Astronomical Imaging

 


Course Description and Requirements

Organization

Projects and Assignments

Course Web Site


Course Description and Requirements

This course is designed as an introduction to the techniques for obtaining, processing, and analyzing astronomical images. Currently, virtually all astronomical data is obtained as an "image" of some kind. Furthermore, the detector of choice in astronomy is currently the CCD, so this course will deal exclusively with digital images obtained with CCD detectors. Since digital images and CCD detectors are now quite common in most of the physical sciences, this course can also serve as a general introduction to scientific image processing and analysis. However, this course could also be used merely as an excuse to obtain and enhance images of those spectacular objects visible in the night time sky.

The course will cover the use of observatory mounted telescopes, the use of CCD cameras, and the use of image processing software packages. In broad terms the course will cover the following general topics:

 

It is presumed that class participants will have an introductory knowledge of astronomy, will have previously taken a laboratory course in science, and will be familiar with using personal computers. You should be prepared to spend some time with your lab partners at the University Observatory at night in the cold. You should also be prepared to spend time at a computer processing your images.

 

The emphasis of the course may be either esthetic or scientific depending on individual interests. However, whatever your motivations, the aim of the course is to enable you to obtain many high quality astronomical images.

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Organization

We will meet for at least one hour each week to discuss various techniques and the theoretical basis for those techniques. At these meetings we will also share our experiences and the results of our work. After these meetings you should expect to spend time either at the Observatory, at a computer workstation. Because of the nature of the work and the equipment, not all students will be able to complete the required work on the one evening a week that we meet, so independent sign-ups at other times will be required.

The lecture material for the course will be selected from the following topics:

  • Practical use of astronomical telescopes
  • Review of performance characteristics of telescopes
  • Review of celestial coordinate systems and time
  • Sky simulation software
  • Locating celestial objects
  • Astronomical charts, atlases, and catalogues
  • How big will the image be?
  • How long must I expose the image?
  • Properties of CCD detectors and cameras
  • The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for CCD images
  • Digital image processing techniques
  • Determination of position and brightness
  • Techniques for using color

In the process of completing the required laboratory projects and assignments you will gain experience with the following practical matters:

  • Advanced use of astronomical telescopes (locating faint objects, focusing, guiding)
  • Use of sky simulation software for Macintosh, Windows, and Unix
  • Use of CCD cameras
  • Use of image processing software for Macintosh, Windows, and Unix

 

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Projects and Assignments

There will be occasional assignments. These assignments will involve research using the internet and the library. Some assignments will involve the use of several different software packages. Some assignments will require computations.

However, the fundamental requirement for the course will be that each class participant will be expected to complete one project from each of the following categories:

  1. Wide field piggyback image project
  2. Solar system image project
  3. Telescopic star field project
  4. Telescopic non-stellar project
  5. Special independent project

 

The special independent project carries double weight. The special project may be a simple elaboration of one of the other categories of project. The special project may involve experimentation in image processing. The special project may involve the development of some computer software. The special project may be completely esthetic in nature. You should discuss your plans for your special project with the instructor as soon as possible.

I look forward to working with you and anxiously await enjoying with you the images you will obtain.

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Course Web Site

All the materials and information for this course will be available from the course web site. This material includes details about the required projects, details about other course assignments, resource materials, documentation for using observatory instrumentation, documentation for software, plus course notes.

The course web site will also be used for posting results of assignments and projects for review and comment by the instructor and by class participants. Standard online communication tools such as private email, bulletin boards, and chat will also be available.

The URL for the course web site is...

http://webct.sonoma.edu:8900/public/Astr331/index.html

 

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ggs
Jan 2000