Astronomy Merit Badge
 Scouting the Stars with Mr. R.

M51 - Whirlpool Galaxy
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Mr. R. 
"The Universe is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere, 
the circumference nowhere." - Blaise Pascal

Mr. R's Astronomy Passport©  (a 4"x5" pocket guide) is available in PDF format to print out for non-profit use (requires free Adobe Acrobat© Reader).  Passports are copyrighted, but scouts and troops may use them free of charge if they create only one per scout. NO scout may be charged! BSA councils must first contact Mr. R. before creating large quantities for scout camps, merit badge fairs, etc.

Astronomy is often the most popular merit badge at scout camps, where scouts and leaders learn the wonders of the universe. At night we learn how to find many bright stars and constellations.  We chart the moon as it goes through its phases (hopefully) and observe the heavens with both our naked eyes and telescopes.  Note: NEVER look at the sun without proper solar equipment!

Meade Instruments




Describe the proper clothing and other precautions for safely making observations at night and in cold weather. Tell how to safely observe the Sun, objects near the Sun, and the Moon. Explain first aid for injuries or illnesses, such as heat and cold reactions, dehydration, bites and stings, and damage to your eyes that could occur during observation. 



Explain what light pollution is and how it and air pollution affect astronomy.



With the aid of diagrams (or real telescopes if available) do the following:

a. Explain why binoculars and telescopes are important astronomical tools. Demonstrate or explain how these tools are used.

b. Describe the similarities and differences of several types of astronomical telescopes.

c. Explain the purposes of at least three instruments used with astronomical telescopes.


Yerkes 40" Telescope
World's Largest



Do the following:

a. Identify in the sky at least 10 constellations, at least four of which are in the zodiac.
b. Identify at least eight conspicuous stars, five of which are of magnitude 1 or brighter.

c. Make two sketches of the Big Dipper. In one sketch, show the Big Dipper's orientation in the early evening sky. In another sketch, show its position several hours later. In both sketches, show the North Star and the horizon. Record the date and time each sketch was made 
d. Explain what we see when we look at the Milky Way. 

  •  Free online skymaps you can print off each month (excellent)
  •  A great graphic showing the sun passing through constellations, tracing the ecliptic.



Do the following:

a. List the names of the five most visible planets. Explain which ones can appear inphases similar to lunar phases and which ones cannot, and explain why.

b. Find out when each of the five most visible planets that you identified in requirement 5a will be observable in the evening sky during the next 12 months, then compile this information in the form of a chart or table. Update your chart monthly to show whether each planet will be visible during the early morning or in the evening sky.

NOTE: Astronomy magazines and yearly almanacs usually list where the planets can be seen, usually referring to a planet's location as being in a certain constellation. (Remember, the planet is actually just passing in front of the constellations).



At approximately weekly intervals, sketch the position of Venus, Mars or Jupiter in relation to the stars. Do this for at least four weeks and at the same time of night. On your sketch, record the date and time next to the planet's position. Use your sketch to explain how planets move. 



Do the following:
a. Sketch the face of the moon and indicate at least five seas and five craters. Label these landmarks. 
b. Sketch the phase and  the daily position of the Moon at the same hour and place, for a week. Include landmarks on the horizon such as hills, trees, and buildings.  Explain the changes you observe. 
c. List the factors that keep the Moon in orbit around Earth.

d. With the aid of diagrams, explain the relative positions of the Sun, Earth, and the Moon at the times of lunar and solar eclipses, and at the times of new, first-quarter, full, and last-quarter phases of the Moon.



Do the following:

  1. Describe the composition of the Sun, its relationship to other stars, and some effects of its radiation on Earth's weather. Define sunspots and describe some of the effects they may have on solar radiation.
  2. Identify at least one red star, one blue star, and one yellow star (other than the Sun). Explain the meaning of these colors.
23 Oct 2003



With your counselor's approval and guidance, do ONE of the following:
a. Visit a planetarium or astronomical observatory. Submit a written report, a scrapbook, or a video presentation afterward to your counselor that includes the following information:

  1. Activities occurring there
  2. Exhibits and displays you saw
  3. Telescopes and instruments being used
  4. Celestial objects you observed.

b. Plan and participate in a three-hour observation session that includes using binoculars or a telescope. List the celestial objects you want to observe, and find each on a star chart or in a guidebook. Prepare an observing log or notebook. Show your plan, charts, and log or notebook to your counselor before making your observations. Review your log or notebook with your counselor afterward.

c. Plan and host a star party for your Scout troop or other group such as your class at school. Use binoculars or a telescope to show and explain celestial objects to the group.

d. Help an astronomy club in your community hold a star party that is open to the public.

e. Personally take a series of photographs or digital images of the movement of the Moon, a planet, an asteroid or meteoroid, or a comet. In your visual display, label each image and include the date and time it was taken. Show all positions on a star chart or map. Show your display at school or at a troop meeting. Explain the changes you observed.


  • FREE online skymaps you can print off each month (excellent).


List at least three different career opportunities in astronomy. Pick the one you in which are most interested and explain how to prepare for such a career. Discuss with your counselor what courses might be useful for such a career.


Mr. R. helps with questions like...
"How powerful is that telescope?" 
"Who were some of the early astronomers?" 
"Is it true that Polaris hasn't always been the North Star?" 
"What books would you recommend?" 
"What telescopes would you recommend?"
If you have an astronomy question you can e-mail Mr. R. here.

Mr. R.

BSA Advancement ID#: 22
Pamphlet Revision Date: 2005
Requirements last updated prior to 2004
  Requirements: [1-Moon]  [2-Planets]  [3-Planets & Eclipses]  [4-Experiments]
[5-Galaxy, Stars & Constellations]  [6-Telescopes]  [7-Sun & Stars]  [8-Observation] [9-Careers]
[FYI-For Your Information]
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