Astronomy Merit Badge

Merit Badge University
Colonial Virginia Council


Welcome to the 2013-2014 Merit Badge University (MBU) on Astronomy. We’re glad you are interested in learning about the sky, our Solar System, our Milky Way galaxy, and the universe. During the course of this merit badge, you will learn the Winter night sky and see several astronomical sights with a variety of telescopes, and we’ll even get to use a professional planetarium to help teach you the constellations and star names. When you have learned the material, you will demonstrate your knowledge to an Astronomy MB counselor under the actual night sky in order to earn credit for the requirements.

BEFORE YOU SIGN UP, please review the Prerequisites and Expectations and the Requirements sections below with your parent/guardian, as this badge requires quite a bit of work outside of the two MBU classes. In fact, we have split the requirements into three sections:

  • Classroom topics that will be covered at the two MBU sessions,
  • Homework that you need to do on your own time (but with guidance and tips from the counselors), and
  • Fieldwork that takes place at night under the stars.

Prerequisites and Expectations

To complete the Astronomy MB, the Scout will have to meet at night with a counselor to individually demonstrate some of the requirements in the actual night sky. It helps if the Scout has taken or is taking Physical Science (“8th Grade” science), but younger Scouts with a keen interest in astronomy that are familiar with concepts like angular measure and Newtonian motion should do fine.


We will be using the current 2013 requirements for the Astronomy merit badge. They can be found at BSA Astronomy Merit Badge (click here). Check with the Scout Store or other sources for the 2013 pamphlet if you want one (optional). We will distribute worksheets at MBU.

Requirements that we will complete in the Classroom:
1a, 1b, 1c, 2, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, 4d, 5a, 5b, 5c, 6c, 6d, 7a, 7b

Requirements that will be assigned as Homework:
4c, 6b, 9

Requirements that must be done with the counselors at night as Fieldwork:
4a, 4b, 7c

Requirements that CAN be done with the counselors as Fieldwork or as Homework if you have access to a telescope (bring in your descriptions and sketches):
5d, 6a

A note about Requirement 8: you only have to do one of the choices, but the Astronomy MBU counselors will only give credit for 8a, 8b, or 8e. If you want to visit a planetarium (choice a), follow the requirements about what you need to do and present the work to a counselor. If you want to observe the sky (option b – my favorite), follow the planning steps (we’ll help if you need it) and document your observations. We have access to some pretty good amateur telescopes, and will be happy to use them with you to complete option b. If you want to do some astrophotography (option e) and you have some equipment, we’d love to see your photo skills applied to the sky. If you had your heart set on doing option c (host a star party for your Troop) or d (help an Astronomy Club with a star party), we will issue a partial completion and you will have to get the responsible counselor/adult to finish the badge with you.

Also note that when the requirements say “Identify in the sky,” it means that the Scout has to point out the star/constellation/etc. IN THE NIGHT SKY TO THE COUNSELOR. It needs to be CLEAR AT NIGHT in order to do this. When opportunities are offered and the sky is cooperating, don’t miss that chance. We are in Virginia, not Arizona, so don’t expect each scheduled night to be suitable.

Most Scouts take 4 (or more) extra meetings to successfully complete the work for this badge. That’s a couple of times to learn the sky (10 constellations with four from the zodiac, 8 stars, a blue, yellow, and red star) in the planetarium, and then another time (or two) out under the actual clear night sky to demonstrate that knowledge to the counselors. So, we are scheduling extra meetings at the following dates and times (see table). The meetings at Jones Planetarium are mainly for learning the night sky, and they will be held even if the sky is overcast (the only exception is if the Hampton City Schools are closed for any reason that day). The meetings at Grundland Astronomy Park (GAP) and Makemie Woods are only held if the sky is at least partly clear (so don’t bother if it is raining or snowing). All of these extra night meetings start at 6:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. Parents, siblings, and friends are encouraged to participate with the Scout. All events are free. No drop offs, as we want adults with the Scouts during all of these nighttime meetings as we strictly adhere to safe scouting youth protection policies.

MBU meeting #111/23/2013Sat
Grundland11/29/2013Fri (Late Addition!)
Makemie Woods12/30/2013Mon
MBU meeting #21/18/2014Sat

So, if you are willing to invest some effort, we feel the work will be rewarding. If you have any questions, please send me an email. And on behalf of the Astronomy MBU counselors Bird Taylor, Del and Mark Croom, we hope to see you and your family at the Jones Planetarium and out under the stars at Grundland this winter season.

Mark Croom


Merit Badge Worksheets and Workbooks
Blank workbooks will be handed out at the first MBU meeting. It is fine to wait until then to start, but if you just have to get an early start, please print out and use the current 2013 workbook (Word version) or (pdf version).

Homework help
Click Homework help to get started. This is a resource developed by your counselors to provide some hints to help you get your observing tasks done.

Jones Planetarium
Jones Planetarium is at the Jones Magnet Middle School in Hampton. Scouts can learn the objects in the sky and the Planetarium is a great opportunity for the entire family to get involved in astronomy.

Virginia Peninsula Astronomy/Stargazers (VPAS)
Astronomy/Stargazers located on the Virginia Peninsula in the Hampton Roads region. Interests include observations, education, and other astronomy related topics for all ages. Everyone is invited to join and participate. (Free) VPAS uses Hampton's Grundland Astronomy Park (GAP) to help the Scouts learn the sky.

AAS Careers in Astronomy
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. They provide this Guide to Careers in Astronomy which can help you with Requirement 9.

Stellarium open source planetarium software
Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. Use this to practice identifying ten constellation including faint Pisces, small Aries, and others. Stellarium is a good tool to help plan an observing session, too.

lunar phases