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ASTRO 310: Observational Astronomy
Prof. Sylvain Veilleux (CSS 0223,
TA. Megan Decesar (CSS 0224A,
TA. Fabienne Bastien (

Course Description: Introduction to current optical observational techniques, with brief coverage of infrared, ultraviolet, and X-ray techniques. Statistics, geometrical optics, telescopes, effects of the atmosphere, spectroscopic instruments, and detectors. Practical work at the observatory using a CCD camera. Some nighttime observing sessions.

Prerequisites: ASTR121 or ASTR200; PHYS161 or PHYS171; or permission of Department & instructor.

Lectures: Tu & Th, 2:00 - 3:15 pm, CSS 2428

Course Outline:

I. Introduction (6 lectures)
$\bullet$ UM Observatory
$\bullet$ Practical aspects of CCDs
$\bullet$ Calibrations: dark, bias, flat field, etc.
$\bullet$ IDL language
$\bullet$ Statistics: Poisson distributions, variance and standard deviations,
measurement significance, comparison with theory
$\bullet$ Coordinates, time, catalogs

II. Optics (6 lectures)
$\bullet$ Fermat principle
$\bullet$ Basic geometrical optics
$\bullet$ Telescopes
$\bullet$ Aberrations

III. Atmosphere (2 lectures)
$\bullet$ Attenuation
$\bullet$ Refraction
$\bullet$ Scintillation and seeing
$\bullet$ Adaptive optics and laser guide stars

IV. Spectral Analysis (5 lectures)
$\bullet$ Diffraction & interference
$\bullet$ Etendue, spectral resolution
$\bullet$ Prisms, Gratings, echelles, echellettes, cross-disperser
$\bullet$ Grating spectrometers
$\bullet$ Fabry-Perot interferometers, interference filters

V. Detectors (7 lectures)
$\bullet$ Optical: human eye, photography, photomultipliers, CCDs
$\bullet$ UV, infrared: photoconductors, bolometers
$\bullet$ X-rays, gamma-rays
$\bullet$ Calculations of signal-to-noise ratios, exposure times

Web page:$\sim$veilleux/ASTR310/fall06

Required book: Astrophysical Techniques by C. R. Kitchin (2003, 4th Edition; 0-7503-0946-6)
Optics by E. Hecht (2002; 0-8053-8566-5)

Optional book: Handbook of CCD Astronomy by Steve B. Howell (2000; 0-521-64834-3)

Advanced book: Detection of Light by G. Rieke (2003, 2nd Edition; 0-521-01710-6)

Problem sets: $\sim$ 4 sets during the semester

Projects: (1) Measure gain and readout noise of a CCD camera
(2) Observations at UM Observatory:
(i) Imaging of nebulae with interference filters
(ii) Imaging of an open cluster with broad-band filters
(3) Use of image-processing routines to reduce and analyze cluster data

Mid-term and Final Exams: October 19 or 24, 2:00 - 3:15 pm; December 18, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm. Closed book, in-class.


Homeworks 15%
Projects 40%
Mid-term exam 15%
Final exam 30%

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Sylvain Veilleux 2006-08-31