Extra Credit Opportunities
This page will be updated throughout the course of the semester, as new opportunities arise.
All extra credit work write-ups must be submitted by no later than Tuesday, April 28. They must be either e-mail messages (plain text), PDF-format attachments to e-mail messages, or shared Google Documents (like lab reports). Please do not attempt to submit MSWord documents, for example.
You may complete up to three extra credit activities throughout the semester. Each activity is worth up to 0.6% towards your overall course grade. Reading an approved science or science fiction book is worth double, because of the amount of time involved.
1. One way to obtain extra credit for this class is to is to participate actively in the threaded class discussions. If you contribute substantively to discussions and help your fellow students to solve problems and learn new astronomical concepts, we will recognize your efforts at the end of the semester.
2. You may attend an observatory open house or night time observing party. Discuss what you saw through the telescopes and/or what you learned from the speaker in a two to three page write-up.
- WSNM Star Parties
- LCAS Beginners Amateur Astronomy Group
- NMSU Astronomy Department Observatory Open Houses
3. You may read one of the following science fact or science fiction books, one that you have not read previously. Afterward, discuss in a two to three page write-up your reaction to the material presented in the text. Many of these books are classics, and can be checked out from your local library. You may propose alternative books that you find of interest, related to astronomy and space. We will give reading a book twice the weight of watching a film or hearing a talk, to encourage you to select a book of interest.
Mr. Tompkins Discovers the Atom (Gamow, 1965):
Gamow conceived the notion of presenting scientific ideas to the layperson through the medium of a fictional character, C.G.H. Tompkins. The mild-mannered bank clerk with the short attention span and vivid imagination has inspired, charmed and informed young and old alike, and readers will get both entertainment and plenty of information about modern physics and astrophysics.
Universe in a Nutshell (Hawking, 2001):
Hawking uncovers the secrets of the universe – from supergravity to supersymmetry, from quantum theory to M-theory and from holography to duality, in a remarkably readable text.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Heinlein, 1966):
As a society, we proceed down the path marked by Heinlein's ideas – he shows us where the future lies. Nowhere is this more true than in this gripping tale of revolution on the Moon, where colonists are kept poor and oppressed by an Earth-based authority that turns huge profits at their expense.
First Light (Preston, 1996):
There is a saying among astronomers that five billion people concern themselves with the surface of the Earth, and ten thousand with everything else, and if you think the professional stargazers spend most of their time serenely peering into the night sky, guess again. Today's astronomers are world-class gadgeteers who scurry about giant (and often frigid) observatories tinkering with the mechanical and electronic tools of their trade. In First Light, they tangle with the Hale Telescope, one of the world's oldest and largest.
A Space Odyssey (Clark, 1968):
A classic science fiction novel that changed the way we looked at the stars and ourselves.
The Planets (Sobel, 2005):
A scenic tour of the origins and oddities of the planets and the solar system, embracing astrology, mythology, science fiction, art, music, history, and even poetry through a series of essays.
Our Cosmic Habitat (Rees, 2001):
Why is the universe hospitable to life? Is our universe just one of many, part of an ensemble of universes, most devoid of life? How finely tuned must the laws of nature be for us to exist?
the Comet (Brin, 1986):
A group of adventurers "hitch a ride" through the solar system on mineral-rich Halley's Comet, hoping to harvest the comet's resources for Earth. Instead, they discover the comet is teeming with a strange and deadly new life form.
The Giants Novels: Inherit the Stars / The Gentle Giants of Ganymede /
Giants (Hogan, 1977 – 1981):
An exploration of possible intelligent life in the solar system – beyond Earth, triggered by the discovery of a spacesuit-clad human body of a 50,000 year-old man, on the Moon.
In the Company of
Others (Czerneda, 2001):
The perils of terraforming (reforming other planets to resemble Earth) for human colonization and first contact with an alien intelligence, with all too human protagonists.
