ASTR 201 (Cosmology)
extra credit

Excellent work on two extra credit activities can increment your semester grade by as much as one-half a letter grade. For example, a B+ will become an A; however, a B becoming a B+ will still be registered as B in the University's grading system.

No extra-credit activities will be accepted after May 1. A maximum of two extra credit activities is allowed. Extra-credit may be obtained by participating in the following activities: Field trips, observing projects, and University-sponsored public lectures. Field trips and observing projects require obtaining the signature of your host or guide.


Throughout the semester high-profile speakers will be speaking on topics of interest about astronomy, science, religion, and life on other worlds. The lectures are free and typically last one hour. Be sure to arrive early to obtain a seat. To earn extra-credit by attending these lectures, you must attend for the entire time period, obtain the signature of the lecturer or host to validate your attendance and provide Dr. McCarthy with a one-page description of your thoughts and impressions of the lecture.

Astronomy related Public Evenings are offered on alternate Monday evenings from 7:30-8:30 pm in the main auditorium (N210) of Steward Observatory.


1) The UofA's Mirror Laboratory - East Stadium

The next generation of telescopes utilizes "primary mirrors" from 6.5 to 10 meters in diameter. The proposed Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), now in final stages of construction on nearby Mt. Graham, incorporates two 8.4 meter mirrors giving it the largest light gathering power of any telescope in the world. The LBT incorporates lightweight, extremely precisely polished mirrors manufactured in the Mirror Lab located beside the UA football stadium. You will tour this facility to learn how these mirrors are being fabricated and will see recently cast mirrors of 6.5 and 8.4 meters diameter.

If you wish to tour the Large Mirror Laboratory YOU MUST SIGN UP FOR A TOUR which lasts 1.5 hours. A signup sheet is posted on the bulletin board outside Dr. McCarthy's office, N404. A tour can accommodate 20 people. We will meet at 3:30 pm outside on the south side of the Cherry Avenue garage. Tours start with a short videotape of the mirror making process and conclude by walking through the mirror fabrication and polishing facilities.

2) Kitt Peak - 85 km southwest of Tucson

Kitt Peak is the site of optical, infrared, and radio telescopes of the National Optical Astronomical Observatory, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Steward Observatory and several other universities. When you visit Kitt Peak you will see several kinds of telescopes including the largest solar telescope in the world. The Visitor Center presents an overview of the various types of astronomical observations carried out on Kitt Peak. Guided walking tours of Kitt Peak are normally given at 10 & 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. A self-guided tour using a free brochure/map is available at other times. For further information, you can contact the Visitor Center at 318-8726.

Kitt Peak is open for visitors from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm daily. While no food (other than from pop machines) is available on the mountain, there is a very nice picnic ground on the main road approximately one mile below the summit. The mountain summit is at an altitude of 6900 feet and will be significantly cooler and winder than Tucson. Travel time to Kitt Peak is about 1 1/2 hours from the University. From campus, take Speedway west to I-10. Take I-10 "east" and continue to the I-19 exit (to Nogales) where you exit and head south. Take the first exit from I-19, Ajo Way (#86), and turn right (west). Continue through Three Points/Robles Junction for about 50 km to the well-marked exit (#386) to Kitt Peak. While you are there, obtain the signature of one of the visitor center staff.

3) Whipple Observatory - 85 km south of Tucson

Organized tours are conducted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week (weather permitting) through November. The 6.5m MMT telescope, a joint venture of the University of Arizona and the Smithsonian Institution, is atop Mt. Hopkins along with several other telescopes of interest, which you will visit. One of these is a unique gamma ray telescope.

Visiting Mt. Hopkins requires a full day. Visitors assemble in the Smithsonian field headquarters (about 45 minutes south of Tucson past Green Valley) at 9:00 am for a film presentation. A bus departs on the somewhat exciting and very beautiful ascent of Mt. Hopkins at about 9:30 am. The summit of Mt. Hopkins is at an altitude of 8,500 ft, so wear appropriate clothing. It will be colder on the mountain and the weather is somewhat more variable than in Tucson. Bring a lunch since food is not available on the summit and the bus does not return to the headquarters until about 3:00 pm.

You must call 670-5707 to make a reservation for this trip as bus seating is limited. There is a charge of about $7 per person. Travel directions are available from Dr. McCarthy. Obtain the signature of Dan Brocious or the tour guide upon completion.


Observe at the Steward Observatory 0.53 m (21 inch) telescope.

Arizona is rather unique in that it has a sizeable telescope on campus dedicated to undergraduate education. This telescope is housed in the large dome attached to the Steward Observatory office building. The 0.53 m (21-inch) telescope is available Monday through Thursday, 7:30 pm until 10:30 pm (weather permitting). Because of demand, you must sign up to observe the day prior to actual observation. Only 40 students per night can be accommodated and only 10 people at a time can be in the telescope dome. Thus, each three hour night is broken into four 45 minute observing sessions, each of which will accommodate 10 people. A sign-up sheet for each night is posted on the bulletin board outside Room 204 (across from the photo gallery) and you may sign up for one observing session per week. A telescope operator will point the telescope, find objects and answer questions.

You must observe at least one object from each of the following categories:

  1. planetary nebula
  2. gaseous nebula
  3. galaxy
  4. globular cluster
  5. open cluster
  6. the Moon
  7. multiple star system
  8. planet

In your observing notes write a brief description (two - three sentences) of what you saw. Draw a picture of how the object appeared in the telescope. What can you learn about this kind of object just by looking at it? Have the telescope operator sign your observing notebook for each object you observe. NOTE: not all objects are visible on all nights! For example, on a bright moonlit night it may be impossible to see faint galaxies. Plan on observing more than one night to complete this project.