Classes – Archive


AAA Fall Astronomy Class 2014 – Introduction to Amateur Astronomy – October-November 2014

Instructor: Jason Kendall

This six-week class will focus on some of the critical elements of amateur astronomy: what things are up there and how we can observe them. There will be a strong emphasis on remote observing using real telescopes at distant locations.

Wednesday, Oct 15 – Remote Observing preview and assignment. Using MicroObservatory, SIMBAD, POSS, iTelescope and Sierra Stars Observatory.

Wednesday, Oct 22 – The formation of the Solar System. Also, observing asteroids, comets and the planets with our telescopes.

Wednesday, Oct 29 – The Sun as a star, what it is, and how it works. Also solar observing.

Wednesday, Nov 5 – The stars of our Milky Way (clusters, young and old stars, star life, birth and death). Also, variable star observing.

Wednesday, Nov 12 – The realm of the galaxies. Also, visiting dark sky locations for deep observing.

Wednesday, Nov 19 – Exoplanets and exobiology: Kepler Space Telescope, TESS, JWST, Curiosity. Final Exam.

This is not a class designed for you to “just come sit and listen”. It’s a class where you’ll bring questions in and take ideas and assignments out. Once enrolled, students will be asked to submit one question on each of the following topics, which will then be covered in the class:

— Solar System Formation and evolution
— The Sun as a star
— The Milky Way: the stars and nebulae and objects that comprise it.
— The Galaxies.


About the Instructor:
Jason Kendall is a member of the AAA Board of Directors and on the staff of the Physics Department at William Paterson University in New Jersey. He taught an AAA class, Introduction to Astrophysics, in the Spring of 2011.


AAA Fall-Winter Astronomy Class 2013 – The Solar System – November-December 2013
This class is an introduction to all things Solar System. We will start with some history and general physics. Then, we will begin our march through the Solar System covering the planets, some moons, and other interesting bodies. We will discuss their atmospheres, surfaces, interiors, and more. We will also talk about the various NASA missions that have gone to these fascinating places, and current areas of active research, like exoplanets. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Earth’s neighborhood, then this is the class for you!

Class Schedule:

Monday, November 11 – Week 1: Discovery, Formation, and Laws of the Solar System
Monday, November 18 – Week 2: The Rocky Planets: Mercury, Venus, and Mars
Monday, November 25 – Week 3: Jupiter and the Galilean Moons
Monday, December 2 – Week 4: Saturn and its Moons
Monday, December 9 – Week 5: Uranus, Neptune, Dwarf Planets, and Beyond
Monday, December 16 – Week 6: Asteroids, Comets, and Exoplanets


About the Instructor:
Jaclyn Avidon is a member of the Board of Directors of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, the Chair of the Association’s School Outreach Committee, and the instructor for the Association’s classes. Past classes have included “The Solar System” and “Cosmology”. Jaclyn graduated with honors from Lafayette College with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and a minor in Mathematics. She spent over two years researching the subsurface conditions of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, including a summer spent at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Jaclyn is a frequently invited guest speaker at public astronomy seminars and currently works in educational technology.


AAA Fall-Winter Astronomy Class 2013 – Introduction to Celestial Mechanics – October-December 2013

Instructor: Dr. Sneha Honnappa

Have you every wondered why the inner planets of the solar system revolve more rapidly around the sun than the outer planets? Or what makes the moon go around the earth? Or why the rings of Saturn are flat? Perhaps you have an intuitive understanding of these phenomena but have never fully understood the underlying physical concepts.

This five-week course will answer these and other questions. It’s basically an introductory course in classical mechanics, with an emphasis on the motion of celestial bodies. There’s no textbook and no homework or problem solving. An understanding of high school math is assumed. Some familiarity with calculus would be helpful but not necessary.

