared to the kit’s scope.  In addition, we will be attending the planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science to learn about the “Starry Night.”

The following list of terms came from the Civil Air Patrol’s “Astronomy Activity Booklet as a compendium to AEX Astronomy Module” and astronomy books:

Aperture Door – guards the telescope’s internal mechanisms.

Asteroids – are rocky, airless worlds that orbit our sun, but are too small to be called planets. They are often called “minor planets” or “planetoids.” Tens of thousands of these minor planets are gathered in the main asteroid belt, a vast doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomical System of Degrees – is the system of measuring objects on the horizon.  Astronomers measure distances in the sky in units of degrees.

Cardinal Directions – are the four cardinal points from a compass: North (N), East (E), South (S), and West (W).

Cassegrain Reflector Telescope (what the Hubble Telescope is) – is a combination of a primary concave mirror and a secondary convex mirror, often used in optical telescopes and radio antennas. This design puts the focal point at a convenient location behind the primary mirror and the convex secondary adds a telephoto effect creating a much longer focal length.

Concave Lens – are thinner in the middle. Rays of light that pass through the lens are spread out (they diverge). A concave lens is called a diverging lens. When parallel rays of light pass through a concave lens the refracted rays diverge so that they appear to come from one point called the principal focus.

Constellations – are totally imaginary things that poets, farmers, and astronomers have made up over the past 6,000 years (and probably even more!). The real purpose of the constellations is to help us tell which stars are which and have been used for navigation. The International Astronomical Union recognizes 88 constellations covering the entire northern and southern sky. Over half of the 88 constellations, the IAU recognizes today are attributed to the ancient Greek, which consolidated the earlier works by the ancient Babylonian, Egyptian and Assyrian. Forty-eight of the constellations we know were recorded in the seventh and eighth books of Claudius Ptolemy’s Almagest.

Convex Lens – are thicker in the middle. Rays of light that pass through the lens are brought closer together (they converge). A convex lens is called a converging lens. When parallel rays of light pass through a convex lens the refracted rays converge at one point called the principal focus.

Electromagnetic Radiation – refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space-time, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy.  It is a form of energy that is all around us and takes many forms, such as radio waves, microwaves, X-rays and gamma rays. Sunlight is also a form of EM energy, but visible light is only a small portion of the EM spectrum, which contains a broad range of electromagnetic wavelengths.

Eyepiece –  is a type of lens that is attached to a variety of optical devices such as telescopes and microscopes. It is also called the ocular lens. It is so named because it is usually the lens that is closest to the eye when someone looks through the device.

Filters – are an invaluable aid in viewing plants, the moon, and the sun.  Filters reduce glare and light scattering, increase contrast through selective filtration, increase definition and resolution, reduce irradiation, and lessen eye fatigue.  To look at the sun you must use a specific solar filter and not just any color filter.

First Quarter Moon – is a primary Moon phase when we can see exactly half of the Moon’s surface illuminated. If it is the left or right half, depends on where you are on Earth. This First Quarter Moon is in the Northern Hemisphere mirrors approximately the calendar symbol.  It is also called the Half Moon.

Focal Length – is the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus, usually stated in millimeters (e.g., 28 mm, 50 mm, or 100 mm). The focal length is the distance between the center of the lens and the virtual image. In the case of zoom lenses, both the minimum and maximum focal lengths are stated, for example, 18–55 mm.  

Focusis also called the principal focus.  It is the focus of the point on the axis of a lens or mirror to which parallel rays of light converge or from which they appear to diverge after refraction or reflection. It is a central point of attention or interest.

Full Moon – is the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is completely illuminated as seen from Earth. This occurs when Earth is located directly between the Sun and the Moon.

Galaxy – is a gravitationally bound system of stars, stellar remnants, interstellar gas, dust, and dark matter.  Our solar system is part of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Last Quarter – occurs a week after Full Moon. In this phase, the Moon is in quadrature, and one half of the Moon’s disk is illuminated as seen from Earth. The Last Quarter Moon rises at midnight, transits the meridian at sunrise and sets at noon.

Light – is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is visible to the human eye

Magnification – the action or process of magnifying something or being magnified, especially visually.  It is the process of enlarging the appearance, not physical size, of something. This enlargement is quantified by a calculated number also called “magnification.”

Moon Phases – are also called lunar phases.   It is the shape of the illuminated portion of the Moon as seen by an observer on Earth.  The phases are Full Moon, Waning Gibbous Moon, Last Quarter Moon, Waning Crescent Moon, New Moon, Waxing Crescent Moon, First Quarter Moon, and Waxing Gibbous Moon. The moon’s phases are caused by the changing angle from which the sun illuminates it as the moon makes its way around the Earth.

New Moon – the phase of the moon when it is in conjunction with the sun and invisible from earth, or shortly thereafter when it appears as a slender crescent.

Objective Lens – the lens or system of lenses in a telescope that is nearest the object being viewed.

Observatory – is a location used for observing terrestrial or celestial events. Astronomy, climatology/meteorology, geophysical, oceanography, and volcanology are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been constructed.

