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Fall 2017

ASTR 8500 / ASTR 5110: PRACTICAL ASTRONOMY


Reading Assignments:

For ASTR 5110, please study the lecture notes thoroughly and do the suggested readings given on the top of many web pages.

Homework Assignments and Labs:

These will be handed out in class on an approximately biweekly schedule.

Practical Sessions:

  • Practicum I (Aug. 29): Coordinates and Basic Principles of the Celestial Sphere

    Read and understand these (undergraduate level) notes. Understanding RA, DEC and Hour Angle are essential to completing the first assignment.

  • Practicum II (Sep. 5): Sidereal Time, Solar Coordinates, Ecliptic, Seasons

    Read and understand these (undergraduate level) notes. Understanding sidereal time, particularly the coordinates of the Sun over the year, is useful for planning observations over the course of the year.

  • Practicum III (Sep. 12): Changes in Object Coordinates

    Read and understand these (undergraduate level) notes. Understanding how object coordinates change through time, particularly due to precession and proper motions, is essential for using telescopes properly.

  • Practicum IV (Sep. 19): The FITS Format and Image Display with DS9

    With these notes we review the most commonly used image format used in astronomy, and cover basic information on how to display these FITS images using the image display program DS9. You should download a copy of DS9.

    Go to this directory containing images needed for the demonstration exercises: You can grab the gzipped tarfile containing all of the test images, or grab the fits files one at a time using a "save as" command (in Linux this a right click, on a Mac do a control-click).

    A NASA primer on the FITS data format can be found here.

    Trey Wenger's notes on manipulating FITS files with python can be found here.

    Here are other recommended links:

  • Practicum V (Sep. 26): Introduction to IRAF

    With these notes we review the most commonly used image manipulation and processing software package used in astronomy. Follow the directions in the notes to set up IRAF on your computer.

    On the homepage of the class you will find links to IRAF documents and tutorials that are useful.

  • (Oct. 3) Reading Period

  • Practicum VI (Oct. 10): Learning How to Use the Speckle Camera

  • Practicum VII (Oct. 17): Preparing for Observing Runs -- Airmass and Finding Charts

    Two topics for today:

    (1) In preparation for our spectroscopy run and then for our work at APO, we'll discuss several tools helpful to preparation for observing runs (and for proposing for observing runs). These are the tools we will discuss (the two websites are also linked off of the main webpage for the class):

    • Sky Calendar, which can be used to create an ephemeris of useful information for a particular observatory for a particular month.

    • IRAF's "airchart" command, which is found in the package mtools (this is a package that was contributed to IRAF by Jeff Munn, and may not be part of all IRAF installations).

    • SkyView, which is useful for pulling up images from a website and making finding charts.

    • XEphem is a newer tool that is rather sophisticated and can be used for a lot of applications.

    You should now begin to make airmass charts for the spectrocopyu lab targets to plan your evening for the various targets we need to do. You can break into groups to collect data for a few hours each and share the data.

    Also, you should now read the manual for how to operate the FMO 40-inch and the FOBOS instrument. Note that the SITE CCD detector is currently inoperable and we will be using a different camera; however, all other operations of the instrument are as described in the manual.

    (2) We have been talking about telescope aberrations as well as Shack-Hartmann Sensors and we will be giving you a demonstration of our own "Star Waves" Wavefront Analyzer when we go to Fan Mountain for the spectroscopy lab (we will analyze the 24" RRRT and the 40" telescopes). But to familiarize you with what this machine can do, I want to ask you to watch the two videos attached below. One of them (the right hand one on the Innovations Foresight webpage) is short and we wil watch it together. The longer video (the left hand one on the IF webpage) I will assign for homework -- it really is quite interesting and gives you a real feeling of how people use these devices in the assessment of telescope optics:

  • Practicum VIII (Oct. 24): Working with Spectra (IRAF onedspec, twodspec, apextract packages)

    See class lecture notes at lectures/spectroscopy/spec.html.

  • Practicum IX (Oct. 31): Discussion of APO 3.5-m projects.

  • Practicum X (Nov. 07): Preparation for class trip. Understanding the APO 3.5-m TUI.

  • (Nov. 14): Class trip to Arizona & New Mexico, and observing at Apache Point Observatory

  • Practicum XI (Nov. 21): Reducing CCD Data/IRAF's CCDPROC Routine

    Read and understand these (graduate level) notes.

  • Practicum XII (Nov. 28): Photometry with IRAF's APPHOT

    These notes detail how to use IRAF's APPHOT and PHOT packages for the special case of relative photometry of APO ARCTIC data taken with the beam diffuser, and give other information pertinent to doing the photometry for the last assignment.

    This older version of these notes, notes, give some information on how to use IRAF's APPHOT and PHOT packages and give other information pertinent to doing relative or absolute photometry. THey are similar to the notes above (which you should read for reference, but have a few extra slides about Landolt standards).

  • Practicum XIII (Dec. 05): Error Analysis I

    Read and understand these (undergraduate level) notes. This should be very basic for you from your undergradiate training!

    You should also understand and heed carefully the information on significant digits posted at this website. Again, this should be very basic for you.

  • Practicum XIV (Dec. 05): Error Analysis II (Central Limit Thereom and Propagation of Errors)

    Read and understand these (undergraduate level) notes. Again, this should be very basic for you from your undergradiate training!


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Last modified Aug 2017 by srm4n