Undergraduate Course: Observational Astronomy (PHYS09059)
|School||School of Physics and Astronomy
||College||College of Science and Engineering
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This 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.
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
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
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
|Assessment (Further Info)
|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.
||Hours & Minutes
|Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)||2:00|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Plan and execute imaging observations of an astronomical target using an understanding of astronomical coordinate systems.
- Set-up, calibrate, acquire and analyse data from an optical spectrograph.
- 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.
- Demonstrate an understanding of observing techniques and instrumentation in short wavelength (Gamma/X-ray), optical+near-IR and long wavelength (sub-mm/Radio) astronomy.
- Demonstrate an understanding of basic statistics in astronomy including optimising the signal-to-noise ratio.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Prof Ross McLure
Tel: (0131) 668 8419
|Course secretary||Ms Louise McCarte
Tel: 0131 668 8403