2005 Winter Astronomy 361:

Astronomical Techniques

Part III. Optical Astronomy Labs (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. Some handouts will be distributed in class. Lab reports will require reference to Hugh Aller handouts on error theory and Pat Seitzer handouts on CCD imaging. An optional 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 for this course will require extensive 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 Macs, 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 explore basic optical astronomy techniques, including:

II. Labs

Laboratories will involve actual operation of the University of Michigan 0.4-m Angell Hall Observatory and CCD camera. 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, including an in-class presentation during 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 30%
Lab Reports & Worksheets 60%
Participation (*) 10%

* Lab attendance required.


Homework will generally 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 and should be carefully followed. As stated above, lab writeups will require extensive 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 4 laboratory sections are REQUIRED to pass this section of the course.

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 2005Apr 06 (schedules subject to change)

Date Topics Homework
Tuesday Mar 22 NO LECTURE BUT HANDOUT HW#0 HW #0 (due MON 3/28)
Tuesday Mar 29 How to evaluate a CCD detector HW #1 (due 4/5)
Tuesday Apr 5 Basics of Aperture Photometry HW #2 (due 4/12)
Tuesday Apr 12 More on Error Analysis HW #3 (presentations due 4/19)
Thursday Apr 19 In-class Presentations.

Laboratory Sections
Date Readings (before lab meets) Location Activity/Experiment Assignment Information
Wed Mar 23 Getting Started with IDL (Chapters 1 & 2) Angell 5190 IDL Tutorial IDL exercises due Wed Mar 30
Wed Mar 30 CCD Manual/Software

CCD Handouts

(Howell Ch. 4)

Angell 5190 CCD Engineering Lab Writeup Due Fri Apr 8
Wed Apr 6 (Howell Ch. 5) Angell 5190 Aperture Photometry and Astrometry of Gamma Ray Burst Afterglow (ATV)
Wed Apr 13 Angell 5190 Aperture Photometry and Astrometry (continuation) Final Lab (both parts) Writeup Due on Fri Apr 22

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):