AST 2134: Observational Lab 2

Please refer to this web page for most up-to-date information on the course. All assignments in pdf format and all other information will be made available in due time.
If you prefer a syllabus in pdf format, here it is.

Lab assignments:

Lab: Comments/Data: Due date:
Assignment #1: Setting up the toolbox (ungraded) Feb 3, 2021
Assignment #2: Synthetic photometry model atmospheres Feb 10, 2021
Assignment #3: Realistic synthetic photometry Feb 17, 2021
Assignment #4: Realistic synthetic imaging Feb 24, 2021
Assignment #5: CCD cosmetics, take 2 Mar 3, 2021
Assignment #6: Aperture photometry revisited Mar 10, 2021
Assignment #7: Single slit spectroscopy data, manual Mar 31, 2021
Assignment #8: Echelle spectroscopy data, calibration Mar 31, 2021

Seminar assignments:

Topic: Presenter: Date:
Asteroseismology Justin Apr 14, 2021
Interferometry Mackenzie Apr 14, 2021
Polarimetry Darby Apr 14, 2021
Prism/grism spectroscopy Hayley Apr 21, 2021
X-ray/diffraction spectroscopy Claire Apr 21, 2021
Infra-red (balloon/airborne) astronomy Michael Apr 28, 2021
Multi-messenger astronomy Stephen Apr 28, 2021

Important Villanova instrument values:

4k CCD at 20" PlaneWave: Gain=1.27, Readout noise=10.0

2k CCD at RCT: Gain=2.56, Readout noise=15.05

2k CCD at 1.52-m ESO: Gain=1.2, Readout noise=4.2

Course content:

Another semester, another ob-less oblab! :-/ Well, let’s make the best of it! After a long consideration, it is my opinion that our time will be best spent at the cross-roads of data reduction and computational analysis. Thus, while we will revisit IRAF a couple of times in the semester, we will spend considerable time writing code and focusing on intermediary results. We will review some of the results we reached last semester and build on them. It is my hope that, by the end of the semester, you will have a thorough understanding and a solid toolbox of reduction techniques to be able to tackle any acquired data and make good use of it! The last 3 weeks will be dedicated to toning our presentation-giving skills on topics related to observational techniques that we have not covered in class.

Course Material:

Course work and grading:

This semester I am hoping to have 7 graded assignments and 1 presentation. Similar to previous semester’s setup, the assignments will be due in 1 week. Each assignment will have extra credit attached. The first assignment on computational toolset will be reviewed but not graded. Each assignment carries 150 points + 30 points of extra-credit. The seminar presentation carries 150 points for the written part and 150 points for the presentation.

The grading will be done according to the following grade breakdown:

0-56% F 68-72% C- 84-88% B
56-60% D- 72-76% C 88-92% B+
60-64% D 76-80% C+ 92-96% A-
64-68% D+ 80-84% B- 96-100% A

Yes, looks scary. But remember: work hard, work constantly, and seize all the extra credit opportunities, and there should be no reason for alarm. Ultimately, the grade you earn is yours alone, I am just a scribe.


Regular attendance is essential for uninterrupted understanding of course material. Since this course covers a significant amount of content in a not-so-significant amount of time, each missed class will hurt. Really hurt. The topics are not trivial and continuous work is required to remain on top of things.

Please do not miss turning in assignments by the due date. If you must miss an assignment, you must inform me of that in advance, and you must have a written notice excusing it. Verbal excuses and call-the-health-center-and-you'll-see-I-was-sick-on-the-day-of-the-assignment are not admissible. There will be no exceptions. Provided that you follow these rules, I will excuse you from the assignment and calculate the average from the remaining assignments. Each day that the assignment is turned late incurs a 10% penalty. In other words: don't miss the assignment deadline. :)

The etiquette for using laptops and cell phones in class:

Use computers at will, even though they won’t do you much good in class. You will treat them as your best friends outside of class anyway. You will be publicly flogged and/or burned at the stake if caught using computers/cell phones in class for texting, facebooking or web surfing.

How to reach me:

I am available for your questions and comments whenever you get a hold of me. The best time to catch me is every day between 9:30am and 5pm except around noon when I'm off to lunch. I am also known to answer e-mails on a regular basis. Or just grab me when I'm making coffee in this room. Or, if you want to be super-formal, follow the office hours on the front of the syllabus. But you knew all of this already, didn't you?


Students with disabilities who require reasonable academic accommodations should schedule an appointment to discuss specifics with me. It is the policy of Villanova to make reasonable academic accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. You must present verification and register with the Learning Support Office by contacting 610-519-5176 or at or for physical access or temporary disabling conditions, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 610-519-4095 or email Registration is needed in order to receive accommodations.

All students are expected to uphold Villanova’s Academic Integrity Policy and Code. Any incident of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for disciplinary action. For the College’s statement on Academic Integrity, you should consult the Enchiridion . You may view the university’s Academic Integrity Policy and Code, as well as other useful information related to writing papers, at the Academic Integrity Gateway web site: