AAS 197, January 2001
Session 87. Innovations in Teaching Astronomy II
Joint Display, Wednesday, January 10, 2001, 9:30am-7:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[87.11] Light Pollution in Lowndes County, Georgia: An Observational Project for Introductory Astronomy Students

K.S. Rumstay (Valdosta State University and SARA), VSU Astronomy Students Team

A long-term study of light pollution in Lowndes County, Georgia has been initiated as a collaborative project among students enrolled in introductory astronomy courses at Valdosta State University. A single honors student began the project in Spring 2000; during the Fall 2000 semester all students enrolled in ASTR 1020K (Stellar and Galactic Astronomy) were invited to participate on a voluntary basis. Students were provided with charts showing the appearance of the constellations Cygnus, Pegasus, Cassiopeia, and Orion (as appropriate) at limiting magnitudes ranging from 2.5 to 6.0 in 0.5-magnitude steps. On clear, moonless nights students compared the visual appearance of these constellations to the charts, allowing them to determine a limiting magnitude for their location.

Preliminary results suggest that, even on the clearest nights, stars fainter than magnitude 5.0 are not visible from any location within Lowndes County. This limitation results largely from ambient light from Valdosta, the only urban area within the county, and also from atmospheric extinction in a region of high humidity.

By participating in this exercise, students in a class traditionally populated by non-science majors gain an appreciation for the collaborative nature of modern science. They also become familiar more familiar with the night sky than they might were their exposure limited to the traditional two-hour weekly laboratory session. Most importantly, as young adults they experience first-hand the deleterious effects of light intrusion upon their enjoyment of the night sky!

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: krumstay@valdosta.edu

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