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Astronomy 392J - Spring 2006
MWF 1:00-2:00 · RLM 13.112 · Unique No. 48270


Daniel Jaffe

Office: RLM 17.220
Phone: (512) 471-3425


Qingfeng Zhu


Jimmy Welborn

Office: RLM 17.330
Phone: (512) 471-3427

Substitute Prof

John Lacy

Office: RLM 16.332
Phone: (512) 471-1469
Printable Syllabus - pdf


This course teaches the fundamentals of the design and construction of experimental apparatus using astronomical instruments as the model for the process. We will cover key aspects of some of the most important topics in the field: optics and optical design, mechanical design and machining, electronics design and fabrication, real-time computer control, project planning, and performance analysis. Since we cannot teach you everything you need to know in a single semester, we will try to equip you with enough background to be able to continue learning on your own.

Overall Objectives

By the end of the course, you should have a concrete knowledge of many of the essentials of instrumentation. You should be able to plan out, schedule, and organize an instrumentation project and have some idea of what goes into a project budget. You should understand the steps involved in the mechanical, optical, software, and electronics design. You should have a good working knowledge of where to obtain information you need for your project in each of these areas. You should have concrete knowledge of computer aided design (CAD) programs for mechanical design (Inventor), electronics design and simulation (Circuit Maker), and optical design and simulation (Zemax). You will know how to do basic work with hand tools and with machine shop equipment. You will be able to assemble and understand some electronics circuits and be able to use laboratory equipment to test them. You will know the fundamentals of optical design and be able to design and build a grating spectrometer. You will be able to use LabView to interface an instrument to a computer.

How the Course Works


Astronomy 392J is a team-taught course where you are part of the team. There will be only occasional classes in a more conventional seminar/lecture format. Most of the time, the class will look more like an apprenticeship, an engineering project course, a physics lab course, or a bunch of curious people let loose in a room full of great toys. The learning in this course is centered around the activities of teams of 4-5 students.

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25 January 2006
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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