Neutron Star and Tales of Known Space (Niven, 1968 & 1975):
Short stories that trace man's future expansion and colonization throughout space.
of Gravity (Clement, 1954):
The desperate search for a missing rocket on a planet with very high gravity (up to 700 times stronger than on Earth).
The Cosmological Distance Ladder (Rowan-Robinson, 1985):
A detailed discussion of how astronomers measure distances to galaxies and distant quasars.
4. You may watch one of the following astronomy outreach films, as part of an NMSU astronomy education project to encourage the public to engage with science and technology. Show the short (roughly eight minute) film to at least two other people, and then discuss in a two to three page write-up your and their reactions to the material presented in the film. Your viewers may be children or adults; we are interested in how both age groups respond to the stories that our diverse stars have to tell.
Observing the Universe, and Tracking the Bits
How Many Astronomers and Engineers Does it Take to Build a Telescope Array? Part I: You'll find their fingerprints on disk drives and circuit boards all the way from Chile to Japan, and everywhere in between. Juan Cordova and Paula Metzner work at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Socorro, New Mexico.
Engineering a Telescope Array
How Many Astronomers and Engineers Does it Take to Build a Telescope Array? Part II: Eric Chavez is not your typical electronics engineer. Travel with him by motorcycle to the Very Large Array (VLA) on the Plains of San Agustin near Socorro, New Mexico. The views are stunning from the top of Antenna 25.
Radio Astronomy in Puerto Rico
An Equatorial View of the Heavens Above: They speculate on the origins of the mysterious high velocity clouds of hydrogen gas found in the heavens above. Mayra Lebrón Santos and Carmen Pantoja are radio astronomers at the University of Puerto Rico and conduct research at Arecibo Observatory.
Astronomy and Outreach at Arecibo Observatory
Science and Technology: A Dynamic Future for Puerto Rico: His goal is for every school child on the island of Puerto Rico to visit the observatory, and for some of them to join the next generation of scientists and engineers at the largest radio telescope in the world. Héctor Camacho is the director of the visitor center at Arecibo Observatory, and a former telescope engineer.
5. You may watch one of the following astronomy-related films or series, one that you have not seen previously. Afterward, discuss in a two to three page write-up your reaction to the material presented in the film. You may propose alternative films that you find of interest, related to astronomy and space.
The Right Stuff (1983):
The first U.S. astronauts were called the Mercury 7, seven men chosen out of many to be our vanguard in the conquest of space. As such, they have a historical significance few men have enjoyed, yet they are today almost forgotten.
The Dish (2000):
The Parkes radio telescope dish in Australia played an unexpected role in the success of the 1969 manned Moon landing.
For All Mankind (1989):
The moon landing made its mark on history not as a cry of American scientific dominance but, as in the famous words of Neil Armstrong, a giant leap for all mankind. This documentary is not just the footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing from take-off to touchdown; it inspires pride in what humanity as a whole has accomplished.
Apollo 13 (1995):
When America lost interest in its manned space program, we lost something crucial to our vision.
Do you think there are people on other planets? If it's just us, it would be an awful waste of space.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968):
A philosophical statement about man's place in the Universe ... it is time to move on to the next step, to know that we live not on a planet but among the stars, and that we are not flesh but intelligence.
A gripping adventure about astronauts coping with an orbital disaster.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014):
An exploration of the cosmos, and our place within it.
The search for a new home for humanity.
6. You may listen to a complete recording of the orchestral work The Planets, written by Gustav Holst. The composition is divided into a series of pieces, each one dedicated to one of the planets in the solar system. The music attempts to interpret the historical symbolism and cultural significance of the planets (Mars, for example, is characterized as the Bringer of War).
Afterward, discuss in a two to three page write-up your reaction to the music. For example, which piece brought the most emotion out of you? Which was your favorite? Which conveyed strong feelings for the planet most clearly? If you were to write a similar piece for Pluto, what emotions would you try to invoke in the audience, and how would your music sound?