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Welcome!

Dear Boy Scout,

Welcome to the Madison Astronomical Society (MAS) and Boy Scouts of America - Four Lakes Council Astronomy Merit Badge Clinic homepage. Have you ever been outside at night, maybe on a camping trip or in your backyard, and gazed at the sky? If you were far from city lights you were probably stunned by what you saw. Hundreds of tiny points of light in the sky, the moon, maybe even the Milky Way or a shooting star. As you gazed could you point out any constellations? Or find the North Star? Were all the lights you saw stars? Did you see any planets? How did you know? Did you want to look at these objects through a telescope? Were you overwhelmed with questions?

Do you know the answer to the following questions? What if you fell asleep that night you were gazing at the stars and then woke up a few hours later, what would the sky look like then? Would it be the same? How about the next night? What would it look like then? What is the brightest star in the sky? (Hint, it is not the North Star or Polaris.) What causes the phases of the moon? (Hint, it is not the Earth's shadow.)By the time you complete the astronomy merit badge you will be able to answer these questions, identify at least 10 constellations, use a telescope, know the answers to many of your own questions and understand that, "A knowledge of astronomy is of practical value to an outdoorsman like a Scout."

On the afternoon of Saturday November 1st at the UW Space Place you will work with members of the Madison Astronomical Society to complete the astronomy merit badge. The Madison Astronomical Society is a group of enthusiastic people who enjoy astronomy. It is one of many excellent astronomical resources located in Southern Wisconsin.

This website will contain valuable information to help you learn about astronomy, complete the astronomy merit badge, and have a great time doing so. The contents of this website will evolve as the clinic approaches. Please take your time and thoroughly read the material on this webpage. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please email A.J. Carver (acarver@wisc.edu). The MAS is looking forward to working with you in November.

Sincerely,

The Madison Astronomical Society

Astronomy Merit Badge Requirements

Scouts should obtain a copy of the astronomy merit badge pamphlet and read it before the clinic. The pamphlet is a great starting point. The requirements of the Astronomy merit badge are listed below. The requirements are written with a black font and instructions/specifics/resources are written in red. The links listed are only a few of thousands of resources for you to learn about astronomy. Performing a google search or taking a trip to your local library will reveal many more resources. Some of the requirements require observations over time. So start them early. Email any questions that may arise to A.J. Carver (acarver@wisc.edu).

These are the requirements for earning the astronomy merit badge:

1. Do the following:
    a. Sketch the face of the moon, indicating on it the locations of at least five seas and five craters.

We will complete this requirement during the observing portion of the clinic. Scouts who would like to get a head start can print and begin the lab. The following website may help you with this requirement:
Inconsistent Moon The atlas section of this website should be very helpful.
Interactive Sky Chart by Sky and Telescope This it is an excellent resource. You should be able to check this program using your observations.

    b. Within a single week sketch the position of the moon in the sky at the same hour on three different evenings. Explain the changes observed.
Complete this requirement before the clinic! To complete this requirement simply take a sheet of blank paper and draw a horizontal line on it to represent a portion of the horizon. Draw unique features (houses, trees, etc) on the horizon and the direction (North, East, South, or West) that you are facing for reference.
    c. Tell what factors keep the moon in orbit around the Earth.

2. Do ONE of the following:
    a. Photograph or locate on a map of the sky a planet at approximately weekly intervals at the same time of night for at least four weeks. Explain any changes noticed on the photographs or map.

Start this requirement before the clinic!This requirement can be completed much like requirement 1b. Mars is the planet that will be visible to you during this portion of this year. To help you locate Mars the following links are provided:
Interactive Sky Chart by Sky and Telescope This is an excellent resource. You should be able to check this program using your observations.
This Week's Sky at a Glance by Sky and Telescope.

    b. Find out when each of the five visible planets will be observable in the evening sky during the next 12 months and compile this information in the form of a chart or table.
Almanac by Sky and Telescope. You could use this to complete this requirement, but there are other (maybe easier) methods.

3. Do ONE of the following:
    a. In a sketch show the position of Venus, Mars, or Jupiter in the sky at approximately weekly intervals at the same time for at least four weeks.

Start this requirement before the clinic!This requirement can be completed much like requirement 1b. Mars is the planet that will be visible to you during this portion of this year. To help you locate Mars the following links are provided:
Interactive Sky Chart by Sky and Telescope This is an excellent resource. You should be able to check this program using your observations.

    b. Using a compass, record the direction to the sun at sunset at approximately weekly intervals for at least four weeks in spring or fall (for six to eight weeks in summer or winter) and relate this information to the seasons of the Earth.
Start this requirement before the clinic!This requirement can be completed much like requirement 1b. Record the time of sunset for each observation.
    c. With the aid of diagrams explain the relative positions of sun, Earth, and moon at the times of lunar and solar eclipses and at the times of New, First Quarter, Full, and Last Quarter phases of the moon.
We will complete this requirement during the clinic. Make sure to read chapters, 'The Moon-Our Nearest Neighbor' and 'Eclipses and Phases of the Moon', in the Boy Scout Astronomy pamphlet. We will go over this again at the clinic and you will be able to explain these phenomena at the clinic.

