ASTR 306/406 - Astronomical Techniques

T/Th 11:30-12:45am, Sears 552

This course will focus on research techniques used by astronomers, including observational studies using ground- and space-based telescopes, and data mining of large on-line astronomical datasets. We will also emphasize the variety of technical writing that astronomers do, including observing/funding proposals, journal articles, and technical reviews. This course is an approved SAGES departmental seminar.



Instructors:

Primary
Secondary
Chris Mihos
mihos@case.edu
Sears 557
Office Hours: drop-in
Paul Harding
paul.harding@case.edu
Sears 569

Technical Support:

Astro Computer Lab System Support
Charley Knox
charles.knox@case.edu
Sears 568



Textbooks:

No required textbooks. Readings will come from a variety of sources available online and in the astronomy lab and library.
  • BGO: Observational Astronomy, by Birney, Gonzalez, and Oesper
  • Chromey: To Measure the Sky, by Frederick Chromey
  • Howell: Handbook of CCD Astronomy

Attendance Policy:

This course will involve hands-on data analysis, in-class group work, and class discussions. These kinds of interactive class activities cannot be made up, and therefore on-time attendance is required. Absences will be noted, as will late arrivals, and attendance will be factored into the final course grade (see below).



Assignments

There will be a variety of homework sets geared towards the development of technical skills. These assignments will often be coordinated with in-class activities. Typical assignments could include conducting a simple photometric analysis of astronomical image data,  or downloading and analyzing appropriate astronomical datasets off of the web.

In addition, there will be several writing assignments throughout the semester which might include
  • an observing proposal
  • a grant proposal for research using an on-line database
  • a project writeup in journal style
  • a referee's report of project writeups
General tips on HW assignments.

Submitting Assignments: Assignments should be turned in by 4pm on the due date. Hardcopy only; electronic files are not accepted unless specifically requested.

ASTR 406:
Graduate students will have additional problems assigned, and will be asked to do more in-depth analysis and interpretation of data.

Late Homework Policy: You get one "free" late homework, which must be turned in no later than one week past the due date.  After that, there will be a penalty of 20% for every day late, unless you have a prearranged, excused reason. Note: Your "free" late homework cannot involve assignments marked with "no extensions".

Grading

Final grades are based on a weighted average of course assignments (with weights as given in the Assignments section). There are no exams. The grading scheme works as follows:

A
90-100
B
80-89
C
70-79
D
50-69
F
< 50

Unexcused absences will impact your score roughly as follows:

Absences
Adjustment
0
+3
1.5
0
3
-5
4
-10
6
-20
8
-30
(full algorithm here)

10 or more absences will result in a failing class grade, and late arrivals (>10 mins late) will count as half an absence.


Computational Requirements

Programming and data analysis will be required. I strongly encourage you to install the Anaconda python distribution on your computer, which also installs the astropy package by default.

We will also work with the data reduction package PyRAF. You do not need to install it on your own machine; it will be available for use in class on the linux workstations in the classroom.

If you do not have an account on our linux workstations, please see Charley Knox (Sears 568) to get set up ASAP. 

Computational Tools/Guides

Python help/links
PyRAF / IRAF
Skycalc (full graphical version / local install)
Skycalc (limited web version)


Course Schedule / Topic List

Date
Topics
Notes/Readings
Aug 29
Course Intro
Coordinate Systems
Chromey Ch 3.1
BGO: Ch 1
Aug 31
Observing run prep (Skycalc)
The Atmosphere
BGO: Ch 7
Night sky spectrum movie
Betelgeuse seeing movie
Sep 5
Telescopes
BGO: Ch 6
Chromey 5.5
Sep 7
Data Lab
Detectors
Howell: Ch 2-4
Sep 12
Detectors (cont)
Data Lab
Howell: Ch 2-4
Sep 14
Detectors (cont)
Filters and Magnitudes
BGO: Ch 5
Chromey: 10.3-10.4
Sep 19
HW discussion
Filters and Magnitudes (cont)

Sep 21
Photometry
Writing discussion
Howell, Ch 5
Sep 26
Statistics

Sep 28
Statistics (cont)
M101 project lab
(data reduction)

Oct 3
M101 project lab
(photometry/sky estimation)

Oct 5
M101 project lab
(sky subtraction and
photometric scaling)

Oct 10
M101 project lab
(Final image assembly
and photometry)

Oct 12
M101 project lab
(Final photometry)

Oct 17
Observing Proposal discussion
AGN project intro

Oct 19
Catchup Day

Oct 24
No class -- Fall Break

Oct 26
AGN project intro
Oct 31
AGN Project : Data Sources
and Cluster Sample

SDSS Data Lab

Nov 2
SDSS Data Lab (cont)
Nov 7
Spectroscopy
Eyeball Spectroscopy Lab

Nov 9
Spectroscopy
Nov 14
Spectrograph Lab
Nov 16
Spectrograph Lab
Nov 21
M101 paper review
HW 4 overview
TAC discussion

Nov 23
No class -- Thanksgiving

Nov 28
Chandra Data Lab
Nov 30
Cluster AGN Hunting
Dec 5
Cluster AGN Hunting
Dec 7
Time Allocation Committee

Assignments (due dates subject to change)

Assignment
Due
Weight
HW1
Sep 7
1
HW2
Sep 26
1
HW3
Oct 10
1
M101 paper
Oct 19
1.5
Observing Proposal
Topic: Oct 31
Prop: Nov 14
(no extensions)
1.5
HW4 Nov 30 1
TAC reports
Dec 7
(no extensions)
1
Cluster AGN
writeup

Dec 19
(no extensions)
1.5

Assignments are due at 4pm on the specified date. 



Group Work Teams

Shapley
Herschel
Chandrasekhar Mitchell
















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