Physics 343: Observational Radio Astronomy
Spring 2020

Andrew Baker
Serin W309
Phone: 848-445-8887
Email: ajbaker[at]

Anna Wright
Serin W332
Email: awright[at]

Course meetings
Lectures: ARC 206, Monday 10:20-11:40am
Labs: Serin 401, according to your assigned weekly time slots:

A Mon 3:20-4:40pm AAG, TB, YB, ME
B Wed 12:00-1:20pm FM, AW, CW, DZ
C Thu 3:20-4:40pm AA, RC, HD, NT
D Fri 10:20-11:40am BC, MT, PT, MW

Office hours
Every week: by appointment

This course does not have an official textbook.

Here's the official course catalog listing for Physics 343:
"Observational study of the solar system, stars, and galaxies, using the Serin 3 meter radio telescope. Emphasizes computer techniques for data reduction and analysis. Topics may include calibrating system properties, the variability of the Sun, Jupiter, or quasars, and mapping the distribution of hydrogen in our Milky Way galaxy and measuring its rotation."

This semester, in anticipation of a new course number, Physics 343 will be taught for the first time as a panchromatic observational astronomy course, i.e., spanning the radio, optical/infrared, and X-ray regimes. You will gain experience working with data (and in some cases, obtaining new data) in at least two of these regimes. A significant goal of the course is to develop skills (including programming) that are useful in the context of research and other STEM careers.

Lectures: The sequence of lecture topics may be updated during the course of the semester. The last lecture is tentatively reserved for a topic related to observational astronomy to be chosen shortly after spring break by the students enrolled in the course, and may include a discussion with a guest speaker who joins us in person or by videocon.
Projects: A majority of your grade will be determined by two group projects that will occupy slightly less than half of the semester apiece. The first project will feature the analysis of imaging data; the second project will feature the analysis of spectroscopic data. Groups will be assigned on the basis of schedule availability, balance of previous experience, and preference among multiple project options (tentatively, choices will include one X-ray, two optical/infrared, and two radio options for each of the two projects). Weekly meetings of your group with the professor and/or instructor to work on the project are required. Each project will have three key milestones:

1 Jan 27 course organization; radiative processes; specific intensity    
2 Feb 3 practical aspects of observing
guest instructor: Prof. Saurabh Jha
3 Feb 10 imaging vs. spectroscopy; coherent vs. incoherent detection    
4 Feb 17 Fourier transforms, convolution, and cross-correlation   first project data check
5 Feb 24 radio astronomy: telescopes    
6 Mar 2 radio astronomy: aperture synthesis    
7 Mar 9 first project presentations    
8 Mar 23 radio astronomy: deconvolution    
  Mar 25     first project report (11:59pm, by email)
9 Mar 30 optical astronomy: instruments    
10 Apr 6 optical astronomy: telescopes    
11 Apr 13 optical astronomy: adaptive optics   second project data check
12 Apr 20 X-ray astronomy    
13 Apr 27 second project presentations    
14 May 4 student choice   second project report

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

Quizzes will be administered during lecture (beginning, middle, or end) without warning.

Other items

Last updated April 2, 2020.