A Practical Introduction to Research
- Extra Credit Options: You can earn extra credit via the two assignments below. The grades of these assignments will be counted toward the average of "Homeworks and Projects".
- (1) For extra credit, please hand in the `Optional IRAF Exercise 2: Basic CCD Reduction & Relative Photometry' by Nov 26, 2013 for full credit, and for 80% credit by the extended deadline of Monday Dec 9, 4.00 pm. Please hand in the assignment to John Jardel following the instructions in the assignment.
- (2) For extra credit, please make your curriculum vitae (CV) in LaTeX by following the template in the LaTeX tutorial, which will be given out during the last week of class. Please email the CV, in both LaTeX and pdf format, to John Jardel by Monday Dec 9, 4.00 pm, using the email submission instructions given on the class website. Your CV files should be named YOURNAME_cv.tex and YOURNAME_cv.pdf, where `YOURNAME' denotes your last and first names.
- Check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day!
- Class and Office Hours: This class, Astro 376 (Unique 48595), meets Tuesday and Thursdays from 9.30 to 11.00 am in RLM 15.216B. We will also perform in-class exercises in the newly equipped computer lab (RLM 15.201) and if needed, in the undergraduate lounge (RLM 15.306). The instructor is Professor Shardha Jogee and the teaching assistant (TA) is John Jardel Please consult us during the office hours listed below if you have any questions and we will be glad to help.
Prof. Shardha Jogee
Th 11.00 to 12 am
or by appointment
Wed 1 to 2 pm
or by appointment
- Course Description: Astronomy 376, "A Practical Introduction to Research" aims at equipping undergraduates with some of the skills relevant for research projects in astronomy and astrophysics, in order to facilitate their involvement in the College of Natural Science Freshman Research Initiative (FRI), as well as in more advanced individual research projects supervised by research faculty or staff during their sophomore to senior years. Many of the skills you will learn are pre-requisites for currently offered research projects in Astronomy and some wills be useful well beyond research in your undergraduate years, during graduate school in astronomy or astrophysics, or jobs in industry, national observatories, space science centers, etc. The course will involve an overview of research practices, such as
- What is scientific research and the scientific method?
- Different ways to communicate scientific results (posters, unrefereed conference papers, refereed papers, oral presentstions). Tips for effective posters and oral presentations.
- What is a Research University? How is research funded and how does it impact you? Ethical concerns and responsibilities of research.
- Why Participate in Undergraduate Research at UT? How to Get Involved in UG Research at UT?
- Introduction to the UT Career Design Center
and a wide array of hands-on practical exercises in a computer lab, including,
- Introduction to the Linux/Mac OSX operating system
- Text macro editing with Emacs
- The IRAF software for analysis of astronomical data
- Basic programming with IDL (interactive data language) including array manipulation, reading catalogs, plotting, statistical analyses
- Reduction and visualization of astronomical data (e.g., CCD images) using IRAF and IDL
- LaTeX and AASTeX package for written publications
This course counts as an upper division course It is designed primarily for majors in astronomy or anyone who plans to get involved in a research project in astronomy and astrophysics. While the course can be taken by advanced students, we will give first priority to undergraduate majors in Astronomy and Physics, who are in their Freshman and Sophomore years so that such students are well prepared to tackle challenging research projects during their next two to three years at UT.
Prerequisite: Mathematics 305G or the equivalent or consent of instructor; high school trigonometry and physics are recommended. Prior computing experience and an introductory astronomy course, such as AST 307, are recommended, but not required. However it is your responsibility to develop the required background knowledge for each lecture by studying the background pre-requisite reading, which we will provide.
