AST 443/PHY 517: Observational Techniques
General Information

Fall 2020

meeting time: Mondays and Wednesdays 4-6:50 PM
meeting place: Physics P118

page updated 8/24/20

Instructor: Prof. Fred Walter (ESS 459; 632-8232; (at)

Office Hours: by appointment.

TA: Radhakrishnan Srinivasan (Radhakrishnan.Srinivasan at
Office Hours: TBD
Kedarsh Kaushik (Kedarsh.Kaushik at
Office Hours: TBD

Prerequisite: AST 203, PHY 277, WRT 102

Required texts:

Recommended text: Supplementary and perhaps useful texts:

Links to the course notes will be available here.

Learning Objectives and Outcomes
An important part of being a scientist is communication.
First you have to be able to explain what is is you want to do, and why. To that end, each student will write two proposals of increasing specificity. The first proposal is very general and unformatted, while the second makes use of an actual science proposal template.

After completing two science projects, which include data gathering and analysis, you will present your results in three formats:

  • a short (about 15 minute) oral presentation, with slides,
  • a poster suitable for hanging, and
  • a scientific paper using the ApJ LaTeX format.

    Project descriptions.

    Grading There will be 5 projects, and about 4 homework assignments. There will not be a final examination. The projects are worth 75% of your grade; homework assignments account for 25% of your grade. Graduate students enrolled in PHY517 will be expected to demonstrate understanding commensurate with their standing.

    University-Mandated Notices

    Academic Integrity :
    Plagiarism is bad. Always give credit to all your sources.

    Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person's work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instances of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary. For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty please refer to the academic judiciary website at

    Students suspected of plagiarizing their writing assignments, or of any other form of academic dishonesty, will be assigned an F grade for the course and will be reported to the academic judiciary.

    Students who suspect others of cheating are encouraged to report them. Reports will be kept confidential. Dishonest students make things that much harder for the majority of students, who are honest.

    Critical Incident Management:
    Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of University Community Standards any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, or inhibits students' ability to learn. Further information about most academic matters can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin, the Undergraduate Class Schedule, and the Faculty-Employee Handbook.

    Americans with Disabilities Act/ Student Accessibility Support Center Statement:

    If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Student Accessibility Support Center, ECC (Educational Communications Center) Building, Room 128, (631) 632-6748. They will determine with you what accommodations, If any, are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential.

    Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Student Accessibility Support Center. For procedures and information go to this website (

    Student Support Services:
    Updated for the Semester of COVID-19

    Course Materials and Copyright Statement:
    Course material accessed from Blackboard, SB Connect, SB Capture or a Stony Brook Course website is for the exclusive use of students who are currently enrolled in the course. Content from these systems cannot be reused or distributed without written permission of the instructor and/or the copyright holder. Duplication of materials protected by copyright, without permission of the copyright holder. Duplication of materials protected by copyright, without permission of the copyright holder is a violation of the Federal copyright law, as well as a violation of Stony Brook's Academic Integrity.

    Electronic Communication

    Email to your University email account is an important way of communicating with you for this course. For most students the email address is "", and the account can be accessed here.
    *It is your responsibility to read your email received at this account.*

    For instructions about how to verify your University email address go to ur-mail-forwarding-address-in-the-epo. You can set up email forwarding using instructions at arding-in-google-mail. If you choose to forward your University email to another account, we are not re sponsible for any undeliverable messages.

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