2007 Winter Astronomy 361:

Astronomical Techniques

Part I. 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. 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 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 and 845 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 immediately if you have problems accessing IDL, since computer environments at this university are in a constant state of change.

Course Description:

I. Lectures

This first part of Astronomy 361 will explore fundamnetal measurement and error theory along with 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 laboratory sections is 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 2007 Jan 01 (schedules subject to change)

Lecture Slots (Tuesday/Thursday)
Date Topics Homework
Thursday Jan 5 Introduction HW #0 (due MON 1/8)
Tuesday Jan 9 IDL Intro & Error Theory HW #1 (due 1/16)
Thursday Jan 11 Error Theory continued
Tuesday Jan 16 Celestial Navigation HW #2 (due 1/23)
Thursday Jan 18 Planetarium visit (if available)
Tuesday Jan 23 Measurement of Light HW #3 (due 1/30)
Thursday Jan 25 Telescopes and Imaging
Tuesday Jan 30 Intro to CCD Detectors HW #4 (due 2/6)
Thursday Feb 1 [LAB TIME -- MEET Angel 5190]
Tuesday Feb 6 Image Processing & Basic Photometry HW #5 (due 2/13)
Thursday Feb 8 Observing Basics and Astrometry
Tuesday Feb 13 Model Fitting and Least Squares HW #6 (due 2/20)
Thursday Feb 15 [LAB TIME -- MEET Angel 5190]
Tuesday Feb 20 In-class presentations
Thursday Feb 22 Lab Q&A -- Final Lecture

Laboratory Sections (Wednesdays)
Date Readings (before lab meets) Location Activity/Experiment Assignment Information
Wed Jan 10 Getting Started with IDL (Chapters 1 & 2) Angell 5190 IDL Tutorial IDL exercises due Wed Jan 24
Wed Jan 17 Angell 5190 IDL Tutorial (cont) + Statistics Lab Error Theory Lab Writeup due Wed Jan 30
Wed Jan 24 Angel Hall Telescope Manual Angell 5190 Angel Hall Observatory Training (+finish Stat Lab)
Wed Jan 31 CCD Manual/Software

CCD Handouts

(Howell Ch. 4)

Angell 5190 CCD Engineering CCD Lab Writeup due Wed Feb 7
Wed Feb 7 (Howell Ch. 5) Angell 5190 Aperture Photometry and Astrometry of Gamma Ray Burst Afterglow (ATV)
Wed Feb 14 Angell 5190 GRB Lab (continued) and Angell Checkout GRB Lab (both parts) Writeup Due on Fri Feb 23
Wed Feb 21 Angell 5190 Angell Checkout (extra time for GRB Lab analysis)

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):