There is no single textbook that covers the wide variety of topics, which this course will span. We strongly recommend that you get "Practical IDL programming" by Liam E. Gumley (available at the Co-op bookshop): this will be a key reference guide for you on IDL exercises during this class and well beyond. In addition, we will provide our own tailor-made tutorials and online background reading material, which will be posted on this website under "Selected Material from Lectures & Assignments "
- Textbook and Reading
The course calendar provides an approximate sequencing of topics to be covered in class. The online calendar will be regularly updated, as needed. Note that as outlined in the Memo to Undergraduate Astronomy Students regarding Astronomy Courses , the professor is a professional astronomer who has research responsibilities and may be occasionally on travel in order to conduct research, present colloquia, and attend scientific meetings. In such cases, there may be a schedule change and an appropriate replacement lecture or other assignment will be scheduled.
- Course Calendar
It is essential that you attend class as there will be a large number of in-class assignments. Course grades are posted on Blackboard The final grade will consist of
- Course Grade
70% Homeworks and ProjectsThere will be no exams. When converting your final numerical scores to letter grades, I will use the scheme below or one that is slightly more lenient.
30% In-class activities
96% to 100%
91% to 95%
86% to 90%
81% to 85%
76% to 80%
71% to 75%
66% to 70%
61% to 65%
56% to 60%
51% to 55%
46% to 50%
0% to 45%
1) You will be given access to the computer lab on the 15th floor for this class. Due to previous crime-related incidents in the RLM building the doors to the lab should remain closed when you are working in them. Under no circumstances, should the door be left open, even if someone is "just running out for a moment."
- Class Policies
2) You will be given after hours access to the RLM building for this class. However, due to previous crime-related incidents in the RLM building, we strongly recommend that you try to use RLM only during the official open hours (6:30 am to 11:00 pm on Monday to Thursday; 6:00 am to 10:00 pm on Friday; 6:30 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday; 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm on Sunday). If you have to use RLM after hours, please make sure to be in a group of two or more.
(3) Late homeworks will be accepted only if you have been granted an extension prior to the due date and will receive only partial credit.
(4) We will accept requests for correction or re-grade of an assignment (homework, exam or quiz), at latest two weeks after it is handed back to you.
(5) Cheating: You are encouraged to study with other students, but you must write up your own homework, exams, and quizzes. Cheating will be severely punished: if you copy someone's homework/quiz/exam or let someone copy yours, both of you will receive zero credit, and I will consider filing a report to the Dean of Students.
(6) Plagiarism: Scholastic dishonesty, in particular any plagiarism, will be prosecuted in accordance with the university guidelines. In simplest terms, plagiarism occurs if you represent as your own work any material that was obtained from another source, regardless how or where you acquired it. Please read the description from the Dean of Students office on what constitutes plagiarism in its various forms. In particular, have a careful look at "paraphrasing".
(7) Disabilities: Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities (phone = 512-471-6259).
You will find below, mostly in pdf format, selected parts of the lecture, such as tutorials, figures, and plots. Many of these materials are password-protected and you will be given the id and password to access them in class. The main notes, explanations, and demos will be covered only in class where in-class quiz/activities will count toward the final grade.
- Some links relevant for lecture on Sep 10
- As requested by the College of Natural Science, please fill in the CURE (classroom undergraduate reseach experience) pre-course survey. You can also get more info on CURE and access the pre-course survey via the CURE website.
- The Cosmic Dawn FRI research stream is holding informational open houses on Friday, Sept. 27 (2-3 pm) and on Wednesday, Oct. 2 (3-4 PM). Please visit the open house or/and the above website for more details. You can also contact our UG speaker of last week, Jacob Schmelz (jschmelz at utexas dot edu), who is a mentor of the FRI. He has offered to show the visualisation lab to interested parties.
- IRAF Tutorial 1: Introduction to IRAF Tutorial Note that section 11 is due at start of class on Tu Oct 15
- On Tuesday October 8, during class time, please attend the talk and/or visit the poster session at the 2013 Bash symposium. Please write a one-page summary of the talk or poster you saw and hand it in class at the start of Thursday October 10. I will ask you to participate in a class discussion of the talk or poster on Thursday Oct 10.
