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Equipment TAs Require for Lab

Introduction Lab / Tools Lab

  1. Calculators
  2. Rulers - 1 per student

Teaching Notes -This lab is rather standard. Note, there has been on going revisions to make this lab go away from a pure mathematics worksheet to an actual lab. Unless a professor has already formed groups for their class, students should do this lab individually. Student are of course encouraged to work together (but each lab gets hand in), and you can use this as a gauge of how student groups may or may not work.

Seasons Lab

  1. Planet Globe
  2. String / Rope
  3. Meter Stick
  4. Lamp
  5. Extension Cords
  6. Surface Area Apparatus (with LED light)
  7. Pink Binder of Solar Images
  8. Rulers
  9. Blue Painter's Tape

NOTE - Before this lab, the lab manager / TA should check to insure the lamps and LED flashlights are working / don't need new batteries.

NOTE - The white globes can come off of the stick. Some students will do this to better measure the lines. This is fine - just do know that it is rather hard to put the spheres back onto the stand if you have not done this before. As always ask for help if needed!

Teaching Notes - The main issue with this lab tend be the size of the room and other lamps affecting the 'terminator' line making it hard for students to measure the 'exact' line. This can lead to possible weird numbers in the lab report.

Set-up procedures

You will need one station per lab group. A “station” consists of the following:

  1. Tilted Globe with string
  2. Meter stick
  3. Lamp
  4. Blue painter's tape

To set up this station. I find a table near-ish to a plug (note, if you have a class with 7+ groups you will need to use some extension cords!). I plug in the lamp (and test to make sure it works! But do not leave them on as they generate a bit of heat!). I put the globe ~1.5 meters away (note, the students should measure to make sure this is exact). I place the meter stick and painter's tape in-between the globe and lamp.

Near the station on an adjacent table, I place one of the Surface Area Apparatus (I personally do not place it in-between the lamp and globe as this tends to clutter the desk / confuse students.

The pink binder should be kept up at the front of the room. Once a group is at the section that requires the image, they can come up and grab one image and a ruler (though, they'll probably benefit from having a ruler earlier on in the lab, so I suspect they might already have rulers by this point! Please make sure these images get returned to the pink binder!

Scale Model of the Solar System

  1. Meter Stick with painted white nickel (as sun)
  2. Empty Red Milk Crate (with distances in AU of planets attached)
  3. Tool Box with spices (poppy seeds, seeds, peppercorn, flour, sugar, etc)
  4. Clear tape
  5. solar glasses (have not used during COVID)
  6. Cones with planet names

NOTE - Before this lab, the lab manager should get in contact with Nancy to ensure the Football field can be reserved for this lab. This should be done 2-3 weeks in advance! Usually just at the start of the semester once we know the dates!

Teaching Notes - This lab benefits from having multiple “instructors” (usually the TA plus the lab manager). More often than not, the professor of the class does like to join in for this lab.

Kepler's Laws

  1. NOTE - this lab will no longer require the computers in BX113
  2. Computers in BX113 (having computer power issues)
  3. Fans to improve circulation in BX113
  4. Rulers for pre-computer questions
  5. NOTE - The new version of this lab requires students to bring their own tech.

Teaching Notes - Previously this lab was taught in BX113 (Zach Riah has the only key to that room). However, that room and the computers in that room presented quite a few problems. First that room is rather small and has no ventilation. This creates issues during hotter days and during COVID (it is impossible to social distance in that room). Second, the computers in those rooms are very old and were repurposed. As of 2021, when Zach turned them on, all of the computer prompted a internal motherboard battery issue. This lab was originally designed around an older Kepler's Law software that needs a very specific configuration of Windows (in fact - if we update these computer it will most likely break them!). During the COVID lockdown we swapped over to using the UNL NAAP online labs to supplement this lab. However, those labs were programmed in flash. Once flash was no longer a thing, it became much more of an issue to require lab students to download the non-flash package. Zach designed the lab using a variety of different online resources. This requires students to bring their own tech to class. NOTE - NAAP now has web browser versions and we have now gone back to the NAAP UNL version. Still requires students bringing their own devices.