Class Schedule:

Wednesday, October 23: Introduction to Mechanics and Translational Kinematics
Wednesday, October 30: Force and Newton’s Laws of Motion
Wednesday, November 13: Circular Motion, Conservation of Energy and Momentum
Wednesday, November 27: Two Dimensional Rotational Motion and Angular Momentum
Wednesday, December 11: Rotation and Central Force Motion, including Kepler’s Laws

About the Instructor:
Dr. Honnappa graduated with a Doctoral degree from the Kepler Institute of Astronomy, Poland, in the field of Pulsar Astronomy. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the study of single pulse behavior at very high frequencies and its theoretical interpretation. Apart from pulsars, she also studied Radio Halos and Relics from Galaxy clusters during her Masters project at C.V. Raman Research Institute, India. Currently, she is pursuing a career as a Data Scientist, applying mathematical models in the analysis of data from different industrial sectors.


AAA Spring-Summer Astronomy Class 2013 – Cosmology: It All Started With A Bang
July-August  2013

This class begins at the creation of time and space: the Big Bang. Then, we run the clock forward, each week covering another epoch in the evolution of our Universe. Hot topics like black holes, dark matter and dark energy, relativity, and antimatter will all come into play. We’ll visit the coldest, hottest, brightest, darkest, and most violent of what our Universe has to offer. The smallest of time scales and the largest of distances will both take center stage. The history of the Universe, and our discovery of it, all started with a bang.

Class Schedule:

July 10 – Week 1: What is ‘Nothing’, and How We Got Something
July 17
– Week 2: The Earliest Light and How We Detect It
July 24
– Week 3: Cosmic Extremism: Quasars, Black Holes, and the Seeds of Large-Scale Structure
July 31
– Week 4: The Dark Side: Accelerated Expansion
August 7 – Week 5: This is Starting to Look Familiar: Galaxies and Stars
August 14 – Week 6: Will It End With a Bang: The Fate of Our Universe

About the Instructor:

Jaclyn Avidon graduated with honors from Lafayette College with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and a minor in Mathematics. She spent over two years researching the subsurface conditions of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, including a summer spent at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Jaclyn was also an Astronomy teaching assistant for three years and the President of her college’s Physics Club.Jaclyn previously taught the Amateur Astronomers Association’s Winter 2013 Solar System class, and has been an invited guest speaker at public astronomy seminars.

AAA Winter Astronomy Class 2013 – The Solar System – Feb-Mar 2013

Class Schedule:

February 6 – Week 1
Orientation to the Solar System

  • Definitions
  • How it formed
  • Discovery and historical figures
  • Orbital motion and laws of motion

*For weeks 2-6, when talking about various solar system bodies, we will cover their formation, atmosphere, surface, interior, moons, and interesting features/backstories.
February 13 – Week 2
The Rocky Planets

  • Mercury
  • Venus
  • Mars
  • Mars rovers

February 20 – Week 3
Jovian System

  • Jupiter
  • Galilean moons
  • Voyager and Galileo missions

February 27 – Week 4
Saturnian System

  • Saturn
  • Saturn’s rings
  • Saturnian moons
  • Cassini mission

March 6 – Week 5
Remaining Outer Planets and Dwarf Planets

  • Uranus
  • Neptune
  • Dwarf Planets
  • Pluto
  • New Horizons mission to Pluto
  • Oort Cloud

March 13 – Week 6
Other Solar System Bodies

  • Asteroid Belt/asteroids
  • Comets
  • Meteors/meteorites

March 20 – Week 7
Questions/Related Topics/Observing

  • A class devoted to related topics students are particularly curious about
  • Observing


About the Instructor:

Jaclyn Avidon graduated with honors from Lafayette College with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and a minor in Mathematics. She spent over two years researching the subsurface conditions of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, including a summer spent at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Jaclyn was also an Astronomy teaching assistant for three years and the President of her college’s Physics Club.

