Rutgers University Department of Physics and Astronomy

Observational Optical Astronomy
Physics 344 --- Fall 2018

Course Information:

This course provides an introduction to the tools and techniques of modern observational astronomy at visible wavelengths. We will use the 20-inch optical telescope of the Schommer Observatory to carry out astronomical imaging and spectroscopic observations, and analyze these observations using professional image-processing software.

Professor Tad Pryor, 302W Physics & Astronomy Bldg, 848-445-8873,
Office Hour: Wednesday 3:00 - 4:30 PM. Alternatively, call or email for an appointment.

Mr. Jack Hay, 331W Physics & Astronomy Bldg,
Office Hour: Monday 3:00 - 5:00 PM

Lecture: Th period 7 (6:40 - 8:00 PM), SEC-216
Observing: 7-9 or 9-11 PM on Su, M, Tu, W, and F nights, Rm 401, Physics & Astronomy Bldg, Busch Campus (enter the door facing Allison Rd and take the stairs to the 4th floor)
OPTIONAL Text: Observational Astronomy, 2nd edition by Birney, Gonzalez, & Oesper, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-85370-5

Image: Composite color image of M33 taken with the 0.5m telescope of the Schommer Observatory .


Current Course News

Students in this course can access the Physics Department LAWN with their laptop. Your web browser will be directed to a login screen. Select the "Authorized Rutgers NetID" option from the "Status:" line and then enter your NetID and password.

Your RU ID card should now give you access to the Physics & Astronomy building door facing Allison Road, room 401 (the door at the top of the stairs on the left-hand side of the lobby), and the observatory. If your keycard does not work, see Ms. Cascio in room 326 of the Physics & Astronomy Building during regular working hours.

Note that a class meets in room 401 from 1:40 to 3:00 PM on Wednesdays and that various meetings and seminars are held there 9:00 - 10:00 AM, 1:30 - 2:30 PM, and 3:00 - 5:00 PM on Thursdays.

I have emailed VNC account names and session numbers to everyone in the class. If you did not receive yours, please email me.

Sep 11, 9:45 PM: For Mac users, I have updated the "Using VNC..." document to give new instructions for how to install the Fugu file transfer program. Also, there now seems to be what I think is a permissions problem with using the built-in VNC viewer to connect to your VNC desktop on astrolab. Until I find the right black magic to make the built-in viewer work, you will need to use the "Chicken of the VNC" viewer.

Observing Schedule

Assignments to the observing sessions are below. Let me know if you have a problem with your day/time and I will see what I can do. The constraints are pretty tight, however.

We have reverted to the 7:00 - 9:0 PM and 9:00 - 11:00 PM lab periods.

Day Time Student 1 Student 2 Student 3
Sunday 7:00 - 9:00 S. Nitting E. Rao
9:00 - 11:00 S. Cutler J. Guttenberg J. Vigoureaux
Monday 7:00 - 9:00 H. Fan M. Paul P. Staudt
9:00 - 11:00 V. Desai A. Linares Bazan T. Marshyti
Tuesday 7:00 - 9:00 A. Abdool A. Fraticelli C. Monteith
9:00 - 11:00 I. Abdul Halim M. Gorton H. Patel
Wednesday 7:00 - 9:00 D. Adams A. Fletcher C. Yanoso
9:00 - 11:00 J. Mead J. Mellen J. Stab
Friday 7:00 - 9:00 H. Dormer Y. Eweis R. Kowalski
9:00 - 11:00 J. Chi X. Liang

Observing predictions for the Schommer Observatory. In the "cloud cover" line, dark blue is good and white is bad.


Manuals and Handouts

Lecture Slides

Please send any comments on this page to pryor at

Revised August 13, 2018