Astronomy 203, also Physics 250
Spring 2002


New Developments in Experimental Astrophysics: From the Most Sensitive Detectors to the Highest Spatial Resolution

Reinhard Genzel (Physics: genzel@socrates; 559 Birge; 2-2793)
Donald Backer (Astronomy: dbacker@astro; 415 Campbell; 2-5128)


The past decade has seen a revolution in our understanding of the Universe. Observations have uncovered planets around nearby stars, have proven the existence of massive black holes, have discovered forming galaxies only a few billion years after the Big Bang, and have determined the cosmological parameters of the Universe. This progress has largely come about as a result of ever better astronomical instrumentation. Motivated by these discoveries, the course will explain the physical concepts and techniques underlying (present and future) modern experiments, mainly in infrared, submillimeter and radio astronomy. The course will combine class-room teaching of the basic principles, with student seminars, and with practical projects in the laboratory and at the telescope, intended to give students hands on experience.

Lecture times: 3hrs per week, TBA

Approximate Outline:

Weeks 1-3: Sensitive detection of infrared and radio radiation

basics of signals and noise, fundamental limits of radiation detection, photon, thermal and wave detectors, multiplexed detector arrays, propagation of light from source to detector: geometrical/physical optics, diffraction limit, adaptive optics, radiative transport in Earth atmosphere.

Weeks 4-5: Practical experience with IR/radio detection

options include working with a state of the art, infrared array camera at UCBs Leuschner Observatory, and observing with the UCB/SETI Institute Rapid Prototyping Array (RPA).

Weeks 6-8: Spectroscopy

correlators and acousto-optical devices, gratings and Fabry-Perots, Fourier spectrometers, energy resolving detectors.

Weeks 9-10: Practical experience with spectroscopy

options include again working with RPA, with a grism spectrometer to be placed inside the IR camera at the Leuschner Observatory, and analyzing spectroscopic data recently obtained with the 10m-Keck telescope in Hawaii, and/or with the 8m-telescopes of the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile. RESULTS!

Week 11-13: Spatial interferometry

principles of spatial interferometry and aperture synthesis, radio interferometry, VLBI, mm/submillimeter interferometry, infrared/optical interferometry.

Week 14-15: Practical experience with interferometry

options include MIRIAD simulations, the RPA, and conducting a short experiment with the Very Large Array (New Mexico) or the BIMA (California) millimeter array. MORE RESULTS!!

Lena, Lebrun & Mignard: Observational Astrophysics (2nd ed.Springer, 1998)
Rieke, Visnovsky & Swarthout: Detection of light (Cambridge Univ.Press, 1996)
Rohlfs & Wilson: Tools of Radio Astronomy (3rd edition, Springer 2000)
see also notes and references from Spring 2001 Astro 203.

upper level undergraduate electromagnetism and quantum mechanics,
introductory astronomy and radio astronomy.