AAA Spring/Summer Astronomy Class 2012

Class Schedule:

Wednesday, June 13 AAA Premiere Class – Dr. Denton S. Ebel
“Meteorites, Solar System Chemistry, and MESSENGER at Mercury: An Extended Discussion”

Join Dr. Denton S. Ebel, Curator of Meteorites from the AMNH Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences,  as he takes  us through a fascinating inside look at how his research reveals new information about the countless  meteorites that  travel around the universe and strike Earth on a daily basis. This presentation will give us firsthand insight into the  composition of our universe.  We are all made of these  elements, so feel  right at home!
Wednesday, June 20 Class 2 – Peter Tagatac
“Tales and Techniques of an Urban Astronomer”

Sidewalk astronomy is a challenging endeavor. Stargazing from New York City is a wonderful recreational activity,  guaranteed to enchant anyone with a curiosity to experience the night sky. Peter Tagatac has mastered this process,  developing skills to maximize visibility while sharing his love of astronomy with others. Learn how to become an urban  astronomer and hear about Peter’s unique experiences.
Monday, June 25 Class 3 – Marc Horowitz
“An Evening at the Edward R. Murrow Hubble Planetarium”
Our universe in just over the Brooklyn Bridge. Travel with us to the Edwin P. Hubble Planetarium in Brooklyn to visit  the cosmos with EP Hubble Planetarium Director Marc Horowitz. Explore the night sky through the digital universe  on our first class “away mission.”
Wednesday, July 11  Class 4 – Stan Honda
“Focus on Night Sky Photography”
From the launch pad of 13 NASA shuttle missions to the remote areas of the Grand Canyon and the Petrified  Forest,  professional photographer Stan Honda has perfected his skills shooting the night sky.  In this session,  bring your camera if  you would like some pointers as Stan discusses his adventures and challenges in the dark, capturing exquisite photographs of  the stars above us. Stan will also join us on August 1 to guide class members during our observing session in Ward Pound  Ridge Reservation in Westchester.
Wednesday, July 18 Class 5 – Andrew Kessler
“In The Room” for the First Mars Rover Mission and Author of “Martian Summer”

“Martian Summer” is an up close and personal non-fiction account of author Andrew Kessler’s time spent as the  inside  observer for the NASA Phoenix Mars mission. Join us as we relive his three months of unfettered access to mission control,   a journalistic first and often NASA “no-no.” Capturing the story of 130 of the world’s best planetary scientists exploring the  north pole of Mars was a trip in itself.
Wednesday, July 25    Class 6 – Jason Kendall
“The Universe Is 13.67 Billion Years Old”

How do we know how old the universe is? What was it like at the beginning? What was before the Big Bang?  NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Jason Kendall will show us how to understand these concepts using images  from the Hubble Space Telescope, WMAP, COBE, BLAST, ALMA and other major space telescopes. We’ll also  learn how the future James Webb Space Telescope will bring scientists new knowledge of our vast universe.
Monday, August 13 Class 7 – Michael O’Gara and Stan Honda
“Observing Session at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation”

Amateur astronomy is still all about observing.  Join veteran observer Mike O’Gara, professional photographer Stan  Honda and other volunteer AAA observers as we travel to Westchester for darker skies and an evening of pure  observing  fun to complete our Spring/Summer session. Note: date changed to Monday August 13 with rain date of Wednesday August 15.



Dates: Six Wednesdays, Nov 2, 9, 16, 30; Dec 7, 14 (no class on Nov 23)

Giant Molecular Cloud Nursery
Accretion of Planetesimals
Creation of the Giant Planets and Asteroid Belt
Creation of the Terrestrial Planets
What Is a Planet?
Guided Tour of the Solar System with Pretty Pictures
The Creation of the Moon
Planetary Migration
Late Heavy Bombardment
Formation of the Kuiper Belt Objects
Long-Term Stability
Aging Sun
Collision with the Andromeda Galaxy
Red Giant Stage
Planetary Nebula Events
White Dwarf Stage
Laird’s internal notes from which topics will be chosen:

The Solar System Part I (up to Earth/Moon)

The Solar System Part II (the Inner Solar System)

The Solar System Part III (the Rest of the Solar System)

Spring 2011 Class: Introduction to Astrophysics

Instructor: Jason Kendall

Astrophysics for Amateurs

The class will be a reading class of the entire text “Astrophysics is Easy!: An Introduction for the Amateur Astronomer” by Mike Inglis. This class is a offering of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.


