Astronomy 512 -- Infrared and Optical Instrumentation (Spring 2006) -- Syllabus

  • Instructor
    • Michael Skrutskie
      • Office: 262 Astronomy
        Phone: 924 4328
        Email: mfs4n
        Office Hours: TF 10:00-11:30 (actually any time you can find me)
    • Also appearing: John Wilson, Matt Nelson, Remy Indebetouw

  • Website:
    Class notes will be posted lecture by lecture at this site.
    Assignments/labs will similarly be posted as they are assigned.

  • Description: This course will provide both classroom and hands-on exposure to fundamental issues of instrumentation design including mechanics and materials, optics, cryogenics and vacuum, telescope interface, detectors and arrays, electronics and computer interface, spectral dispersion, and modern instrumental innovations. No prior knowledge of instrumentation techniques is required. Given the broad range of topics, the treatment of any single area will be limited. The course is thus not rigorous preparation for an instrumenation career, but rather broad exposure to instrumentation techniques that can benefit a career in astronomy regardless of specialization.

  • Assignments: Assignments will be given on an approximately bi-weekly basis. They will largely be hands-on laboratory activities with occasional written assignments. The degree of collaboration will be specified with each assignment, and, in general, most of the hands-on work will be carried out in groups of two or more. Regardless of the level of collaboration, however, submitted would should be the student's own distinct response to the assignment. Laboratory work will be submitted in the form of a laboratory notebook which ultimately will contain all of the lab work for the semester. In addition to regular assignments, students will give a presentation at the end of the semester which reviews a modern infrared facility-level instrument at a major telescope. The presentations will be given by pairs of students working in collaboration. A final laboratory assigment will be given during the exam period and will represent the "final exam." for the course.

  • Grading: Grades will be computed based entirely on the written assignments and the end-of-semester presentation. The presentation will be weighted equivalent to two of the written assignments. There will be no exams. A final (modest) hands-on project will be assigned at the end of the semester which will be due at the end of the exam period. Assignments will have a well-specified due date. Late assignments are discounted 25%.

  • Textbook: No one textbook captures the full range of topics addressed by this course. On the other hand, two dozen excellent books address aspects of the course with great effectiveness. A bibliography of these texts will be posted at the course website.

  • Approximate course schedule:

    Week Likely TopicLikely Assignment
    Jan 24 Course introduction
    Jan 31Historical Infrared Astronomy;
    Modern Facility Instrument Summary
    Herschel Experiment
    Feb 7Dissection of a Modern Facility Instrument
    Feb 14Mechanics and Mechanical Design
    Cryo Temperature Control
    Feb 21Cryogenics and Vacuum
    Feb 28 Optical Design and Raytracing
    Designing an IR Achromatic refractor
    Imaging aberrations
    Mar 7 Spring Break Week
    Mar 14Photovoltaic detectors
    InSb Photodiode
    Mar 21Bolometry
    Mar 28 Analog Electronics
    Temperature compensated JFET amplifier
    Apr 4 Amplifiers and Noise
    Apr 11 Digital Electronics and Computer Interface
    Apr 18 Dispersion and SpectroscopyBreadboard Infrared Spectrograph
    Apr 25Practical Infrared Observation
    Fan Observing and DIMM
    May 2 Optics fabrication and Testing Laser fringe measurement