ASTR 610: Astronomical Instrumentation and Techniques

Fall 1998 - Outline of Course

Class Meetings

The class meets in room 0201 of the Computer & Space Sciences Building at 1230 (until 1345) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because of my travel commitments, individual classes will often be rescheduled to other, mutually acceptable times. Classes will consist primarily of intensive lectures by me and, I hope, intensive questions by the students.


This course is intended to provide a detailed introduction to astronomical instrumentation, and how to use it, for all wavelengths. The volume of relevant material is too large to fit in a single semester so the content varies depending on who is teaching the course. The goal of the course is to address the differences from one wavelength regime to another in such a way as to make observational astronomy a coherent whole, differing only in details from one regime to another. Examples tend to be drawn predominantly from the radio and the optical regimes since these are the two regimes in which the majority of astronomers practice, but other regimes such as infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma rays are also addressed to show how technical details differ in these regimes.


Bracewell: The Fourier Transform and its Applications.
This is the most expensive, but also the most extensively used, textbook for the course.

Burke and Graham-Smith: An Introduction to Radio Astronomy.
For people planning to become radio astronomers, a better book would be Interferometry and Synthesis in Radio Astronomy by Thomson, Moran, and Swenson but there is too much material in that book for us to cover and last spring it was also impossible to get copies of that book since it was being revised.

Schroeder: Astronomical Optics.
This book will be used fairly extensively in the first half of the course.

Seidelmann: Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac.
This book, which the bookstore is carrying as recommended rather than required, will be used only in the first few weeks of the course. It is, however, a fundamental reference for observational astronomers of all types.


There will be regular homework assignments which will count for 30% of the grade. There will be a mid-term exam which will also count for 30%. The final exam will count for 40%. Students should anticipate spending considerable time on the homework assignments.

Tentative Schedule of Material

The schedule below for fall 1998 does not show any rescheduling of classes which will be required. It also does not show a mid-term exam which may be an in-class or a take-home exam.
01 Sep - Time Systems
03 Sep - Spherical Coordinates and Spherical Trigonometry
08 Sep - Fundamental Astronomy & Corrections to Positions
10 Sep - Precession & Nutation;  General issues of Signal-to-Noise
15 Sep - Optics, Geometrical - multiple elements, stops, pupils, telescopes
17 Sep -   "         "             "
22 Sep - Optics - Fermat's principle, aberrations, and real telescopes
24 Sep -    "        "        "
29 Sep - Finish real telescopes
01 Oct - Fourier theory of apertures
02 Oct - Using Fourier transforms  (rescheduled to cover future absence Oct 13)
06 Oct -   "      "        "
08 Oct - Applying Fourier transforms to real telescopes
13 Oct - out for DPS meeting Oct 13, 15
15 Oct - Basic Radio Astronomy
20 Oct - Interferometers
22 Oct -        "
27 Oct - Aperture Synthesis & U-V plane
29 Oct -    "         "
03 Nov - Spectral Analysis - Autocorrelation, filters, FTS, Fabry-Perot, grating
05 Nov -    "         "
10 Nov -    "         "
12 Nov -    "         "
17 Nov -    "         "
     out for observing, Nov 17,19
19 Nov - Detectors - general considerations
24 Nov - Detectors - radio, ir, optical, uv, xray, etc.
01 Dec -     "
03 Dec -     "
08 Dec -     "
10 Dec -     "
18 Dec, 0800-1000 - Final Exam
The above schedule will be periodically updated to show classes that have been resecheduled and/or shifts in material covered.

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Updated:1998 Aug 31, mfa