Astrophysics means the physics of astronomy. The text will cover many areas, starting with measurements in astronomy (distance, brightness, color, velocity, temperature, size, and mass) and how they are done. We will discuss classification of stars and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of stellar evolution (birth, life, aging, death, and remnants). We will then cover the interstellar medium and its contents (such as bright and dark nebulae and their constituents). We’ll learn about Red Giants, Supenovae, Neutron Stars and Black Holes. The links above and below show the book’s reviews and have its table of contents as a free preview. The text is designed with amateurs in mind, giving the essential ideas about physical processes without sifting through heavy mathematics. As such, it is a survey course of the standard, well-established processes of astrophysics. I wil be supplementing the text with lectures and internet resources.

Class Structure

The structure of the class will follow the text, with students expected to do extensive at-home reading. The class time will be dominated by discussions on the reading for the week, with me leading the discussion and providing guidance and giving probing questions. Don.t be surprised if I randomly ask people to explain a whole section. In other words, don.t just read. Study it, and be ready with questions and be ready to talk about it. Answering questions about the week.s reading is a more important use of the class.s time than any lecture I might give, so I will de-emphasize lecture in order to answer all questions and to moderate discussion of the topics in the reading. This discussion is critical to a reading course and builds new intellectual relationships. We will always start with a recap of the reading, highlighting the salient points. Students will have required reading prior to the first class. So please see the links above and below to the textbook and get it now. The text is just under 200 pages, so finishing the text in six weeks will be easy. Class size is limited to 26 students.

How Much Work Is the Class?

As this is a reading course, there will be no grading or tests. The homework will be about 30 pages of the text per week, which will require at least six to eight hours each week. Each student is also expected to use the Internet to look up unfamiliar topics and words. It.ll take work and dedication to read this entire book in six weeks. It is good to know how to skim past certain sections and know how to find things on Google. Students will be expected to actively engage each other during the course outside of the class environment. Attendees are not required to have a physics background nor an extensive mathematics background. The course is geared for both adults and advanced high school or precocious middle-school students.


  • January 25, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • February 1, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • February 8, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • February 15, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • February 22, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • March 1, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

On all evenings, we will treat 6:00 to 6:30 as “Home Room”, where you can mingle prior to the formal start of the class. Also, we will never formally go past 8:30, unless our discussions lead us that way. This setup is required because the studio has multiple uses, and we’ll be walking in after a different class, and there may be uses of the studio after we are done. We don’t want to get rushed on either side.


Spring 2010
AAA Astronomy Course
Wednesdays 6:30-8:30 pm
April 7, 14, 21, 28, May 5, 12

Class 1 Rich Rosenberg
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The Solar System as understood by Cave Man to the Greeks
Class 2 Rich Rosenberg
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The Solar System as understood from the Renaissance to the Space Age
Class 3 Jason Kendall Cosmology from the Hubble Space Telescope to today
Class 4 Jason Kendall Your telescope and the sky — How to see what you want to see
Class 5 Shana Tribiano The red end of the electromagnetic spectrum (infrared, microwave, radio)
Class 6 Shana Tribiano The blue end of the electromagnetic spectrum (ultraviolet, x-ray, gamma ray)



Autumn 2009
Descriptive Astronomy
Instructor:  Shana Tribiano
Course Syllabus
Wednesdays 6:30-8:30 pm
October 21, 28, November 4, 11, 18, December 2

Class 1 Introduction, Background
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History of Modern Astronomy
The Night Sky, Eclipses and the Seasons
Kepler’s Laws
Newtonian Gravity
General Relativity
Matter and Light
Class 2 Solar System
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Exosolar Planets
Class 3 Stars
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The Sun
Stellar Evolution of Low and High Mass Stars
Deaths of Stars
Exotic Stars
Class 4 Galaxies
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Galaxy Classification
Formation of Galaxies
Galactic Evolution
Class 5 Cosmology
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Large-Scale Structure of the Universe
Big Bang Cosmology
Class 6 Special Topics Requested Topics for Discussion
Observing with a Telescope