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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Physics and Astronomy : Undergraduate (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Undergraduate Course: Observational Astronomy (PHYS09059)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Physics and Astronomy CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Course typeStandard AvailabilityAvailable to all students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate) Credits20
Home subject areaUndergraduate (School of Physics and Astronomy) Other subject areaNone
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionThis course consists of a short series of introductory lectures (7-8 lectures, 1 tutorial), the astrophysics laboratory experiments and the telescope-based group project. The initial series of lectures will introduce the students to the basics concepts of quantitative measures of light, astronomical coordinate systems, telescope design, optical/near-IR detectors and optical spectrographs. In the astrophysics laboratory the students will undertake two series of experiments. The first provides the students with practical experience of operating an optical spectrograph, including calibration, data acquisition and data analysis techniques. The second series of experiments provides the students with expertise in astronomical data analysis software through a series of experiments dealing with astrometry, photometry and spectroscopy. Finally, in the group project the students will obtain hands-on experience of obtaining and analysing their own imaging with the IfA student telescope, with the aim of determining the distance to a star cluster via the technique of main sequence fitting.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
Displayed in Visiting Students Prospectus?No
Course Delivery Information
Delivery period: 2013/14 Full Year, Available to all students (SV1) Learn enabled:  Yes Quota:  None
Web Timetable Web Timetable
Course Start Date 16/09/2013
Breakdown of Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Additional Notes
Breakdown of Assessment Methods (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
No Exam Information
Summary of Intended Learning Outcomes
- Set-up, calibrate and acquire data with an optical spectrograph.

- Plan and execute imaging observations of a target by
applying astronomical coordinate systems and sidereal time.

- Perform the basic tasks of CCD imaging and
spectroscopy data reduction, including absorption corrections,
astrometric calibration and aperture photometry.

- Present a complete, reproducible written or oral account of
an experiment and the conclusions drawn from it to a professional
standard, incorporating figures, tables and graphs where

- Identify the sources of any errors in experimental results,
quantify them and formulate approaches to control them.

- Resolve conceptual and technical difficulties by locating and
integrating relevant information from a diverse range of sources.

Assessment Information
The astrophysics laboratory exercises will be assessed via two written reports. The telescope project will be assessed via a group written report. Introductory Lectures assessed via problem sheet hand in.
Special Arrangements
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus Introductory Lectures Syllabus:
1. Basic quantitative measurements of light
- Inverse square law, specific intensity, flux density
- Apparent magnitudes, absolute magnitudes
2. Stellar classification
- Stars as blackbody emitters
- Effective temperature, Wien's displacement law, colour filters
3. The extinction and absorption of light
- Dust reddening in the inter-galactic medium
- Atmospheric absorption
4. Planning astronomical observations
- Coordinate systems in astronomy
- Sidereal time, hour angle
5. Imaging
- Seeing, speckle imaging, telescope resolution
- Active and adaptive optics
- Optical/near-IR detectors, image data reduction, signal-to-noise estimation
6. Spectroscopy
- The basics of optical spectrographs: collimators, telescopes, diffraction gratings
- Wavelength calibration, emission line velocity/equivalent widths

Astrophysics Laboratory Syllabus:
1. Practical spectroscopy
- Set-up and calibration of an optical spectrograph - alignment and focusing
- Determining the refractive index of a prism
- Identifying unknown elements from their emission-line spectra
- Determining the transmission function of a set of colour filters

2.Computer based exercises
- Determining membership of a galaxy cluster - multi-band aperture photometry
- Determining the redshift of a quasar - data reduction and emission-line fitting
- Determining the distance to a near-earth asteroid - astrometry

Telescope Group Project Syllabus:
1. Measuring the distance to a star cluster
- Obtaining multi-band imaging of star clusters with the IfA student telescope
- Imaging data reduction and accurate photometry of star cluster members
- Distance determination for star clusters based on main sequence fitting

Transferable skills Not entered
Reading list Not entered
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern Not entered
Course organiserDr Ross Mclure
Tel: (0131) 668 8419
Course secretaryMiss Paula Wilkie
Tel: (0131) 668 8403
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