AST 6725 - Prof. Eikenberry
Observational Techniques for Astronomy
Syllabus for Fall 2017

vInstructor:  Prof. Stephen Eikenberry
vWeb site:
vText:  Astrophysical  Techniques by C. R. Kitchin, 5th Edition.  CRC Press

Class meetings:    Tues 7 (1:55-2:45 PM)
                                 Thurs 5PM-10PM

Office hours:            By appointment

Course Teaching Assistant:  Amanda Townsend
Office Hours:                            By appointment

This course is primarily intended for PhD students in astronomy and astrophysics, and will provide a detailed introduction into the techniques used in modern observational astrophysics.  The primary focus of the course will be on electromagnetic observations, with particular emphasis on optical/infrared ground-based observations, though we will cover the full EM spectrum as well as multi-messenger astrophysics (including particle astrophysics and gravitational wave astrophysics).

vCourse goals:

The goal of this course is to provide a foundation in observational techniques both for the student who intends to become an observational astronomer as well as for the student who must use observations and analyses carried out by others and who must therefore be able to judge their quality and validity.

What we'll cover:
1. Detectors
2. Optical/IR Imaging
3. Optical/IR Spectroscopy
4. Radio Observations
5. High Energy Observations
6. Other Topics (multi-messenger, adaptive optics, interferometry)



1. Assigned reading prior to class
2. Homework, Class Participation, & In-class “Pop” Quizzes (20% of final grade)
        Homework is occasional, as-needed (3-4 per semester).
        Quizzes are short and easy (4-5 per semester).
3. CCD Lab Report (10% of final grade)
4. Observing Projects (50% of final grade)
5. Observing Proposal Exercise  (20% of final grade)

Observing Projects
Each student with one or more partners, will carry out two observational programs with the CCD imagers/spectrograph at either the Rosemary Hill Observatory (RHO) 30-inch reflecting telescope located about 30 miles southwest of UF near the town of Bronson, or the 14-inch Campus Teaching Observatory (CTO) telescope. A project report on each program will be due the last day of class.  

As noted above, the reports count for one-half of the course grade, so start your planning and observing early in the semester. A detailed description of the project requirements and procedures will be provided early in the semester. The course graduate teaching assistant Amanda Townsend will oversee the observing projects. You will work as teams, but your project and report must reflect your own work

Observing Proposal to a Major Observatory: 
Each student must write a request for observing time at a major observatory (e.g., GTC, Gemini, Keck, IRTF, ALMA, HST, etc.). You will need to obtain the appropriate application forms from the observatory website and explore the observatory’s available instrumentation complement. You must carry out the detailed analysis that justifies the requested observing time; i.e., familiarize yourself with the pertinent instrumentation and performance characteristics, which must be reflected in the observing proposal. A realistic science justification must be presented, although it will not be necessary to submit the proposal to the observatory. For those of you who have already prepared proposals for observatories, you must choose an observatory for which you have not previously prepared proposals. Be adventurous.

Lecture Schedule (subject to updates!)

Lecture Notes


Given the above scoring (total of 100 points), the following grades will be assigned:

Grade        Minimum Score
A                    93
A-                 90
B+                87
B                    83
B-                 80
C+               77
C                   73
C-                70
D+               67
D                 63
D-                60

Note that I reserve the right to "curve" scores up, if I determine that the class score distribution indicates a mismatch between performance and my expectations.  This can ONLY improve your numerical score and corresponding letter grade -- I will never apply a curve to reduce a student's score below the raw score.

UF's grading policy, including calculation of grade points and GPA is available at

Contact Info:

Prof. Stephen Eikenberry
404 Bryant Space Science Center


Policy Items:

Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with the Dean of Students Office. The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to the Instructor when requesting accommodation.

Make-ups for missed exams, quizzes, or other items will be provided ONLY with written medical excuse from licensed medical professionals or for official University activities with written excuse from appropriate UF personnel (i.e. UF athletic team coach, UF professor, etc.).  Without such an excuse, any missed exams, quizzes, or other work will be given a grade of ZERO.  This includes in-class pop quizzes, which are unannounced.

I do not normally take attendance in class, but students are responsible for any material covered which they missed.  Also, see above regarding missed graded assignments.

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© S. Eikenberry, Gainesville, FL 32611; (352) 294-1833