ASTR 481 A: Introduction to Astronomical Observation

Summer 2021 Full-term
MW 3:00pm - 5:10pm / * *
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Introduction and Objectives

In this class you will learn the all of the steps involved in a successful observing run, including taking observations on an actual research telescope! In addition, you will:

  • Use sky charts and catalogs to write observing proposals
  • Learn the best practices for reducing and working with CCD data
  • Handle larger volumes of data in Python
  • Perform standard star photometry
  • Analyze photometric time-series
  • Work with spectroscopy? (stretch goal!)

We're planning that this summer's class will held online, and that we won't be able to use the UW’s Manastash Ridge Observatory. However, just like last summer, we have time on the APO 3.5 meter, a telescope so much larger than MRO's 30-incher, we could collect more photons than traditional 481 gets all summer!

Just like in previous 481s, which emphasized teamwork, we will split the class into three teams. Students have found this valuable for support and help problem solving, and especially because we'll be remote, I think it'll be incredibly important to have these closer connections with your classmates.

We’ll use the best practices for remote learning developed over the last year in upper division Astronomy classes. For the most part, class time will be a synchronous Zoom meetings. We will introduce each lesson on Wednesdays, provide an additional prerecorded lecture, and reserve Monday's class time for team meetings & problem solving.

Things to Know

  • Textbooks: We will use the same texts you used in 480--which are both available for free! online! with your UW NetID (thanks UW Libraries!):
  • Computing Resources: We will use a UW hosted JupyterHub for computing, just like in 480. Please note that UW-IT will save your workspace for up to one quarter after the end of class, but not forever.
  • Late assignments: If you have a special situation, talk to me. I do not grade work submitted late without prior communication.
  • Academic honesty: I hope and expect that you will work closely with other people while completing the assignments for this class. However, I expect that you will use your own words when writing up your work. The examples of academic misconduct in the statement of Student Academic Responsibility are useful for understanding how to avoid plagiarism. In addition:
    • I may use the SimCheck tool to automatically check lab assignments for originality and appropriate references for material that is quoted, paraphrased, or summarized.
    • If I suspect academic misconduct then I will withhold your grade and report the suspected activity to Community Standards & Student Conduct.
  • The University of Washington Department of Astronomy does not tolerate harassment of any kind: Harassment is any behavior by an individual or group that contributes to a hostile, intimidating, unwelcoming, and/or inaccessible work environment. Anyone can experience harassment. If you believe that you are being harassed, the Astronomy Department's Statement on Harassment lists resources where you can find support.
    • When we use tools like Zoom, we will not record or take any screen-shots of other members of the class without their explicit permission.

Assignments and Grading

Given the new format for the class, we're going to keep it simple. Homework & lab assignments for each lesson will compose the entirely of your grade. There are no planned quizzes or exams (but you gotta be prepared for APO!). I expect that students will spend sufficient time and effort to produce high quality work, so that this will be a high scoring class. However, unexcused missing assignments will reduce your grade. A score of 95% (corresponding to approximately one unexcused missing assignment) will correspond to a score of 3.8, a 90% to a 3.7, etc. The lowest score to receive credit is 60%.

Accommodations & Support

This class provides accommodations for temporary health conditions and permanent disabilities through UW DRS. Support is available to discuss safety and well-being 24 hours / 7 days a week through SafeCampus.

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.

Catalog Description:
Theory and practice of obtaining optical data at a telescope. Topics include observing preparation and execution, and the subsequent data analysis required for completion of a research project. 3-credit option available for students unable to join overnight trips to the telescope. Prerequisite: ASTR 480. Offered: S.
GE Requirements Met:
Natural Sciences (NSc)
Last updated:
May 19, 2024 - 6:48 am