2003 Winter Astronomy 361:

Astronomical Techniques

Part III. Radio Astronomy and Interferometry (4 units)

Instructor Information

Click to go directly to: Course Details, Course Description, Grading Policies, Schedules (PrintVersion), Useful Links

Course Details:

Prerequisites: Astronomy 160 or permission of instructor

Course Schedule

Primary Textbook:

"An Introduction to Radio Astronomy (2nd edition)" by Bernard F. Burke and Francis Graham-Smith

(Copies should be available at Ulrich's and online bookstores; one copy has been placed on reserve at the Shapiro Science Library)

Recommended Readings:

Other potentially useful texts will be placed on reserve at the Shapiro Science Library. These include:

The following texts are not on reserve but also contain alternative treatment of course material.

Lastly, reference books for the Interactive Data Language (IDL) can be found near the Astronomy Department computers in 837 Dennison Bldg.

Computing Resources:

The lab writeups for this course will require some computer data analysis. Basic lessons for using IDL will be included as part of the laboratory material, and computers with this software are available in rooms 837, 845, 922 and 1057 Dennison (IDL can run on the Windows, Linux, and Solaris machines). In addition, the 'fishbowl' computers can be used by logging into the astronomy department unix computers using Exceed (Xwindows server). Please contact monnier@umich.edu if you have problems accessing IDL.

Course Description:

I. Lectures

This third part of Astronomy 361 will discuss basic radio astronomy techniques, including:

Emphasis will be given to interferometry techniques, including special topics of phase-referencing, self-calibration, aperture synthesis imaging, and new developments in visible/infrared long-baseline interferometry.

II. Labs

Laboratories will involve actual operation of the University of Michigan 26-meter telescope as well as the "Small Radio Telescope (SRT)" located on the roof of Angell Hall. Experiments include:

Use of the Interactive Data Language (IDL) will be integrated into the course for data analysis.

Grading Policies:

There will be one homework assignment per week covering the lectures and assigned reading in the course textbook.  The laboratory assignments consist of lab writeups or in-class lab worksheets during the tutorial sessions. Attendance of all laboratory sections is REQUIRED to pass this section of the course. There will be no exams. The final grading will be done according to the following table:

Assignment Percentage
Weekly Homework 50%
Lab Reports & Worksheets 40%
Participation (*) 10%

* Lab attendance required.


Homework will be assigned each Tuesday and will be due in class the following Tuesday. Late homework is accepted, but suffers a letter-grade penalty for each day late. While you may work in groups, each problem set should reflect your own understanding and be in your own words.

Lab Writeups:

Lab writeups will be due one week after the corresponding Wednesday Lab session. Guidelines for writing lab reports will be made available. As stated above, lab writeups will require some computer data analysis, and I encourage the use of IDL or equivalent analysis environment (spreadsheet analysis, such as using EXCEL, will not be accepted). Late writeups will also suffer one letter grade per weekday late (the weekend counts as one day). I especially encourage office hour visits to discuss the format and content of the experiment writeups. I repeat that attendance of all 5 laboratory sections are REQUIRED to pass this section of the course.

Lab Worksheets:

When not carrying out an experiment with an associated lab writeup, the lab section will have an in-class worksheet to be completed and turned in at the end of the class.

Schedules: Last updated 2003April15 (schedules subject to change)

Date Weekly Readings Topics Homework
Tuesday March 18 Burke Ch.1-3.3(p1-27),

Burke Ch. 4 (p40-55)

Introduction to Radio Astronomy Handout #1 (due 3/25)
Thursday March 20 Important terminology, detection systems, telescopes
Tuesday March 25 Burke Ch.3.4-3.6 (p27-37),

Burke Ch. 7.1 (p 104-106),

Ch.8 (p128-152)

Radio observational techniques and methods Handout #2 (due 4/1)
Thursday March 27 Galactic continuum radiation
Tuesday April 1 Burke Ch.10


spectral lines; HI in the galaxy (preparation for SRT lab2) Handout #3 (due 4/8)
Thursday April 3 HI continued; special topic: X-ray Telescopes
Tuesday April 8 Burke Ch.5,6 (p56-103),

Burke A.1 (p351-358)

Interferometry and aperture synthesis (radio context) Handout #4 (due 4/15)
Thursday April 10 VLBI, phase problems, self-calibration
Tuesday April 15 Lawson Ch. 2,5,16 Optical interferometry; atmosphere; nulling Handout #5 (due 4/22)

Laboratory Sections
Date Readings Location Activity/Experiment Assignment Information
Wed March 19 Getting Started with IDL (Chapters 1 & 2) Angell 5190 IDL Tutorial Worksheet
Wed March 26 SRT Manual (Handout) Angell 5190 SRT Introduction;

Lab: Sun Scans

Lab Writeup

Due Wed April 9 [new due date]

Wed April 2 . Meet outside Tour of UM 26-m Radio Telescope
Wed April 9 Burke Ch.10 Angell 5190 SRT HI measurements; IDL work Lab Writeup Due Wed April 16
Wed April 16 Burke Ch.11 Meet behind Dennison @ 2:30pm 26-m observations of the Sun (Preparation) Lab Writeup Due Wed April 23 (Monnier mailbox on 8th floor Dennison)

Printable Version of Schedule

Useful Links:

The following links may be useful at various points during the class. Please send me additional links you have found useful, and I will include these for your classmates' benefit.

IDL Resources:

Radio Astronomy (General):