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


Textbooks:

No required textbooks. Readings will come from a variety of sources available online and in the astronomy lab and library, including:

BGO: Observational Astronomy, by Birney, Gonzalez, and Oesper
Chromey: To Measure the Sky, by Frederick Chromey
Howell: Handbook of CCD Astronomy




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 need an account set up on our linux workstations, please see Charley Knox (Sears 568) to get set up ASAP. 

Computer Lab Support:

Charley Knox
charles.knox@case.edu
Sears 568

Computational Tools/Guides:



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 be used on assignments marked with "no extensions".

Assignment Schedule (due dates subject to change)

Assignment
Due
Weight
HW1
Sep 12
1
HW2
Sep 26
1
HW3
Oct 10
1
M101 paper
Oct 20
1.5
Observing Proposal
Topic: Oct 31
Prop: Nov 14
(no extensions)
1.5
HW4 Nov 30 1
TAC reports
Dec 7, 6:00am
(no extensions)
1
Cluster AGN
writeup

Dec 19, noon
(no extensions)
1.5

Assignments are due at 4pm on the specified date, unless otherwise noted.


Group Work Teams

Shapley
Herschel
Chandrasekhar Mitchell
Rubin
Fasold
Freya
Tyr
Berk6
Mjollnir
Blaise
Kate
Kaelee
Nathaniel
Pengfei
Quinn
Darius
Sam
Megan
Joe
Andrew Chris
Steve
Nick



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. Unexcused absences will impact your score roughly as follows, with late arrivals (>10 mins late) counting as half an absence:

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, regardless of performance on written assignments

Grading

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

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




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

Sep 5
The Atmosphere
Telescopes
Night sky spectrum movie
Betelgeuse seeing movie
Sky Cams: KPNO blue, red
BGO: Ch 6
Chromey 5.5
Sep 7
Detectors
Data Lab
Howell: Ch 2-4
Data Lab Data (cwru access only)
Sep 12
Detectors (cont)
Data Lab
Howell: Ch 2-4
Sep 14
Filters and Magnitudes
BGO: Ch 5
Chromey: 10.3-10.4
Sep 19
Photometry
Setting up PyRAF
Using PyRAF's imexam
Howell, Ch 5
Sep 21
HW#1 review
Writing discussion

Sep 26
Statistics

Sep 28
M101 project lab
(data reduction)

Oct 3
M101 project lab
(photometry/sky estimation)

Oct 5
M101 project lab
(sky subtraction,
photometric scaling, master combine
)

Oct 10
M101 project lab
(Final photometry)

Oct 12
No class
Tucson
Oct 17
Observing Proposal discussion
HW #3 discussion
Spectroscopy

Oct 19
Spectroscopy
Eyeball Spectroscopy Lab

Oct 24
No class -- Fall Break

Oct 26
Observing Proposal discussion

Oct 31
Spectroscopy

Nov 2
AGN project intro
Nov 7
No class

Nov 9
Bench Spectrograph Demo
Nov 14
Bench Spectrograph Demo
Nov 16
TAC description
AGN Project : Data Sources
and Cluster Sample

Nov 21
SDSS Data Lab
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

Learning Outcomes

After taking this course, students should be able to:
  • Understand the concepts of positions, coordinates, and object visibility in the night sky.
  • Describe the detailed effects of the Earth's atmosphere on astronomical data from ground-based telescopes.
  • Describe various telescope configurations and astronomical detector technologies.
  • Have quantitative understanding of various astronomical magnitude and filter systems.
  • Conduct basic data reduction and analysis of CCD imaging data.
  • Understand the basics of astronomical spectrographs.
  • Utilize online astronomical data sources to conduct multiwavelength studies of astronomical sources.
  • Develop quantitatively argued observing proposals.
  • Conduct literature searches of research journals.
  • Review and critique technical writing and arguments.
  • Write up research results in proper format for journal publications.



Useful Links: