ASTR 377: Experimental Astronomy

Section 1, Fall 2017



Lecture: Tuesday and Thursday

Location: School of Science and Mathematics Building (SSMB) room 253

Time: TR 7:00 pm-10:00 pm



Instructor: Dr. George Chartas

Office: 206 J. C. Long

Office hours: TR 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Phone: (843) 953-3609



Pre-requisite:  ASTR 231 or permission of instructor. It is the student-s responsibility to satisfy pre-requisites.








Required materials:

There is no textbook for this course.  I will be distributing reading material from different sources throughout the semester.  You should also take it upon yourself to acquire a broader background in basic astronomy and observational techniques. 



Regular class period will be a mixture of lecture, discussion, group activities, observing and in-class computer work.  There is no strict schedule for when different topics will be covered.  To some extent, we will be developing as we go, depending on student experience levels, progress, and interests.  Below is an approximate list of topics covered.  Many of these topics/programs will be overlapping.

--General Introduction to Observational Methods

--Statistical Techniques

--IDL Programming

-- Data Analysis

--Photometry, Imaging, and Spectroscopy

-- X-ray Astronomy

--Telescope Observing

--Final Project



There will be various, perhaps weekly assignments to teach the experimental techniques.  These may consist of worksheets or programming exercises and some will require a written report. 

Each person will present one mini-lecture on their final project.  Throughout the course, I ask that you maintain a science notebook that documents all your project activities, at a level sufficient enough that someone else could reproduce your work. 

Each student will prepare a proposal for an independent project involving new observational data or use of archival data.  All observations and analysis must be completed in time to prepare a final paper before the end of the semester.  The final paper will be modeled on a journal paper.  There is no final exam.

The following weights apply in determining your final grade:


Group-Work and Class Participation


Lab reports/Worksheets/Programming Assignments




Final Project Presentation


Final Project Report











Your number grade will be converted into a letter grade as follows.





























Attendance Requirement: 

Attendance is mandatory. You are expected to attend all classes.  There are no make-up labs.  Worksheets, reports and programming assignments are turned in on an assigned date.  

Missing 4 or more labs will result in a letter grade of F. Your attendance level will also be included as part of the group-work and class participation portion of your grade.  Please turn cell phones to off or to silent-mode during class. 









Learning Outcomes:


In this course you will review concepts and experimental techniques in astronomy including imaging, astrometry, multi-wavelength instrumentation, and data analysis techniques. In doing so, the following will be achieved:


-- You investigate and explore topics in observational astronomy in a manner akin to working in a professional research group.


-- You develop skills in writing professional-quality science proposals and publications.


-- You establish expertise in carrying out scientific computing and programming.


-- You develop your skills in statistical analysis in experimental science.


-- You learn how to collect data on optical telescopes, analyze and interpret the data, and present your findings in a written report.










Special Needs

If you have any special needs or disabilities that might require special arrangements to be made for any aspect of this course, please let me know at the beginning of the semester or as soon as you become aware of them.

1.                  Any student eligible for and needing accommodations because of a disability is requested to speak with the professor during the first two weeks of class or as soon as the student has been approved for services so that reasonable accommodations can be arranged.



2.                  The College will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Students should apply for services at the Center for Disability Services/SNAP located on the first floor of the Lightsey Center, Suite 104.  Students approved for accommodations are responsible for notifying me as soon as possible and for contacting me one week before accommodation is needed.


3.                  This College abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you have a documented disability that may have some impact on your work in this class and for which you may require accommodations, please see an administrator at the Center of Disability Services/SNAP, (843) 953-1431) or me so that such accommodation may be arranged.




College of Charleston Honor Code and Academic Integrity:

Lying, cheating, attempted cheating, and plagiarism are violations of our Honor Code that, when identified, are investigated.  Each incident will be examined to determine the degree of deception involved.


Incidents where the instructor determines the student-s actions are related more to a misunderstanding will be handeled by the instructor.  A written intervention designed to help prevent the student from repeating the error will be given to the student.  The intervention, submitted by form and signed both by the instructor and the student, will be forwarded to the Dean of Students and placed in the student-s file.  


Cases of suspected academic dishonesty will be reported directly by the instructor and/or others having knowledge of the incident to the Dean of Students.  A student found responsible by the Honor Board for academic dishonesty will receive a XF in the course, indicating failure of the course due to academic dishonesty.  This grade will appear on the student-s transcript for two years after which the student may petition for the X to be expunged.  The F is permanent.  The student may also be placed on disciplinary probation, suspended (temporary removal) or expelled (permanent removal) from the College by the Honor Board.


Students should be aware that unauthorized collaboration--working together without permission-- is a form of cheating.  Unless the instructor specifies that students can work together on an assignment, quiz and/or test, no collaboration during the completion of the assignment is permitted.   Other forms of cheating include possessing or using an unauthorized study aid (which could include accessing information via a cell phone or computer), copying from others- exams, fabricating data, and giving unauthorized assistance.


Research conducted and/or papers written for other classes cannot be used in whole or in part for any assignment in this class without obtaining prior permission from the instructor. 


Students can find the complete Honor Code and all related processes in the Student Handbook at