Fall 2010

**Textbooks**

Kitchin, *Astrophysical Techniques (Fifth Edition)*

Wall & Jenkins, *Practical Statistics for Astronomers*

I will also draw material as needed from Bracewell, *The Fourier Transform
and its Applications*, from Rieke, *Detection of Light*, from
Rohlfs & Wilson, *Tools of Radio Astronomy*, and from Thompson, Moran, &
Swenson, *Interferometry and Synthesis in Radio Astronomy*, all of which
are on reserve in the physics library.

**Overview**

Here's the official course catalog listing:

"Introduction to tools and techniques of modern observational astronomy.
Survey of instruments and capabilities at current telescope sites around the
world and in space. Data reduction methods. Practical experience with Serin
Observatory."

I plan to teach this course so that by the end of it you will be able to (1) understand how modern telescopes and instruments acquire data at all wavelengths, (2) understand how modern software packages are used to acquire, reduce, and catalog data, and (3) estimate signal/noise ratios before you obtain a given dataset, and statistically appropriate uncertainties for the quantities you measure from it. I will also spend a little time discussing the sociology of astronomical observing, i.e., how one successfully competes for time on large telescopes.

**Schedule**

Both the sequence of lectures and the assignment due dates are preliminary
at this point; I will update them as needed during the course of the semester.
The last two lectures are tentatively reserved for topics to be chosen shortly
before Thanksgiving by the students who are officially enrolled in the course.
These will give you an opportunity to make me sweat, thus exacting revenge for
a semester's worth of homework assignments.

LECTURE |
DATE |
TOPIC |
TEXT |
DUE |
---|---|---|---|---|

1 | Sep 3 | observing proposal strategy; introduction to GALEX |
--- | |

2 | Sep 7 | Bayes's theorem; binomial and Poisson distributions | WJ ch 1 & 2 | |

3 | Sep 10 | normal distribution; central limit theorem; confidence intervals | WJ ch 2 & 6 | HW1 |

4 | Sep 17 | statistics; error propagation | WJ ch 3 | HW2 |

5 | Sep 21 | testing for correlation; Monte Carlo simulations | WJ ch 4 & 6 | |

6 | Sep 24 | parametric and non-parametric hypothesis testing | WJ ch 5 | HW3 |

7 | Sep 28 | least squares fitting; Fourier transforms | WJ ch 8 | |

8 | Sep 29 |
convolution and correlation; sampling theorem; FFTs | WJ ch 8 | |

9 | Oct 1 | atmospheric transmission and refraction | --- | HW4 |

10 | Oct 5 | atmospheric seeing; zodiacal and Galactic foregrounds | --- | |

11 | Oct 6 |
extragalactic backgrounds; confusion | --- | |

12 | Oct 8 | radio telescopes | K ch 1 | HW5 |

Oct 15 | mid-term observing proposal | |||

13 | Oct 19 | coherent and incoherent detection | K ch 1 | |

14 | Oct 20 |
aperture synthesis: basics | K ch 2 | |

15 | Oct 22 | aperture synthesis: details and advanced techniques | --- | TAC reports |

16 | Oct 29 | detectors | K ch 1 | HW6 |

17 | Nov 2 | geometric optics | --- | |

18 | Nov 3 |
optical telescopes | K ch 1 | |

19 | Nov 5 | dispersive elements | K ch 4 | HW7 |

20 | Nov 12 | optical/IR spectrograph design | K ch 4 | HW8 |

21 | Nov 16 | diffraction-limited imaging (1) | K ch 2 | |

22 | Nov 19 | diffraction-limited imaging (2) | --- | HW9 |

23 | Nov 23 | optical interferometry | K ch 2 | |

24 | Nov 30 | optical and radio polarimetry | K ch 5 | |

25 | Dec 3 | absolute calibration | K ch 3 | HW10 |

26 | Dec 7 | software | --- | |

27 | Dec 8 |
student choice | --- | |

28 | Dec 10 | student choice | --- | HW11 |

Dec 20 | final exam due (noon) |

**Grading**

Your course grade will be based on a weighted combination of three elements:

- homework assignments, including a set of TAC comments (40%)
- mid-term observing proposal (30%)
- final exam (30%)

Your mid-term project will be to write a proposal for new observations with
NASA's *Hubble Space Telescope* (*HST*). You
may identify a subject for the proposal in consultation with a Rutgers faculty
member or another collaborator, but the text you submit for credit must
represent your work only. (Since the official *HST* deadline will be in
February 2011, you are welcome to treat what you turn in to me as merely the
first draft of what you submit for real after getting feedback from others.)

The final exam will be open-book, open-note, and closed-homework.

**Other items**

*Absences*

I will have to miss at least five (dates in parentheses above) of our regularly scheduled classes. These will either be taught by guest lecturers, or rescheduled at mutually convenient times. If you need to miss a class for some reason, there will be no penalty to your grade; however, since I will not be posting my notes to the course website, you will generally need to rely on your classmates' notes to catch up.*Late assignments*

I am willing to be somewhat flexible, but for problem sets that are turned in more than one lecture later than their nominal due dates I will generally start docking points. For the mid-term observing proposal, the policy will be the same as the*GALEX*project's: the version I have at the deadline will be the version that gets graded.*Collaboration policy*

On the homework assignments, you should first try every exercise yourself without discussing it with others. If you get stuck (or finish and would like to compare answers), you may discuss exercises with other students in the course and/or me, but you should always write up your own solutions. You may consult books and published papers, but not old solution sets from previous offerings of this course or similar courses elsewhere.*Auditors*

Students not enrolled for credit are welcome to attend the lectures. However, if you take the course for credit, you will (a) learn more, and (b) get to help select the subjects of the "student choice" lectures at the end of the semester.*Students with disabilities*

If you have a disability, let me know early in the semester so that we can make the necessary arrangements for you to have a successful learning experience. Please consult this web page for more details.