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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
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis 20-pt course consists of a 10-pt lecture course (~16 lectures, ~5 tutorials) and the 10-pt astrophysics laboratory. The lecture course (one lecture per week, over two semesters) will introduce the students to the basics concepts of the quantitative measures of light, astronomical coordinate systems, telescope design, optical/near-IR instruments, multi-wavelength astronomy (Far-IR, X-ray and Radio) and statistical techniques in astronomy. In the astrophysics laboratory the students will undertake a series of three 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. The final series of experiments provides students with hands-on experience of analysing 8m-class telescope imaging of brown dwarf stars.
Course description Lectures Syllabus:
1. Observing Basics
- celestial sphere, coordinate systems
2. Quantitative measurements of light
- Inverse square law, specific intensity, flux density
- Apparent magnitudes, absolute magnitudes
3. Reddening and atmospheric extinction
4. Adaptive optics and telescope design
5. Imaging detectors - CCDs, electron band structure, doping and p:n junctions
6. Imaging - data reduction and analysis
7. Spectroscopy - instruments
8. Spectroscopy - reduction/calibration
9. Space Astronomy techniques
10. Far-IR and submm astronomy
11. X-ray astronomy
12. Radio Astronomy
13. Signal, noise and distortion
14. High resolution astronomy
15. Statistical techniques in astronomy

Astrophysics Laboratory Syllabus:

1. Practical spectroscopy
- Set-up and calibration of an optical spectrograph - alignment and
- 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
- Determining the redshift of a quasar - data reduction and emission-line
- Determining the distance to a near-earth asteroid - astrometry

3. Data Analysis Project
- Analyse imaging data of brown dwarf stars
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Practical Physics (PHYS08048) OR Experimental Physics 2 (PHYS08056)
Co-requisites Students MUST also take: Fourier Analysis and Statistics (PHYS09055)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2021/22, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  51
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 18, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 4, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 42, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 132 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The lecture course will be assessed via a 2-hour written exam. The astrophysics laboratory exercises will be assessed via two written reports. The data analysis project will be assessed via a hand-in.

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Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Plan and execute imaging observations of an astronomical target using an understanding of astronomical coordinate systems.
  2. Set-up, calibrate, acquire and analyse data from an optical spectrograph.
  3. Present a complete written account of an experiment and the conclusions drawn from it to a professional standard, incorporating figures, tables and graphs where appropriate.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of observing techniques and instrumentation in short wavelength (Gamma/X-ray), optical+near-IR and long wavelength (sub-mm/Radio) astronomy.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of basic statistics in astronomy including optimising the signal-to-noise ratio.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserProf Ross McLure
Tel: (0131) 668 8419
Course secretaryMiss Stephanie Blakey
Tel: (0131 6)68 8261
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