Physics 134 – Observational Astrophysics – Fall 2019

Meeting time: TTh 11-12:15 in 5223 Broida

Prof Philip Lubin

Office – 2015 C Broida

Office hours: Thur 5-6 PM in Broida 3302

Class contact email address –

TA: Ari Kaplan

Office Hours: MW 5-7PM Broida 5223



Instructional Lab Coordinator: Jeremy Badger –


Useful Free Programs:

DS9 – Astronomical Image Processing

FITS Liberator – turns FITS files into common image formats

GIMP – Similar to Photoshop


Useful textbook:

An Introduction to Observational Astrophysics – Mark Gallaway – Springer 2016

Available on Amazon as paperback and eBook

Useful paper with comparison of ground and space detection – oriented towards SETI but applicable to all observing:

“The Search for Directed Intelligence”

REACH – Reviews in Human Space Exploration – Vol 1, 20-45, March 2016


Astronomy Picture of the Day


Hubble Space Telescope Legacy Database – HST FITS Images and spectra


Aladin Lite Sky Atlas


Simbad Database

Example search for SDSS 20J091557.78:


Exoplanet Transit Database for Occultation


Asteroids and Comets


Supernova Databases

Latest supernovae by Rochester Astronomy at Purdue University:


Transient Name Server – generally useful for searching known transients

Example for SN 2019slu


Weekly papers – Each week a paper on a topic of your interest in observational astrophysics is due Thur by 5 PM. Please in the Phys 134 HW box.

Homework – HW will be assigned as needed. Place in Physics 134 HW box.

HW 1 – Due Oct 15 Physics 134 HW 1-a

HW 2 – Due Oct 25 – bbColors (see below)


Final Exam

Wed Dec 11  from 12-3 PM – Each group will present a 20 minute talk summarizing all of all of their work. Split the time , as usual, between each team member to allow everyone to speak.

Introduce the project(s) with some background as to what you are doing and why it is important and what the larger context in astronomy is for this subject.

Final Research Paper – Have ready by the final and place in your folder under a sub directory call “Final Research Paper”. The paper should be about 20 pages long and should include the following sections:

  • Introduction and theory of project
  • Historical background
  • Larger context of importance of the research
  • Data collection including any problems you had
  • Summary images of your data (all your good data (images, plots, code etc)) should be placed in dir with the paper under a sub (sub) dir “Data”
  • Data analysis including plots
  • Error analysis as appropriate
  • Summary and conclusions including what you would do next time if you were to do it “all over again”


Class Gmail account:

User: ucsb.physics134

Pass: given in class

Stellarium – – this is very useful in planning your observations.


Events and Links

Physics Department Colloquium: Tuesdays at 4:00 in Broida 1640

Astro Colloquium: Thur 2:45-3:45 in Broida 3302

LCOGT Colloq usually Thur 3:30-4:30 at the LCOGT facility – BUT van to colloq leaves from Physics lot at 3:15 and you must sign up to get room on the van. Van returns you to Broida after talk.

Physics Dept Colloq schedule

Astro web event schedule

LCOGT Colloq Schedule (must sign up for van)

KITP Schedule

LCOGT – Las Cumbres Observatory

Sedgwick LCOGT Observatory

Sedgwick Weather log

LCO – Exposure Time Calculator

LCO – Visibility Tool 

LCO – Instruments

LCO – