Rochester Museum And Science Center

Orion: Stars in Depth (Homeschool astronomy for ages 11 and up)

Orion: Stars in Depth (Homeschool astronomy for middle schoolers)
Course #T875
For interested students 11 years and older

Six 90-minute sessions, all from 10:00am to 11:30am:

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012*
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012*
Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012
Friday, Dec. 14, 2012

*Please allow an additional 10 minutes for parking on November 15 and 16, as vendors will be unloading merchandise for the RMSC Women's Council Holiday Bazaar. Thank you!

Instructors: Steve Fentress, Planetarium Director, and Paul Krupniski, Strasenburgh Planetarium school show presenter

Location: Strasenburgh Planetarium lobby and Star Theater
657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607

Introductory fee: $120, includes paper handouts, a 3-ring binder, ruler and protractor

"Orion: Stars in Depth" is the second new experimental course for parents and students around 11 to 14 years old who want a course that offers substance and challenge and uses the unique capabilities of the Strasenburgh Planetarium!

How to Enroll

Please phone (585) 697-1942 and ask for course number T875, "Orion: Stars in Depth." You'll need: child's first name, last name, age and birthdate; parents' name, address, e-mail and daytime phone, and payment information (credit card, check or cash accepted). Our primary way of communicating about the course will be by e-mail.

Course Description

Students will explore, in more depth than a regular Planetarium program, the life cycles of stars and related physical principles and analytical skills as shown among the brilliant, easy-to-see stars of Orion and nearby constellations. Orion is comes into view in late evening in November, and becomes the dominant constellation in the evening sky in mid-winter. Students who complete this course will be ready to see and appreciate more than ever before in the winter sky.

We will divide our time between the ideal indoor sky of the Planetarium Star Theater and activity tables in the lobby. Topics and activities will include:

  • Becoming unusually familiar with the appearance of Orion and neighboring constellations in the sky
  • Hands-on exercises in distance measurement, to understand how astronomers estimate star distances
  • Hands-on exercises with colors, spectra, and identifying chemical elements by their spectra
  • Following the life history of a star on the H-R diagram, a type of chart used by astronomers
  • Estimating the date of the Crab Nebula supernova explosion by comparing and measuring photos taken a half-century apart
  • Exploring the bizarre worlds of white dwarfs (which represent the final fate of our Sun) and neutron stars
  • Exploring the cultural history of Orion, surrounding constellations and Greek and Arabic star names

Enrollment expectations

Enrollment deadline 5pm Thursday, November 8, 2012. Attendance at all six sessions is expected to gain maximum benefit from this course. Enrollment in our previous course, "A Trip to Mars and a Star," is not necessary. Minimum enrollment 15, maximum 25. If minimum is not reached by the deadline, the course may be cancelled with full refunds. No refunds or makeups for missed sessions unless it is RMSC's fault. Parents are welcome at all sessions and may work alongside their students or sit at the side, as they wish. Parents are responsible for administering all needed medications. Parents are responsible for arranging non-distracting alternate activities for siblings who come along but are not enrolled.

Mathematical skills expected

  • Multiply and divide numbers with digits to the right of the decimal point, either by hand or with a calculator or computer
  • Given a table of x and y values, plot a graph
  • Perform simple unit conversion calculations. For example: one light-year is about 6 trillion miles. The star Sirius is about 9 light years away. About how many light years away is Sirius?
  • Using a ruler, measure distances in millimeters, centimeters, or inches

To begin exploring our topic

Visit these web pages, written by University of Illinois Professor Jim Kaler, one of the world's most respected and most enthusiastic experts on stars:

Stars of the week:

Orion, the Hunter:

Taurus, the Bull:

Canis Major, the Great Dog: