Early Spring 2018 – Clocks, Calendars, Coordinates, & Orbits

An introductory course on diverse and unique topics.  The unifying theme is the astronomical foundations for specifying time and place.  We’ll explore establishing clocks and calendars, designating positions in the sky and space, and defining orbits.


Wednesday, Feb 7 – Defining Time
Solar and sidereal days, one “exact” second, leap seconds, time zones, sundials and the analemma, and equation of time.

Wednesday, Feb 14 – Calendars
Solar and lunar calendars. Roman, Julian, Gregorian calendars. Julian dates. Leap years, leap days, leap months. Modern, Jewish, Muslim, Chinese, Mayan, and other calendars.

Wednesday, Feb 21
Unique aspects of moon’s orbit
Tidal locking. Libration, standstills, nutation. Precession of axis and of nodes.
Celestial coordinates (A)
Altitude/Azimuth. Declination and Right Ascension. Effects of precession, epochs.

Wednesday, Feb 28 – Celestial coordinates (part B)
Practice in reading RA/DEC from a star chart given to each class member. Types of star maps. Three major coordinate systems and their common aspects.

Wednesday, Mar 7 –  Mapping the Sky
Constellations and asterisms. Rey drawings. Zodiac. Star designations by proper names, Bayer, Flamsteed, and RA/DEC. Star catalogs. Messier objects, Messier marathons.

Wednesday, Mar 14- Orbital parameters
Essentials of elliptical orbits. The 6 mathematical orbital parameters. Deriving ALTI/AZI and RA/DEC. Determining and publishing parameters. One point determination.


Time:  classes start at 6:30 PM and go until 8:30 PM.

Location: all classes are held at Cicatelli Center, 505 8th Ave, at 35th St. in Manhattan on the 20th Floor.

Instructor: David Kiefer
David Kiefer holds various Masters degrees, including a M.S. in astronomy from the Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing in Melbourne, Australia.  He has taught physics and astronomy at colleges in New York and New Jersey,  and is presently a lecturer at City College and at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York.  A member of the AAA, Mr. Kiefer observes regularly at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.



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