This course is designed to give students hands-on experience operating telescopes, obtaining and analyzing data for a special project of the student's choosing, and presenting the results of the project both orally and as a Web page. The course lectures will introduce students to the motions of stars and planets in the night sky, describe the coordinate systems, telescopes and instruments that astronomers use, and show how such data are analyzed. Two main labs, a short quiz on lecture material, a short observing project and a more detailed final observing project comprise the grades for the class.
The first lab introduces students to the basics of telescope operation, while the second lab involves analyzing images and spectra with the IRAF software packages devised by the National Observatories and the Space Telescope Science Institute on machines that run unix. Special projects combine the skills learned in the first two labs, and make use of the on-campus observatory. Typical projects involve imaging and/or spectroscopy of astronomical objects chosen by the student, followed by data reduction and analysis.
There may be trips to locations that have dark skies, including the professor's house in Manvel south of Houston.