Fall 2007

**Textbooks**

Kitchin, *Astrophysical Techniques (Fourth Edition)*

Wall & Jenkins, *Practical Statistics for Astronomers*

I will also draw material as needed from Bracewell, *The Fourier Transform
and its Applications*, from Rohlfs & Wilson, *Tools of Radio
Astronomy*, and from Thompson, Moran, & Swenson, *Interferometry and
Synthesis in Radio Astronomy*, all of which will be 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 5 | Bayes's theorem; binomial and Poisson distributions | WJ ch 1 & 2 | |

2 | Sep 7 |
normal distribution; central limit theorem; confidence intervals | WJ ch 2 & 6 | |

3 | Sep 17 | statistics; error propagation | WJ ch 3 | HW1 |

4 | Sep 19 | testing for correlation; Monte Carlo simulations | WJ ch 4 & 6 | |

5 | Sep 24 | parametric and non-parametric hypothesis testing | WJ ch 5 | HW2 |

6 | Sep 25 |
observing proposal strategy; introduction to Spitzer |
--- | |

7 | Sep 26 | least squares fitting; Fourier transforms | WJ ch 8 | |

8 | Oct 1 | convolution and correlation; sampling theorem; FFTs | WJ ch 8 | HW3 |

9 | Oct 3 | atmospheric transmission and refraction | --- | |

10 | Oct 8 | atmospheric seeing; zodiacal and Galactic foregrounds | --- | HW4 |

11 | Oct 10 | extragalactic backgrounds; confusion | --- | |

12 | Oct 15 | radio telescopes | K ch 1 | HW5 |

13 | Oct 22 | coherent and incoherent detection | K ch 1 | |

14 | Oct 23 |
aperture synthesis: basics | K ch 2 | |

15 | Oct 24 | aperture synthesis: details and advanced techniques | --- | |

16 | Oct 29 | detectors | K ch 1 | mid-term observing proposal |

17 | Oct 31 | geometric optics | --- | |

18 | Nov 5 | optical telescopes | K ch 1 | HW6 + TAC reports |

19 | Nov 7 | dispersive elements | K ch 4 | |

20 | Nov 12 | optical/IR spectrograph design | K ch 4 | HW7 |

21 | Nov 14 | diffraction-limited imaging (1) | K ch 2 | |

Nov 16 | 8:00pm: real Spitzer Space Telescope proposal deadline |
|||

22 | Nov 19 | diffraction-limited imaging (2) | --- | HW8 |

23 | Nov 26 | optical interferometry | K ch 2 | |

24 | Nov 28 | optical and radio polarimetry | K ch 5 | |

25 | Dec 3 | absolute calibration | K ch 3 | HW9 |

26 | Dec 5 | software | --- | |

27 | Dec 10 | student choice | --- | HW10 |

28 | Dec 12 | student choice | --- |

**Grading**

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

- homework assignments (40%)
- mid-term observing proposal (30%)
- final exam (30%)

Your mid-term project will be to write a proposal for new observations with
one or more of the three instruments on board the *Spitzer Space
Telescope*. You may identify a subject for the proposal in
consultation with a Rutgers faculty member or another collaborator, but both
the text and the Astronomical Observation Requests (AORs) you submit for
credit must represent your work only. (Since the assignment will be due
on Monday, October 29th and the official *Spitzer* deadline is Friday,
November 16th, 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.)
Instructions for preparing observing proposals are available at the
Spitzer Science Center
website.

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

**Other items**

*Absences*

I will have to miss at least three (dates in parentheses above) and likely more 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 Spitzer Science Center'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.