Snezana Stanimirovic: Banner

AST 460 - Experiences in Astronomical Observing, Fall 2016

Time: Tuesday 1:20-2:10pm, 3521 Sterling Hall
Office hours: Please stop by!

Course Introduction:

The main goal of this course is to provide you with a basic introduction into astrophysical research. Some of the topics we will discuss include: good research practices, understanding the astronomical literature, how to write articles for professional scientific journals, how to write a project report using LaTeX, how to present your results using PowerPoint. But, we will address all these topics within a real research environment, by undertaking a small observing project with two 2.3-m radio telescopes, one on the roof of Sterling Hall and one remotely operated from Pine Bluff.

The Small Radio Telescope is a 2.3. meter radio dish bought by the Astronomy Department from the Haystack Observatory and installed on Sterling roof by Rick VanDer Geest and Rick Williams. The SRT allows continuum and spectral line observations over the frequency range 1400-1440 MHz.

2.3-m Small Radio Telescope on the roof of Sterling Hall. Credit: Rick VanDer Geest, UW Madison Astronomy


Various articles and documents will be assigned for reading. Most of them will be provided in electronic or paper form. I also envision using two short (20-30 pages) booklets by Edward R. Tufte: "The cognitive style of Powerpoint" and "Visual and statistical thinking".

Course Schedule:

  1. (09/06) Course introductions
    Assignment 1

  2. (09/13) "On Being a Scientist" (National Academy Press): Introduction to the responsible conduct of research
    AAS Ethics Statement, American Astronomical Society
    STAP retracted, Nature July 2014
    Truth and consequences, Couzin 2006, Science
    Assignment 2

  3. (09/20) Introduction to 2.3-m Sterling SRT and observing
  4. (09/27) Introduction to Unix and Writing SRT scripts
    Introduction to Unix
    Assignment 4

  5. (10/4) Project intro. Radiometer equation and system temperature.
    Project Intro
    Assignment 5 from Project Intro

  6. (10/11) SRT Observing. IDL intro.
    IDL Basics (Based on Carl Heiles' IDL tutorials)

  7. (10/18) SRT Observing and Reading Data files
    Reading SRT data in IDL
    Assignment 6 (Steps 1-3)

  8. (10/25) Data reduction: temperature and baseline calibrations

  9. (11/1) Data reduction: velocity corrections
    Velocity correction factors
    Assignment 7 (steps 1-5 completed from Assignment 6)

  10. (11/8) KVIS and HI4PI data set (Bekhti et al. 2016)
    LDS spectra obtained in the same directions we are observing and smoothed to match the SRT angular resolution
    Assignment 8 (all steps completed from Assignment 6)

  11. (11/15) Analyzing additional data files and finalizing spectra
    • Abstract preparation for the Undergraduate Symposium
    • Abstracts by The Writing Center at UW-Madison
    • Assignment 9

  12. (11/22) LaTeX and how to write a project report, astronomical literature

  13. (11/29) Poster preparation for the Undergraduate Symposium 2017

  14. (12/6) Finalizing class poster for the Undergradute Symposium
  15. (12/13) Finalizing class poster for the Undergradute Symposium
UW Undergraduate Symposium (previous years):
  • Class Talk (2012)
  • Class Poster (2009)
  • Class Poster (2010)
    Picture 1 (2010) Picture 2 (2010)
    Class Poster (2015)
    Picture (2015)

    Useful links: