ASTR 230: Spring 2016 Syllabus

Time: Tuesday 7pm - 8pm (lecture time may change); HBH 254;

Instructor: Dr. Patrick Hartigan, hartigan@sparky.rice.edu, HBH 350, X2245

TA: No TA assigned as of now

Undergrad zeno lab: HBH 347

Office Hrs:
PMH: after class and by appt. W afternoon after the AU seminar is a good bet if I am not traveling. Monday evening will often work

Text: None required. Useful texts for the first half of the class include Peterson Field Guides: Stars and Planets, 4th ed. (be sure to get one that goes through 2017 - not all of the 4th ed volumes do) or Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Observing the Universe by Terrence Dickenson. Other materials needed for observing such as a small flashlight are described in the lab writeups.

Additional Information: The course website has information about observing such as scheduling information, weather links, previous final projects, and the most updated lecture schedule.

Topic Schedule:

 DATE             TOPIC                        ASSIGNMENT
Jan 12    Initial Orientation                Begin work on Lab I
Jan 19    Telescope/Celestial Sphere Intro   First Observing Week 
Jan 26    Star Names, Conventions 	     Continue Observing
Feb 2     Telescope Essentials               Continue Observing; Start LAB II
Feb 9     Adv. Telescopes & Instruments      Continue Observing
                                             Dark Sky Field Trips
Feb 16    CCDs & Observing Techniques        Meeting w/ Prof re Projects
                                             Finish up LAB I
                                             Start Short Projects
                                             Dark Sky Field Trips
Feb 23    Introduction to UNIX/IRAF          LAB I DUE 
                                             Short Project Data Acquisition
Mar 1         **SPRING BREAK**
Mar 8     IRAF Image Arithmetic & Display    Short Project Data Acquisition 
Mar 15    Spectrographs                      IRAF Practice, Spectra; Project Observing 
Mar 22    IRAF topics                        IRAF/IDL Practice, Final Project Observing
Mar 29    Lab I Grades                       LAB II DUE 
          Interferometry                     Final Project Observing 
Apr 5     Project Description		     Short Project DUE
          Error Analysis Techniques          Presentation to class 
                                             Final Project Observing
Apr 12    Errors and Noise                   Final Project Observing  
Apr 11-15 Exam on Lecture material	     Lecture Exams, individual times TBA
Apr 19    Statistics, Problem Resolution     Data Analysis for Project
Apr 27                                       Final Oral Presentations 3pm (Wednesday)
                                             Final Web Pages Due
Course Description:

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.

Course Outcomes:

Students who complete this course gain many skills that are useful both in astronomical careers and elsewhere, including

ASTR 230 Grades, Exams, and Papers:

Grades will be based on

The following lists the grade distribution I have given out the last eight times I have taught this class (going back to 1998). These may not reflect the totals compiled by the Registrar because some students may have taken the course pass/fail, but professors do not know this when assigning grades. The compilation does not reflect grades of students who dropped before the add/drop date, or those who were in another section of the class from what I taught.

Asterisks indicate students who later applied to and were accepted into graduate school in astronomy. Note the strong correlation between doing well in this class and continuing on to a career in astronomy.

       X
    X  X   X
    *  X   X
    *  X   X
    *  X   X
    *  X   X      X   X
    *  X   *   X  X   X
    *  *   *   X  X   X   X             X
X   *  *   *   X  X   X   X  X          X
-------------------------------------------
A+  A  A-  B+  B  B-  C+  C  C-  D+  D  F

The median of this distribution is a B+ and the mean GPA is 3.11.

Absences, Preparation:

Class preparation includes being on time for scheduled observing sessions and being prepared in class and at the telescope. Students are responsible for getting their projects and assignments done whenever the weather is clear. There are no makeups if the students postpone the work to the last minute and it happens to be cloudy. Obviously, students that do not attend lectures tend to not do as well on the exam on the lecture material.

Honor Code:

Unlike many other PHYS and ASTR classes, this one has no problem sets and the oral exams are individually scheduled with the professor. For the latter, no notes or outside aid of any kind is allowed. For the observation lab, you must report only your own observations, and must do so honestly and accurately. For the computation lab you must create and store all your own files. Each student should create their own web pages for the final project. A general description of the honor code is avilable on-line.

Disability Accomodation:
If you have a documented disability that will impact your work in this class, please contact me to discuss your needs. Additionally, you will need to register with the Disability Support Services Office in the Ley Student Center.