- Presentation by undergraduates currently doing/starting research in Astronomy at UT. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!
- This paper Discovery and Implications of a new large-scale stellar bar in NGC 5248 is posted in response to the serendipitous question by Benjamin on relative orientation of dust lanes with respect to blue stellar spiral arms. Here in NGC 5248, the prominent dust lanes lie on the inner (concave) side of the stellar spiral arms. This can only happen inside the corotation resonance of the feature (e.g., the bar) that is driving the spiral arms. This is because inside the corotation resonance, young stars that form when gas is compressed by shocks, seen as dust lanes, can overtake the pattern or bar. This simple observation led to our argument that the bar driving the spiral arms is the large-scale oval (which was previously assumed to be the outer disk), and to our prediction that beyond this oval bar, there must lie the true large-scale outer disk. Deep observations confirmed this prediction by revelaing this extended large-scale outer disk.
- Optional IRAF Exercise 2: Basic CCD Reduction & Relative Photometry (updated Nov 4, 2013) This assignment is optional, and you can do it for extra credit. Please hand it in by Nov 26, 2013 for full credit, and for 80% credit by the extended deadline of Monday Dec 9, 4.00 pm. Please hand in the assignment to John Jardel following the instructions in the assignment. Please use the version of this assignment posted on Nov 4/2013, as it has a workaround to deal with the bug in IRAF ccdproc. The materials below may be helpful. Feel free to talk to me if anything is not clear.
- IDL Tutorial (Oct 24/2013): This tutorial will involve three assignments due on different dates.
- The standard library of IDL routines that usually ships with IDL is for some reason not installed on the classroom machines. Many common tasks like 'readcol' and 'forprint' are dependent on these routines and will fail without them. For this reason, you will need to download the IDLastro library and put it in your $IDL_PATH. Please do the following:
1. Close IDLDE if it is open
2. mkdir ~/idl/idlastro
3. cd ~/idl/idlastro
4. wget http://idlastro.gsfc.nasa.gov/ftp/astron.dir.tar.gz
5. tar xvfz astron.dir.tar.gz
- IDL assignment 1 (section 8 in your tutorial) is due at the start of class on Tu Nov 5, 2013
- IDL assignment 2: Homework 3 is due at the start of class on Tu Nov 12, 2013
- IDL assignment 3: Homework 4 is due at the start of class on Tu Nov 19, 2013 (extended to Nov 21)
- Solution set to Homework 3 is provided as a tar gzipped archive file hwk3-sol-tar.gz
- Solution set to Homework 4 is provided as a tar gzipped archive file hwk4-sol-tar.gz
- Background and concepts related to Homework 5 where you use IDL, along with the Galaxies and Cosmos Explorer Tool (GCET)
Extra Class Resources
Contact information and Classes
- Directory for the UT Astronomy Program
To secure RLM access after-hours, please contact Rachel Walker (RLM 15.204). To contact the computer helpdesk, please send email to email@example.com with the subject heading "AST 376" or/and walk to RLM 15.320A or 15.320B.
Meetings/Conferences in Astronomy/Astrophysics where undergrads can participate
- Annual Bash symposium is organized typically every 2 years in October by UT Astronomy department: undergrads can attend and often present posters!
- Third Annual Texas Astronom Undergraduate Research Symposium on Friday, October 4, 2013, hosted this year by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University. This all-day event will feature 10-15 minute talks by undergraduates from astronomy departments across Texas. Contact Christopher M. Johns-Krull (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
Astronomy softwares, IDL library, Data Archives, etc
- MAST Multimission Archive at STScI: astronomical data archives and data sets at optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared wavelengths
- The AASTeX LaTeX-based package: This LaTeX-based package that can be used to prepare papers and tables for electronic submission to American Astronomical Society (AAS) journals, such as the Astrophysical Journal and The Astronomical Journal, as well as some non-AAS journals like the Publications of the Astronomical Society.
- NED (NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database) (with links to images and catalogs)