Ever wonder what is beyond this Earth? Yes, the night sky may be beautiful, but knowledge of the heavens can also help you become a better witch or wizard. In Year One Astronomy, you will observe the skies with a magical telescope, learn about our solar system neighbours, and discover how magic reflected off astronomical objects can affect us all on Earth. Come join us in Astronomy 101 - it’s an out of this world adventure!
My name is Professor Robert Plumb, and I will be your Astronomy professor during your time here at Hogwarts. You can read all about me on my profile, which is here. If you have any questions about the course, or just want to converse with me, feel free to send me an owl. You can also ask questions of my Professor’s Assistants (or “PAs”), who are listed to the right of the assignments tab in each lesson.
Here is a brief outline of Year One of this course:
Lesson 1: Introduction
Lesson 2: Muggle-made tools for astronomy
Lesson 3: Tools for wizards and viewing tips
Lesson 4: Introduction to the A.M.E. quotient
Lesson 5: A.M.E. in depth
Lesson 6: How to find the A.M.E. components
Lesson 7: The Sun and the planets in our solar system
Lesson 8: Other celestial bodies in the solar system
Lesson 9: Big names in astronomy
Let’s begin with the field itself. Astronomers define “astronomy” as the study of the universe. Muggles and wizards alike consider topics such as observing celestial bodies (moons, asteroids, comets, planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies), theorizing about how objects in outer space have been formed, and deducing the chemical makeup of these bodies as part of astronomy.
There are magical and Muggle approaches to astronomy and magical and Muggle discoveries within the field, but they do greatly blend, especially prior to the International Statute of Secrecy. More recently, we've drifted further apart as our focus on magical effects and Muggles’ focus on technology has increased, but we both are still under the same umbrella of discovering the extent and limits of the universe. Each of these approaches has its own advantages and its limitations.
The advantage of the magical approach is, obviously, magic. We are aware of this whole other side of the world to which Muggles are oblivious. For example, astrology - the study of how the happenings in outer space influence the happenings of people on Earth - is a major subfield of astronomy as practised in the magical world. However, calling a Muggle astronomer’s field of study “astrology” would quickly result in one very angry Muggle. You see, in order to keep magic a secret, wizards have had to alter the history of the magic that Muggles have seen, making them believe that it is only myth. This includes everything from spells and charms to magical creatures and plants. Wizards have done everything from altering Muggle memories and historical texts to spreading misinformation and the idea that magic is fanciful and unrealistic. This has gone so far that those Muggles who truly believe in magic are often thought of by their peers as somewhat childlike or crazy. This extends to what many Muggles believe about the field of astrology: that it is nothing more than a bit of planetary mumbo-jumbo. Their astronomy, on the other hand, is a well respected science.
On the other side of the ledger, astronomy is a field in which Muggles also have certain advantages. For example, Muggles are excellent at observational and theoretical astronomy. Observational astronomy focuses on finding objects in space, whether it’s by visual observation or by “seeing” an object through the analysis of data collected from space. Theoretical astronomy focuses on applying technology and astronomical concepts to a model in order to answer a question about the universe. In the field of astronomy, Muggles tend to make most of the observational discoveries and propose most of the theoretical concepts, at least in non-magical areas, while wizards focus more on magic-based theories. In fact, magical astronomers often subscribe to non-magical astronomy publications or attend Muggle institutions to get cutting-edge knowledge of observational and theoretical astronomy that they can incorporate into their own research into magic-based theory.
What keeps wizards from being as proficient as Muggles in observational astronomy? For one thing, magic tends to interfere with the technology they use for much of their research, like computers. As an example, the magic in Hogwarts castle is so powerful that electricity can’t be used here. More importantly, too many wizards reject non-magical science and technology. For example, whereas magical telescopes are an improvement over Muggle telescopes of the same size (this will be discussed in more detail in Lesson Three), they can’t compete with the best Muggle models, and the magical community hasn’t seen fit to make ones that can.
One of the biggest Muggle-built telescopes, the Keck telescope.
That being said, magical astronomers excel at applied astronomy. To many Muggles, the heavens are no more than something pretty to look at above their heads, faraway things with no apparent influence on everyday life. They marvel at lunar eclipses, take pictures of the sunrise, and count the shooting stars dashing across an inky black sky with their best friends. The more committed amateur astronomers may point their own telescope at the night sky and seek out known astronomical objects - or find some on their own. In contrast, wizards are often concerned about the affairs of outer space because they directly affect magical life on Earth. For example, we know that the arrangement of the stars can predict the future and that the full moon really can transform a werewolf into wolflike form.
Astronomy is truly a subject that connects many magical fields of study. The walls that separate disciplines from each other are restrictive, and the more that we can break them down, the more we can appreciate magical learning as a whole. This course will not only help you to learn more about the magic that affects you in everyday life, but it will also help you to think in a more interdisciplinary way. I encourage you to join me in learning about the magic beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
Astronomy Tower observation deck.
I would love it if every Year One student left the class with an “Outstanding” grade. It puts a smile on my face to see students doing so well in their first year at Hogwarts. However, O grades are not given freely - they must be earned. The good news? Every student in Year One has the ability to earn an O. Follow these steps, and you will have your O in no time.
First Year Astronomy is on Wednesdays in the Astronomy Tower. In the recent past, the class began at midnight, but in order to ensure that you will have enough sleep for the following day’s class, it has been moved to 10pm. When you are in class, be prepared to take notes.
