Columbia University 
Astronomy and Astrophysics

Astronomy G8001
Mondays/Wednesdays, 11:00am-12:15pm
Room 1332, Pupin Hall


Arlin Crotts
Professor of Astronomy
Phone number: 854-7899
Office: Pupin 1012

The goals of this course are three-fold: to give you an overview of the state-of-the-art in different disciplines and wavebands, to teach you useful tricks of the trade, to familiarize you with the observational environment in many wavebands, and to give you some hands-on experience. The course will emphasize optical, particularly ground-based, astronomy, but spend considerable time at other frequencies. For many of these latter topics, I've invited speakers in each field. During my lectures I will try to impart as many pieces of useful information as I can: graphs, formulae, computer subroutines, network database directions, and so forth, which will be of direct use to you. (Keep them in a notebook for later use!) Your experience is also welcome: approximately one-quarter of each class will be devoted to discussion. There are a selection of projects to be done outside of class, including observation, hardware construction and research.
I'll attempt to hold to the following lecture schedule, although dates of guest speakers may change:


20 Jan.: Beginnings; Time and Celestial Coordinates

25-27 Jan.: Radiation and the Atmosphere

1-3 Feb.: Photometry, Time Series Analysis

8-10 Feb.: Spectroscopy

15-17 Feb.: Polarimetry; Radio

22-24 Feb.: Astrometry; X-rays

1-3 Mar.: Ultraviolet; Gamma Radiation

8-10 Mar.: Sub-millimeter, Millimeter, IR; Gravitational Waves

22-24 Mar.: Databases; Optical Detectors

29-31 Mar.: Optical Instruments

5-7 Apr.: Optical Design and Telescopes

12-14 Apr.: Statistics

19-21 Apr.: Statistics

26-29 Apr.: Statistics; Observing Project Workshop

3 May: Observing Project Workshop

There will be scattered problem sets, one or two projects per person (depending on project difficulty), and a final exam. I encourage you to make a notebook collecting the more sage bits of information from the course. Grades will also be based on a final exam (30%), problem sets (20%), and observing projects (50% apiece). The professor will strive to distribute fairly complete lecture notes for the course.

Observing Projects
These are some of the ideas that Prof. Crotts suggests. Observations can take place from the roof of Pupin Lab, using the Celestron 14-inch telescope; other must make use of the PARI radio telescopes or the MDMO 1.3-meter telescope. These are most of the examples already developed:

X/Gamma/Radio Flux of Young Pulsar (w/ Helfand)

Optical Spectroscopy of Quasar Pair Candidates

Optical Color-Magnitude Diagram of Open Clusters

Velocity Structure of Galactic Arms and Nebulae from 21cm PARI Radio Telescope

Optical Linestrengths in Supernova Remnant IC 443 (w/ Hailey)

Velocity Dispersion of Galaxy Clusters from Optical Spectra (w/ Hailey)

X-ray Profile, Temperature, etc. of Same Galaxy Cluster (w/ Hailey)

Constructing a CCD System from a Kit

Surface Brightness and Integrated Colors of Spiral versus Elliptical Galaxies

Minor Axis of the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy (w/ Cseresnjes)

Also note that there are several projects involving data which has already been collected, including projects involving data archives on the World-Wide Web, plus more of my ideas and yours, too. We will cover some basic statistical methods, such as linear and non-linear regression analysis, non-parametric test, and more basic things.

In addition to the following texts (all of which you can inspect in my office), I will assign one or two journal articles per week, most of which are available in Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics or Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, in the 14th floor library.

Required text:
Observational Astronomy (2nd Edition) (2006) by D. Scott Birney, Guillermo Gonzalez, David Oesper (Cambridge, ISBN 0-521-85370-2, $52.14 hardcover at

Recommended text:
Observational Astrophysics (1996) by P. Lena, F. Lebrun and F. Mignard; translated by S. Lyle (Springer), ISBN 3-540-63482-7 ($86.95 hardcover, $54.95 used at
This is comprehensive, accurate and detailed, but expensive.

Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences (2003) by Philip R. Bevington and D. Keith Robinson (McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-247227-8, $55.49 paperback at

Suggested texts:
I don't expect you to buy any of these, certainly not all of them. You can find many on reserve, and you can ask to borrow my copy.

Astronomical Observations (1987, reprinted 1989) by Gordon Walker (Cambridge: NY), ISBN 0-521-33907 ($37.95 paperback, call 800-872-7423),

Astronomical Optics (1987) by Daniel J. Schroeder (Academic Press: San Diego), ISBN 0-12-629805-X ($73 hardcover, call 800-782-4479),

Astronomical Photometry (1990) by Arne A. Henden & Ronald H. Kaitchuck (Willman-Bell: Richmond), ISBN 0-943396-25-5 ($24.95 hardcover, call 804-320-7016).

Handbook of CCD Astronomy by Steve B. Howell (2000) (Cambridge), ISBN 0-521-64834-3 ($26.00 paperback).

Handbook of Infrared Astronomy by I. S. Glass (2000) (Cambridge), ISBN 0-521-63311-7 ($26.00 paperback).

Practical Statistics for Astronomers (Cambridge Observing Handbooks for Research Astronomers) by J. V. Wall, C. R. Jenkins (2003) ISBN 0-521-45616-9 ($31.59 paperback).

Principles of Long Baseline Stellar Interferometry ed. Peter R. Lawson (1999) (NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Publ. #00-009, free upon request: Michelson Fellowship Program,

Telescope Optics (1988, reprinted 1993) by Harrie Rutten & Martin van Venrooij (Willman-Bell: Richmond), ISBN 0-943396-18-2 ($24.95 hardcover, also $24.95 for MS-DOS optical design software, call 804-320-7016).

Useful Optics (1991) by Walter T. Welford (U Chicago Press), ISBN 0-266-89305-7 ($12.95 paperback, call 312-568-1550).