4. Using the shadow of a vertical pole in sunshine, lay out a true north-south line (a meridian). Then, using a line and the pole on another day, measure the altitude of the noontime sun and determine your latitude.
Complete this requirement before the clinic. Read 'Finding Your Position by the Sun' pg37-39 of the Boy Scout Merit Badge pamphlet.

5. Identify in the sky at least 10 constellations, four of which are in the zodiac. Identify at least eight conspicuous stars, five of which are of first magnitude. Then do the following:
Read the chapter, 'Constellations, Bright Stars, and Our Galaxy', in the Boy Scout Astronomy merit badge pamphlet. You will have time to practice locating constellations and learn more tricks to find constellations at the observing session and at the planetarium show. There are many great books that will help you with this. Night Sky by the Discovery Channel, The Stars by H.A. Rey (yes the author of the Curious George books), and NightWatch by Terence Dickinson are good books.
    a. Show in a sketch the position of the Big Dipper and its relation to the North Star and the horizon early some evening and again six hours later the same night. Record the date and time of making each sketch.
Complete this requirement before the clinic. You should be able to check the Sky and Telescope interactive sky chart and the planetarium with your observations.
    b. Explain what we see when we look at the Milky Way.
Read pages 55-57 of the Boy Scout Astronomy pamphlet.

6. With the aid of diagrams (or real telescopes if available) explain the difference between reflecting and refracting telescopes. Describe the basic purpose of a telescope, and list at least three other instruments used with telescopes.
We will complete this requirement at the clinic. Read the chapter, The Astronomer's 'Eyes' (pg59-67), in your Astronomy merit badge handbook. At the clinic we will have many telescopes for you to learn hands-on from. The following websites have additional information:
Telescopes and Binoculars by Sky and Telescope The article "Choosing Your First Telescope" is a good read.
howstuffworks - Telescopes

7. Do the following:
    a. Describe the composition of the sun, its relationship to other stars, and some effects of its radiation on the Earth's weather. Define sunspots and describe some of the effects they may have on this radiation.

Read 'The Sun' pgs69-71 of the Boy Scout Astronomy merit badge pamphlet.
SOHO Visit the classroom to learn more about the sun. The Sun 101.

    b. Identify at least one star that is red, one that is blue, and one that is yellow, and explain the meaning of these colors.
We will find the stars in the sky at the observing portion of the clinic.

8. Do ONE of the following:
The best part about the clinic! We will do both of these!
    a. Visit a planetarium or observatory and submit a report to your counselor both on the activities occurring there and on the exhibits of instruments and other astronomical objects you observed.
    b. Spend at least three hours observing celestial objects through a telescope or field glass, and write a report for your counselor on what you observed.

9. Name different career opportunities in astronomy. Explain how to prepare for one of them. List the high school courses most useful in beginning such preparation.
We will discuss this at the clinic

Where and when will the Astronomy Merit Badge Clinic be held?

The Astronomy Merit Badge Clinic will have two parts. A classroom & observing session on Saturday November 1st and a planetarium show on Monday November 3rd.

Saturday November 1st 2003
Class Session: 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Observing Session (weather permitting): 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Both the class and the observing session will be held at:

University of Wisconsin Space Place
1605 South Park Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53715

If the weather prevents observing on Saturday November 1st we will attempt to observe on the following evening Sunday November 2nd from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM at the UW Space Place. If needed, a website address will be given at the clinic for you to check a go/no-go statement for observing on Sunday November 2nd. A go/no-go decision will be made by 3:00pm on Sunday November 2nd. You can also contact A.J. Carver for a go/no-go.

Monday November 3rd 2003
Planetarium Show: 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Madison Metropolitan School District Planetarium
(Located in James Madison Memorial High School)
201 South Gammon Road
Madison, Wisconsin 53717-1499

Observing Safety

We will explain observing safety in greater detail at the clinic. Some basics for this event are:

Dress Warm Those of you who have completed the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge should know how to do this. If you haven't stood outside for more than a half an hour in a Wisconsin winter you may be surprised how quickly you can get cold.
Walk Walking will prevent you from tripping on a tripod leg and injuring yourself. It will also prevent you from breaking expensive equipment.

Additional local astronomy resources include: