2004 Winter Astronomy 361:

Astronomical Techniques

Part II. Optical Astronomy (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:

No primary textbook. Lectures will draw from the readings listed below, especially the first two. A coursepack is available from EXCEL (located next to Ulrichs on South University).

Recommended Readings:

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

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 and some homework for this course will require computer 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 second part of Astronomy 361 will discuss basic optical astronomy techniques, including:

II. Labs

Laboratories will involve actual operation of the University of Michigan 0.4-m Angell Hall Observatory. 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 coursepack, including an in-class presenation on the last lecture period. The laboratory assignments consist of lab writeups or in-class lab worksheets completed 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 + Final Presentation 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 generally 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. 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.

Extra Credit:

While Michigan winters make it difficult to incorporate actual observations as a course requirement, extra credit will be given for astronomical observations analyzed before the end of the semester. We will discuss possible projects during class.

Schedules: Last updated 2004Mar04 (schedules subject to change)

Date Weekly Readings Topics Homework
Thursday Feb 5 Introduction HW #0 (Project Brainstorming, due 2/10)
Tuesday Feb 10 Covington Ch. 2 Celestial Navigation HW #1 (due 2/17)
Thursday Feb 12 How astronomers describe light
Tuesday Feb 17 Howell Ch. 3 Imaging with Astronomical Telescopes HW #2 (due 3/2)
Thursday Feb 19 CCDs: How they work
Tuesday Mar 2 Howell Ch. 4 CCDs: How to use them HW #3 (due 3/9)
Thursday Mar 4 Image Processing and Photometry Methods
Tuesday Mar 9 Howell Ch. 5 Observing Basics: Filters, Calibration HW #4 (In-class Presentations), (due 3/16)
Thursday Mar 11 ** MEET @ ANGELL ** More computer time for Photometry Lab
Tuesday Mar 16 In-class Presentations

Laboratory Sections
Date Readings (before lab meets) Location Activity/Experiment Assignment Information
Wed Feb 11 Getting Started with IDL (Chapters 1 & 2) Angell 5190 IDL Tutorial IDL exercises due Wed Mar 3
Wed Feb 18 Angell Hall Observatory Manual (Handout) Angell 5190 Intro to Angel Hall Observatory (MORE IDL TIME) Worksheet Due Mar 3
Wed Mar 3 CCD Manual/Software

Howell Ch. 4

Angell 5190 CCD Engineering Lab Writeup Due Wed Mar 10
Wed Mar 10 Howell Ch. 5 Angell 5190 Aperture Photometry of Gamma Ray Burst Afterglow (ATV) Lab Writeup Due Mon Mar 22
Wed Mar 17 Angell Hall Observatory Manual (Handout) Angell 5190 Angell Hall Observatory Checkout (MORE IDL TIME)

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:

Angell Hall Observatory

Software References:

General Astronomy

Gamma Ray Burst Afterglow Analysis:

Radio Astronomy (General):