Printable syllabus (pdf)
AST 152M: Stellar Astronomy Lab
see AST 352K syllabus
see AST 352K syllabus
16-inch telescope manual:
Welcome to the Stellar Astronomy Lab. Previous or concurrent enrollment in
AST 352K is strongly recommended. This lab course is designed to give students
hands-on experience in the acquisition and analysis of astronomical data, while
AST 352K emphasizes the physics of astronomical phenomena. We will focus on
observations made with a 16” telescope located on the roof of RLM. Students
will learn how to operate the telescope using the computerized control system to
locate astronomical objects. Images will be acquired digitally by the students
using a Charge-Couple Device (CCD) in the dome. Students will use current
astronomical image processing software on the computers in the undergraduate
computer lab (RLM 13th floor) to analyze their data from the telescope. We
HOPE(!) to also have a spectrograph working on the telescope for your use by
October. We gratefully acknowledge the excellent work of former grad student
Dr. Amanda Bayless in setting up these labs. Her writeups will form the basis of
We will need to meet as a class from time to time. This will be a time for short
lectures, discussion of material and labs, and distribution of hand-outs. As a
class we will choose a time that is best for everyone and we will let you know at
least a week in advance if we will meet the following week. Although the
meetings may not be regular, they are still class time and as such should not be
missed without a valid excuse.
Learning to work well with each other is a very useful skill that you will
certainly draw upon throughout your academic career and beyond. To cultivate
this, much of the work you will do for this course will be in groups. Groups of
3-5 will be assigned based on the results of a questionnaire we will circulate on
the first day.
Everyone must attend the telescope orientation session before they will be
allowed to use the equipment. This will be scheduled sometime during the third
week of classes. Because the observations require clear weather, students are
expected to be flexible in their time spent at the telescope and should recognize
that observations may need to be made at unusual hours. Once the groups have
been organized, each group can sign up for time on the telescope each week.
Only one prime time slot (before 11 pm on any night) per week per group can be
booked in advance. Unless a special announcement is made, the telescope will
be available every night except Wednesday nights before 10pm. If a prime time
slot is still free less than 24 hours ahead of time, any group can claim it, even if
they have booked another prime time slot for that week in advance. Each group
must use their prime time slot that they have booked, or must cancel more than
24 hours in advance. Times after 11pm are open to any group without
restriction, but must be signed up for (with me) ahead of time. Please send me
an e-mail with all group members’ names, the requested time, and a back-up
time in case the first time is unavailable or you are rained out etc. Cooperation
in sharing the telescope by these guidelines is expected. Failure to comply will
result in a lower grade for the lab in that segment. We will keep an updated
schedule on the class website.
Each person must keep an observing log for each observing night. Necessary
telescope information must include actual observers present, object observed,
equipment used, and any problems that arose. Necessary astronomical
information includes details such as exposure times, filters, time of exposure,
filenames, etc. If a problem occurs that is not catastrophic to the health of an
observer or the operation of the telescope, send an e-mail to us ASAP. If the
telescope can not be stowed safely, call us. If someone is ill or hurt, call 911 then
For safety reasons, no one is permitted to be alone on the RLM roof (18th floor)
without at least one other member of either AST 152M or UT Astronomy staff
present. We will provide a combination lock box giving students access to the
key for the roof. These keys must be returned to the lock box after you are done
using the equipment.
You will ftp your data from the dome to an astronomy account that can be
accessed from the computers in the 13th floor computer lab. It is your
responsibility to make these back-ups. If you don’t have an account on the
computers, you will be provided with one.
The grade you receive in this course should reflect your mastery of the material,
efforts to acquire new skills, and contributions you have made to the efforts of
others in your group. We expect that your final lab grade will be based on the
following break down.
Attendance at class meetings
There will be no make-up sessions. You are responsible for any material
and handouts presented in class, whether you are present or not. Handouts will
be available on Blackboard.
Basic operation of the telescope
Each individual must demonstrate that he or she can safely use the
telescope before using it to obtain data for the labs.
Each individual must keep an observation log for each observation night.
It should be turned in with short answer questions individually.
Short answer questions
There are questions at the end of the labs. These questions will test your
understanding of the background material and lab activities and should be done
Only one lab write-up will be submitted by each group as a collective
effort and will be given a group grade (except for lab 5 which will be completed
by each individual). Each group may organize themselves according to ability in
different areas of expertise, but each member of the group should know the
details of how all the individual contributions relate to the completed lab writeup.
There are 5 labs at 10 points each. Any questions not in the Question section
can be answered as a group.
The final grade will correspond roughly to the following scale, but may change
(for the better) if needed.