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Astronomy 310

ASTR 310: Observational Methods in Astronomy

Prerequisites: ASTR 112, MATH 152, PHYS 112 or PHYS 222, or permission of instructor

Credit Hours: (3) One hour lecture; four hours laboratory

Students will make telescopic observations of the moon, planets, stars, interstellar medium, and galaxies.  Topics will include theory and practice in optical-range astrophotography and digital imaging techniques, and astronomical data reduction and interpretation.  The class will spend approximately one hour per week in lecture, and four in lab.

Detailed Description of Course


1. Stars: Basic Observation
            a) Review of Blackbody Radiation
            b) Measurement of Stellar Parameters
            c) Variable Stars and Eclipsing Binaries
2. Telescope Operation
            a) Coordinate systems
            b) Control Software
3. CCD imaging
            a) CCD basics
            b) Control Software
            c) Data Reduction
4. Photometry
            a) Basic Practices
            b)  Broadband Filters
            c) Photometry Software
            d) Interstellar & Atmospheric Extinction
            e) Aperture Photometry
            f) Absolute versus Differential Photometry
            g) Light Curve Analysis
5. Astrometry
6. Oral Reports on Observational Projects


1.     Observatory Operations: Telescope “Driving Test”
2.     Basic Imaging Techniques
3.     Basic Photometry Techniques
4.     Basic Astrometry Techniques
5.     Independent Projects from Project Menu

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The class format will include lecture and observational activities.  Approximately ten to twelve lectures will cover the theoretical background; the balance of the semester will be spent in lab activities, collecting and analyzing astronomical data.

Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students will demonstrate and understanding of the theory and practice of visual-band astronomical data collection and telescope operation; they will apply the scientific method to observations to make conclusions; they will identify and compensate for observational challenges that must be overcome and demonstrate proficiency with current data collection and analysis software packages.

Assessment Measures

Assessment of student achievement will be accomplished by traditional methods such as tests, quizzes, and a final examination. Other evaluation methods may include written reports and oral presentations. In addition, telescopic observational projects will be assigned and graded.

Other Course Information

Review and Approval
July, 2010