Optical Tube – contain the objective and the eyepiece for a telescope. The objective of an optic tube is a collecting system (usually consisting of two cemented lenses, less frequently a multi-lens or catadioptric system). It gives a real reduced and inverted image of a distant object near its own focal plane.  Astronomers and opticians call eyepieces “oculars.” Oculars are a self-contained system of magnifying lenses (usually between two and seven elements) that are mounted in a tube and attached in the focal plane of a telescope to magnify the image formed by the telescope.

Orbit – is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object, such as the trajectory of a planet around a star or a natural satellite around a planet.

Planetarium – is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation.

Planets – an astronomical body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion and has cleared its neighboring region of planetesimals. The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, astrology, science, mythology, and religion.  The planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.  Pluto has been classified as a dwarf planet.

Reflector telescope – is a telescope that uses a single or combination of curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image.

Refractor telescope – is a type of optical telescope that uses a lens as its objective to form an image. The refracting telescope design was originally used in spy glasses and astronomical telescopes but is also used for long focus camera lenses.

Satellites – is an artificial object which has been intentionally placed into orbit. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as Earth’s Moon.

Secondary Lens – is a lens designed to be used in conjunction with another lens, called the primary lens. A secondary lens may be designed to be used either in front of the primary lens, between it and the subject, or behind the primary lens, between it and the film.

Solar System – is the gravitationally bound system comprising the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of those objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest eight are the planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, such as dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies.

Stars -is a luminous sphere of plasma held together by its own gravity. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun.

Telescope – works by collecting more light than the human eye can capture on its own via mirrors or lenses.  The larger its mirror, the more light it can collect, and the better its vision.  It is an optical instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation (such as visible light).

Universe – is all of space and time and its contents, which includes planets, moons, minor planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space and all matter and energy.

Waning – means shrinking

Waning Crescent – follows last quarter.

Waning Gibbous – comes after full moon

Waxing – means getting larger

Waxing Crescent – comes after new moon

Waxing Gibbous – follows the first quarter


The following are links to online resources that I located or were suggested in the activity booklet (videos, lesson plans, e-books) that can be used to better understand astronomy:


The following are books (all at our local library) about astronomy:

  • “Astronomy: A Visual Guide” by Garlick, Mark A.
  • “Astronomy” by Lippincott, Kristen
  • “The Young Astronomer” by Ford, Harry.
  • “Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide” by Moché, Dinah L
  • “Astronomy: The Story of Stars and Galaxies” by Gore, Bryson
  • “Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope– And How to Find Them” by Consolmagno, Guy
  • “Space And Astronomy Experiments” by Walker, Pam
  • “Practical Astronomy” by Dunlop, Storm
  • “The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Amateur Astronomy” by Bakich, Michael E.
  • “Stargazing Basics: Getting Started in Recreational Astronomy” by Kinzer, Paul E.
  • “Hubble’s Universe: A Portrait of Our Cosmos” by Goodwin, Simon
  • “The New Astronomy Guide: Stargazing in the Digital Age” by Moore, Patrick
  • “Illustrated Dictionary of Practical Astronomy” by Kitchin, C. R.
  • “Kepler and the Universe: How One Man Revolutionized Astronomy” by Love, David
  • “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy” by De Pree, Christopher Gordon
  • “Be an Astronomer” by Shea, Nicole
  • “Galileo’s New Universe: The Revolution in Our Understanding of the Cosmos” by Maran, Stephen P.
  • “National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky” by Chartrand, Mark
  • “Making & Enjoying Telescopes: 6 Complete Projects & a Stargazer’s Guide” by Miller, Robert
  • “Starwatch: A Month-by-Month Guide to the Night Sky” by Kerrod, Robin
  • “Astronomers” by Haydon, Julie
  • “Night Sky Atlas: The Moon, Planets, Stars and Deep Sky Objects” by Scagell, Robin
  • “Astronomy 101: From The Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts About the Universe” by Petersen, Carolyn Collins
  • “The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes” by Jackson, Ellen
  • “Astronomy for Beginners” by Becan, Jeff
  • “Cambridge Illustrated Dictionary of Astronomy” by Mitton, Jacqueline
  • “Janice VanCleave’s Astronomy for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments That Really Work” by VanCleave, Janice Pratt
  • “The Universal Book of Astronomy From the Andromeda Galaxy to the Zone of Avoidance” by Darling, David J


The following are DVDs (all at our local library) about astronomy:

  • Greatest Discoveries with Bill Nye. Astronomy
  • Discovery history of astronomy; Night sky: navigating the constellations
  • Seeing in the dark
  • Earth home planet; Orbit: Earth from space
  • Core astronomy
  • Understanding the universe, what’s new in astronomy 2003
  • Space exploration: Adi in space. The outer planets
  • Journey to the edge of the universe
  • 400 years of the telescope a journey of science, technology, and thought
    Space exploration: Adi in space. The Earth
  • The universe. The complete season three explore the edges of the unknown
  • Journey of the universe
  • Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey
  • Bill Nye the science guy. Outer space
  • At the edge of space
  • Science for kids. Universe, galaxy, black holes, solar system
  • My fantastic field trip to the planets
  • Dark matter, dark energy: the dark side of the universe
  • Black holes explained
  • Invisible universe revealed
  • The universe an amazing journey from the sun to the most distant galaxies