Part 1H: Commanding a Telescope to take an Image

Even though we will not be able to use it, a Quorum script to command a telescope to collect data is presented in these final Parts of Section 1. Each concept and command will be discussed in detail. This exercise gives you a glimpse into the computational thinking skills that are needed to do astronomy.

Watch the first :40 seconds of this video and then answer Chris’s question, “What does a telescope need to know?”,  in your journal.

Now watch the rest of the video (about 3:20)
One of your first thoughts should have been: “Where do I point the Telescope?”. This next activity will help.


The goal of this activity is to use an umbrella as a model, as Chris did in the video above, to understand the system astronomers use to find a location on the sky. (Think of a model as a useful tool.)
By the time you are done with the activity, you should understand the following vocabulary words.

i. Longitude
ii. Latitude
iii. Celestial sphere
iv. Celestial equator
v. Celestial poles
vi. Ecliptic
vii. Right ascension
viii. Declination


(For a more permanent version of the umbrella model, see the link listed below in the Activity instructions)

     a. Umbrella – large size works well, but any size will do.
     b. Sleep masks (optional)
     c. Foam stickers of any shape (or any type of small, tactile marker)
     d. A 3D Earth model, or a globe, or inflatable ball.

ACTIVITY Instructions:

The activity can be done simply with foam stickers on the inside of the umbrella, or you can construct a more permanent version with lines of RA and Dec, etc. Again, these are optional depending on your knowledge level. The instructions for both can be found at these links.

RA and Dec Umbrella Activity Simple Form

Construction RA and Dec (Permanent Form)

The following links are to PDFs with optional lessons for using the umbrella to teach RA and Dec, and to explore Celestial Motion:

Lesson Umbrella SKy – RA and Dec

Lesson Umbrella Sky as a Model for Celestial Motion – Teacher Notes

Umbrella Sky Student Sheet for Celestial Motion Lesson

The next three links are for an additional umbrella with constellations:

Construction Constellation Umbrella

Lesson Umbrella Sky – Constellations

Umbrella Sky – Constellations Lesson Coordinates Resource

Once you have explored your umbrella as a model of a celestial sphere, go back and discuss the words above. Explain them to each other using the umbrella to reinforce each definition.


“But Asteroids Move!”

A star has a very stable RA and Dec. Obviously, asteroids do not! In fact, anything in our solar system will have a changing position, and thus a changing RA and Dec.
In this 5:50 video, Chris talks about using a model to understand the ways in which an asteroid’s orbit can be oriented to the plane of the solar system. After watching the video, try the activity.


Asteroid Orbit Hands-on Activity

A. Materials:

    1. Umbrella from previous activity.
    2. Hula Hoop or something similar

B. Instructions:

    1. This is a group activity
    2. The instructions, and pictures, can be found in the Resources for IDATA on the SJS site, or at this link:

Asteroid Orbit Activity