Below are given the instructions and results of various experiments that one can carry out using simple equipment that costs less than 10 dollars. Some projects involve making a cardboard device that slides up and down a yardstick.
One project involves comparing the orientation of the constellations in the general direction of the North Pole Star with a star chart. One can derive one's watch time to within 15 minutes.
Using the geometry of a lunar eclipse, the mean angular size of the Moon, and the size of the Earth's shadow at the distance of the Moon one can estimate the distance to the Moon in Earth radii. This was originally done by Aristarchus in the third century BC.
From a determination of one's geographic position on Earth at two widely separate places (using a vertical pointed stick) one can determine the circumference of the Earth. This method was originally worked out by Eratosthenes in the third century BC.
The celestial sphere
Phases of the Moon
Astronomical measurements without a telescope
Determining your latitude with a vertical pointed stick
Angles and their measurement
At what distance can the human eye detect a candle flame?
Determining your watch time from observations of stars (spring season)
Determining your watch time from observations of stars (fall season)
Take a sequence of photos of the direction of the sunset over the course of the semester. Because the Sun appears north or south of the celestial equator over the course of the year, the Sun does not set exactly due west, except on the first day of spring and the first day of autumn. A sequence of photos by Kevin Krisciunas, taken in La Serena, Chile, can be seen by clicking here .
Chart of circumpolar constellations
Cross staff pattern
Gnomon experiments at various locations on the planet
Aristarchus experiment on determining the Moon's distance
Experiment using Moon's angular size
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