Navigation auf

Department of Astrophysics

AST 231/2 Astronomy Practicum I (2 ECTS) and II (6 ECTS)

Professor Ben Moore

In this practicum we focus on observational astronomy. You will learn about astronomy & the night’s sky, coordinate systems, CCD imaging, image processing, attention to detail and more. The practicum is split into two parts. Part I is a prerequisite for part II. For part I you will carry out project work on your own in your own time. There are no lectures apart from an initial introductory meeting in which I describe the project for part I – this is usually held online. Further information will be provided during the first week of the semester. You will be given raw astronomical data that you have to manipulate and analyse. You will write a report about your results.

The practicum is open to all students with no requirements. The credit points can be counted towards either of the minor programs in either Astrophysics or Astronomy & Astrobiology. Because we have a limited amount of equipment, space is severely limited for part II and priority is given to students enrolled in the above minor programs. Typically, less than a third of the students will be able to continue to part II (we only have two telescopes with CCD cameras and can take a maximum of 12 students). Part I has no space restrictions and can be booked in the course booking system. Part II is on request only, after completion of part I. 

For those students who go on to part II, this gives you experience in how to plan and prepare for taking your own data with the telescope. In part II you will work in groups of two or three which will be organised after you have completed part I. There is a lot of equipment to transport and you can learn from each other. Within your group you must each take your own data of a different object.

You will only be officially enrolled in part II of the course once you have submitted the final part II report so that a grade can be assigned. This is to avoid ‘fails’ due to poor weather or broken equipment. You can only pass part II and receive a final grade if you manage to take and analyse your own data. Please note that around half of the students who begin part II will not complete it for various reasons, including bad weather, broken equipment or they find it too challenging. Do not attempt part II if you are relying on the credit points, especially in your final semester!

Part II is worth 6ECTS which is the equivalent time as a big lecture course and its associated problem classes. That is because this practicum is difficult – you will probably need to spend over 150 hours of time on your project to succeed. If you are not seriously motivated, do not start. However, if you stick with it and put in some time learning, reading, trying, failing, trying… then you will learn a lot about astronomy and you can produce quite spectacular images and obtain insights into stars and their evolution. You should plan on spending at least 7 nights outside at night with the telescope.