Physics 343: Observational Radio Astronomy
Spring 2013

Pictures from class trip to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia (April 26-28, 2013):

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

Amruta Deshpande
Serin W332
Phone: 732-445-5500 x5881
Email: amrejd[at]

Course meetings
Lectures: Serin 401, Monday 10:20-11:40am
Labs: Serin 403b, according to your assigned weekly time slots:
A Mon 3:20-4:40pm Chris Carroll, Caryn Sarnicki, Joseph Xiao
B Tue 10:20-11:40am Jesse Jedrusiak, Muhammad Mustafa, Neil Patel
C Tue 1:40-3:00pm Noah Herskovitz, David Rodriguez, Siddarth Tripathi
D Tue 3:20-4:40pm Chris Handy, Tom Holoien, Alexander Morey, James Nissenbaum
E Wed 10:20-11:40am Catherine Apgar, Stephen Rowe, Zachary Rzetelny
F Wed 1:40-3:00pm Ashley Chan, Matthew Harper, Josh Smith
G Wed 3:20-4:40pm Viraj Pandya, Gabriela Pikul, Philip Rosenkrantz

Office hours
Every week: Thursday 5:00-6:20pm (Deshpande); Friday 10:20-11:40am (Baker); or by appointment
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 26-28. 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 28 course organization; introduction to radio astronomy    
2 Feb 4 lab # 1; radiative processes Observation week # 1  
3 Feb 11 data analysis; statistics Analysis week # 1  
4 Feb 18 lab # 2; temperature scales Observation week # 2 Report # 1
5 Feb 25 Sun, stars, and planets; Fourier transforms Analysis week # 2  
6 Mar 4 lab # 3; the interstellar medium Observation week # 3 Report # 2
7 Mar 11 radio antennas Analysis week # 3  
8 Mar 25 Green Bank trip; gas dynamics Observation week # 4 Report # 3
9 Apr 1 radio telescopes; interferometry Analysis week # 4  
10 Apr 8 lab # 5; deconvolution Observation week # 5 Report # 4
11 Apr 15 guest lecture: galaxy clusters Analysis week # 5  
12 Apr 22 distant, dusty galaxies Observation week # 6
(for students not visiting NRAO)
Report # 5
  Apr 26-28 visit to Green Bank, West Virginia    
13 Apr 29 cosmic microwave background and reionization Analysis week # 6
(for students not visiting NRAO)
14 May 6 student choice   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 April 29, 2013.