Physics 343: Observational Radio Astronomy
Spring 2009

Pictures from class trip to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia (April 24-26, 2009):

Andrew Baker
Serin W309
Phone: 732-445-5500 x2544
Email: ajbaker[at]

Chelsea Sharon
Serin W332
Phone: 732-445-5881
Email: csharon[at]

Course meetings
Lectures: Serin 401, Monday 10:20-11:40am
Labs: Serin 403b, according to your assigned weekly time slots:
A Monday 1:40-3:00pm Sergey Galkin, Bing Llamas, Hanisha Patel
B Tuesday 12:00-1:20pm Phoebe Law, Joe Rodriguez
C Tuesday 5:00-6:20pm Scott Demarest, Sam Heiblim, Saeed Tarabichi
D Wednesday 1:40-3:00pm Matt Brady, Kent Patterson
E Wednesday 3:20-4:40pm Brett Salmon, Rushi Shah, Irena Spassova

Office hours
Every week: Monday 6:40-8:00pm (Baker); Thursday 10:20-11:40am (Sharon)
Analysis weeks: One of us will be "on call" during each of the regular lab section times.

This course does not have an official textbook. However, you may find it useful (or just interesting!) to dip into Bracewell, The Fourier Transform and its Applications, Rohlfs & Wilson, Tools of Radio Astronomy, and Wall & Jenkins, Practical Statistics for Astronomers, all of which will be on reserve in the physics library. The online Essential Radio Astronomy course developed by Jim Condon and Scott Ransom at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory is also an excellent reference. The operator's manual for the Small Radio Telescope on the roof can be found here.

Here's the official course catalog listing:
"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."

I plan to teach this course so that by the end of it you will not only have experience acquiring and analyzing data from the (ahem) 2.3 meter telescope on the roof, but also an understanding of how astronomers use much larger (e.g., 100 meter) radio telescopes in their research, and what kinds of astronomical targets they observe.

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 radio astronomy to be chosen shortly after spring break by the students enrolled in the course. This will give you an opportunity to make me sweat, thus exacting revenge for a semester's worth of quizzes and lab reports.
Labs: There will be a total of six labs in this course. Each of the first four labs will involve one week of observations and one week of analysis, with lab reports due the following Monday in lecture. The fifth lab will involve analysis of an existing dataset taken with an array of radiotelescopes. The sixth lab will involve either a final set of observations with the 2.3 meter telescope on the roof, or an observing trip to West Virginia.
NRAO trip: A class trip to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's site in Green Bank, West Virginia will be arranged for the weekend of April 24-26. This will be a time-consuming trip (the drive alone takes 7-8 hours each way); however, it will give you a unique opportunity to see a research-grade observatory located in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a variety of radio telescopes, and hands-on observing experience with a more powerful instrument than what we have available in New Jersey. Students who participate will be excused from the sixth lab.

1 Jan 26 course organization; introduction to radio astronomy    
2 Feb 2 lab # 1; radiative processes; Chilean trip report Observation week # 1  
3 Feb 9 data analysis; statistics Analysis week # 1  
4 Feb 16 lab # 2; temperature scales Observation week # 2 Report # 1
5 Feb 23 Sun, stars, and planets; Fourier transforms Analysis week # 2  
6 Mar 2 snow day; advance copy of next Monday's slides Observation week # 3 Report # 2
7 Mar 9 lab # 3; the interstellar medium Analysis week # 3  
8 Mar 23 Green Bank trip; gas dynamics; antennas Observation week # 4 Report # 3
9 Mar 30 telescopes; interferometry Analysis week # 4  
10 Apr 6 lab # 5; deconvolution Observation week # 5 Report # 4
11 Apr 13 active galactic nuclei etc. Analysis week # 5  
12 Apr 20 guest lecture: gravitational lensing Observation week # 6
(for students not visiting NRAO)
Report # 5
  Apr 24-26 visit to Green Bank, West Virginia    
13 Apr 27 cosmic microwave background and reionization Analysis week # 6
(for students not visiting NRAO)
14 May 4 student choice: SETI   Report # 6
(for students not visiting NRAO)

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

Quizzes will be administered during lecture (beginning, middle, or end) without warning. While many of the labs will involve observations done in teams, you should write up your lab reports individually.

Other items

Last updated May 16, 2009.