NMSU has several on campus programs that allow students to rent / borrow devices. Please ask Zach / the lab manager about these resources! These are usually good resources to promote in your syllabus and in general as well. These resources are:

Aggie Launch Pad Program

Equipment Rental

Phases of the Moon

  1. Big Sphere with light and dark side
  2. Lamp / Light source

Teaching Notes - This is an easy lab. Some TAs prefer to use the large moon ball whereas other TAs prefer giving out the smaller balls to each group. I would recommend that Labs that have 5 or more groups distribute the smaller balls instead of using the larger moon to do it one group at a time. But this is really up to the preference of the TA.

Understanding Spectra: Power of Light

  1. Four high voltage tube stands
  2. Hydrogen tube
  3. Mercury tube
  4. Neon Tube
  5. Mystery Tube - Helium - should not be labeled!

Teaching Notes - The light sources should not be kept on for an extended period of time. While it is fine to keep the lamps on for 10-15 minutes, keeping them on for much longer can run out the samples rather fast or make the lamp too hot.

NOTE - like many things, these element tubes can break or stop working. If the Mercury one breaks, we are to call NMSU PD to inform them of a Mercury Spill while evacuating everyone who isn't contaminated (NMSU EHS). If all else fails, contact Zach and they can start the procedures for clean-up if needed.

Earth's Density

  1. 3 to 5 water balloons
  2. Fill up water balloons in the AY kitchen sink
  3. Meter sticks for shadows
  4. Tape Measures to measure the shadows
  5. Access to a high area (roof of AY, stair case near Breland, walkway at Walden)
  6. Stopwatches (though most TAs have just used phones).

Teaching Notes - This lab benefits from having multiple “instructors” (usually the TA plus the lab manager). Do note that the current lab requires access to the roof (TAs will have to get the roof key from Riah). We were grandfathered in for use of the roof for instructional purposes, however we are going to be attempting to revise the lab in such a way that avoids using the roof.

NOTE - Some TAs love going up to the roof while other TAs are not comfortable with this. Check with the TA ahead of time about their level of comfortably and accommodated as needed.

Potential alternative rocket methods are being looked at.

Optics Lab

  1. Large concave mirror
  2. Large Convex Mirror
  3. Large wooden concave flat mirrors
  4. Laser stand with three lasers
  5. flat mirror with protractor (1 per group)
  6. laser level (1 per group)
  7. optics bench (1 per group)
  8. 3 lens per optics bench
  9. 1 light per optics bench
  10. 1 transformer per optics bench
  11. extension cords
  12. eye charts
  13. fog machine
  14. fog liquid
  15. cart to prop up fog machine
  16. meter sticks
  17. (TA needs meter stick to measure focal length of mirror demo)

Teaching Notes - This lab tends to scare students. The fog machine should be ran a couple days before lab or else there will be a burning smell. Fresh fog liquid tends to help too. We got new optical benches that do not have alligator clips, which should prevent some of the previous concerns students had. We now have new optical benches! Though, Zach has been using the old optical benches since their smaller / easier to hold for the students - however the new power supplies / lights do work with the old optical benches

NOTE - As of Fall 2022, we have new optical benches with new lights. I still have been using the old benches cause they are lighter and easier to handle. But the new light sources work with the old benches - and do no require alligator clips and takes away the cautions with the old light sources.

Reflectance Spectra

  1. ALTA and ALTA II Spectrometers
  2. D-Volt Batteries
  3. Colored Paper (Green, Blue, Red)
  4. Poster Board Cutouts
  5. Mystery Objects 1-7 spectra print out

NOTE - The ALTA / ALTA II spectrometers are dying and are no longer able to be bought. There is a loan program via Lunar Planetary Institution which we have not tried yet (but looks rather inconvenient).

Teaching Notes - Students have really loved this lab. However the ALTA spectra are very finicky. Additionally they are prone to dying and never working again. They are no longer commercially available but there is a loan Program via the Lunar Planetary Institution. However this requires money and advanced notice. We did not test this out last year - but it is likely we need to investigate if this is viable.

Surface of the Moon (Binder Lab)

  1. Moon Lab Binders
  2. Rulers

Teaching Notes - Binder lab.


