AST 443 / PHY 517 : Observational Techniques

Fall 2007

Instructor: Professor F.M. Walter (632-8232;

The class will meet on Tuesdays from 6:50 - 9:40 PM, beginning September 4. We will initially meet in ESS 450. There is another hour of lab for AST443 that will be scheduled later.

Prerequisite: AST 203 or AST 205 or permission of instructor.

Graduate students may register for this as PHY 517 (3 credits) or PHY 585 (0 or 1 credit). Grad students will be expected to show a more advanced understanding of the material.

There are 3 required texts:

Recommended text: Bevington and Robinson: "Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences".
(available in bookstore under Phy 445/515)

All these are available in paperback. They should be available at the bookstore. They are also available on-line (follow the links above).

Astronomers explore the universe by detecting and analyzing photons with energies ranging from about 51 Joules to 10-9eV, or a range of about 30 orders of magnitude. One needs very different techniques over this range. We concentrate on techniques for detection of photons from gamma-ray energies (up to a few GeV) to the radio.

This is partly a lecture course, and partly a laboratory course. Students will be expected to learn how to use a telescope to obtain useful astronomical data Students will learn how to write simple IDL code to read and analyze astronomical images. Students will be expected to undertake and complete an observing project and a data analysis project using archival data. Grades will be based on a combination of a midterm exam, homework and projects.

Topics covered:

These pages maintained by fwalter (at)

Prof. Frederick M. Walter
Astronomy Program
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy
State University of New York
Stony Brook, NY 11794-3800