There will be no textbook for Astronomy this year. However, I require that you bring your own von Rheticus model magical telescope to class, beginning with the third lesson this year. This is an affordable student model that is available for sale at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment in Diagon Alley. It is new this year, and it is superior to the brass telescopes some of your siblings may have used.
I notice that a few of you brought boxing telescopes. Please do not bring them to Astronomy class. I do enjoy a good prank, but pranks belong outside of class.
Study Your Notes, and Ask for Help if Needed
Take the time to read over your notes. If you have a question about the content, please ask either one of my Professor’s Assistants or me.
One word of note: Please treat my PAs with the same respect that you would treat me. My PAs are students like you who volunteer their time - their most precious resource - to help me ensure that I am serving the students of Hogwarts in the best way possible. Rudeness towards my PAs will not be tolerated.
Each lesson will have one or more required assignments. The assignments for each lesson are listed in the top right section of each lecture. Assignments without the words “Extra Credit” by their names are mandatory. There are no due dates for assignments, but you should do them before proceeding to the next lesson.
I want you to do well on each assignment. Please take your time, as none of these assignments are timed. All the assignments are open book – you can use the lessons, the notes you took, or any other source as you wish. Some assignments will even require you to do some outside research, and others will require additional thought on your part, rather than just regurgitated information from the lessons.
There are two types of assignments for this class: objective assignments and essay assignments. For your convenience, objective assignments will be labelled either Quiz, Midterm, or Final, while essay assignments will be labelled Essay. Some assignments will have rubrics. These are hints on how to get the best grade possible. Follow them.
There are three types of objective assignments - multiple choice, true/false, and short answer. Multiple choice and true/false are automatically graded, while short answers are graded by my PAs or me. All answers can be found in the lessons, so feel free to refer to the lesson during the exam if needed. Please ensure that your answers are correct before submitting them, as we cannot give you points for mistyped answers.
Everything that you need to know about an essay is in the rubric for the assignment. In general, we will be grading your response on whether or not you answer the question. Presentation counts as well - please use correct spelling and grammar. Also note that essays and short answers may only be submitted in English. PAs will be grading your essays, so please be patient. Note that there are no required essays in Year One Astronomy; they are all extra credit.
To facilitate essay grading, please do the following:
If you are non-native English speaker, please write “NES” on top of your essay.
If you have a learning disability, please write “LD” on top of your essay.
As long as you mark your essays “NES” or “LD”, no marks will be deducted for spelling or grammatical errors.
Please note that whether you mark your essay as NES or LD, I expect you to complete your essay to the best of your ability. These markings are not needed for short answers, because spelling and grammar are not taken into consideration.
Note: If you can’t write in English, you may use a translator (such as Google Translate) for your essays and short answers.
No matter what form an assignment takes, you are expected to do your own work. For short answer assignments, copying directly from lessons or other sources (including Muggle sources and friends’ papers) is plagiarism and will result in the individual short answer being marked as incorrect. For essay assignments, copying directly from the lesson or other sources will result in a grade of 1% for the assignment and you will not be permitted to retake the assignment.
Once you have received your graded assignment, you can still take steps to improve your class grade. First, look at the assignment and try to figure out what you did wrong. If you do not know what you did wrong, please contact me or a PA.
If you fail an assignment (that is, your grade is below 70%), you will be able to retake it. All the assignments in Lessons One and Two and the essay in Lesson Six can be retaken regardless of the grade you get. Feel free to retake an assignment of that sort as many times as you want in order to get the grade that you want. An assignment you can retake will have a “resubmit assignment” button in the gradebook. This will clear your grade and the assignment will show “not turned in” so that you may redo it. Your new grade may be higher than the old one, but it may also be the same or even lower, so make sure that you do a better job the next time around.
Assignments with the words “Extra Credit” next to the assignment title are not mandatory. While these assignments will not improve your class average, they will help you learn the concepts in the lessons. They will also give you extra points for your house, and many of them are designed to be fun.
Most of the extra credit assignments are essays. While there are no required essays in Year One, doing the essays now will help you learn the skills needed to do well in future years’ essays. Furthermore, if you choose to apply to be a PA, doing well in Astronomy essays will improve your application - completing essays well shows me not only that you are committed to this class but also that you understand the topics of the course.
Your term grade for Astronomy is calculated from the average of all required assignments. In order to get a grade of Outstanding, or O, you will need to earn a 90%-100% average in the class. You will earn Exceeds Expectations, or E, for an 80%-89% grade, and you will earn Acceptable, or A, for a 70%-79% grade. There are also three letter grades for a numerical grade of less than 70%, but surely you wouldn’t be satisfied with any failing grade! In order to qualify for Year Two, you will need to earn at least 70% or an A in each core class, including Astronomy.
Since you will be attending all classes, completing all assignments with your own work, following all rubrics, and asking for help if needed, I expect everyone to pass this class. If you do not think you can pass this class, please contact me or a PA. My PAs and I are all able and willing to help you.
Perhaps you love Astronomy class so much that you want to help other students with the course. If so, I encourage you to apply to be a PA. When PA applications are open, I will make an announcement. Keep in mind that I am looking for those who truly want to be on the team - please do not apply just for the title. If you are rejected but still want to be part of the team, please feel free to apply again during the next hiring window.
Oh! Look at the time! I suppose I should let you all be off to your other classes. I will leave you with just two homework assignments.
Original lesson written by Professor Brad Turing
Additional portions by Professor Robert Plumb