  1. Parallax Devices (The long metal poles with red stirs on top / wooden bases)
  2. Blue Tape (1m, 2m, 4m)
  3. Wooden Protractors on Tripods
  4. Parallax Ruler PDF (projected) (located here)
  5. Screw Driver / Tools

Teaching Notes - Room configuration is important (especially if social distance is to be considered). It is possible that chairs and desks need to be moved. The projector has a tendency to get tilted for what ever reasons - while that doesn't drastically affect this lab, it is good form to have the parallax ruler projected onto the screen unslanted!

The Sun

  1. Solar Telescope (H-alpha)
  2. Sun Spotter
  3. Magnets
  4. Plastic Trays for Iron Dust
  5. Iron Dust
  6. The Sun Lab Binder
  7. Magnet Demo
  8. Rulers
  9. Compasses

Teaching Notes - This lab benefits from an additional TA (Lab manager). Also requires knowledge of how to use the solar telescope (and the safety required to use these) .


  1. Materials needed are just the lab (for students).
  2. TAs should give this link to students for calculations -
  3. There is an Answer Key for this lab to help you as the TA! Note, if a student makes one mistake in the process, they will get the wrong answer for the final question. So we provide you the values for each step to help you catch any mistakes so they don't propagate.

NOTES - This use to be a hands on lab, but then an unknown TA changed it to a more math based version. Professors have preferred this version over the old one. The long term goal of this lab is to combine the 'math heavy' and 'hands on' versions together.

Water on Mars

  1. Water on Mars Binder
  2. Transparencies
  3. Dry Erase makers
  4. Zach has printed out a high res (large) elevation map of mars which the students enjoy

Teaching Notes - Binder lab


  1. Dry Ice (from chem building or Albertson's
  2. Ammonia
  3. Sand
  4. Soil
  5. Water
  6. Gallon Ziploc Baggie
  7. Spoons
  8. Hammer
  9. Gloves
  10. Ball Bearings
  11. Magnet
  12. Pepper
  13. Flashlight
  14. Ruler
  15. Meter Stick
  16. Wood Tamping Block
  17. Hair pick
  18. Tub of flour
  19. Solo Cup / Measure Cup

Teaching Notes - Remind the TAs to remind the students to have the tub of flour on the floor, not the desk (to prevent students from standing on desks!). Also, this lab is one that benefits from punitive points - i.e., TAs are more than encouraged to deduct points from students if their lab tables are messy or unclean. Zach will get dry ice from the chem storage room, this is usually done the morning of and can be bought with the dept index. If the chem storehouse is out of dry ice then we have to go to Albertsons with the p-card.

HR - Diagram

  1. Printed out B and V ps files which are here for B and here for V.
  2. Print outs of extra tables of the mags at the end of the lab (students tend to forget to print this out).
  3. Dynameters
  4. Rulers
  5. Apparent mag of the Sun from the Pleiades distance - V=10.5

Teaching Notes - Lab Manager should print out the B and V HR diagrams. This requires students to plot about 73 points. While students hate this and think its tedious, it does not take that long. And the key talking point is that we need that many points in order to figure out the trend of the HR diagram.


  1. Rock / Cube samples
  2. 3 sizes of graduated cylinders
  3. Mystery element
  4. Triple beam balance
  5. Digital caliper
  6. Buckets for water collection

Teaching Notes - This is a different lab from the “Earth's Density” lab. For this lab it benefits to having buckets for water so students don't have to keep going back and forth between the restrooms. The triple beam balances should be re-balanced. Batteries should be checked in the digital caliper.

Galaxy Morphology

  1. Binder Lab

Teaching Notes - This is a lab that students with color vision barriers may potentially have difficulties with. We have taken steps to mitigate this, but further development is most likely needed.

How Many Galaxies

  1. Technically a binder lab, but just requires the Hubble Deep Field image

Teaching Notes - Usually the make-up lab for students. This lab is rather simple. Though it still use the old Hubble Deep Field. Might be worth it to update it to include talk about the observations JWST made.

equipment.txt · Last modified: 2023/08/31 14:34 by astroadmin

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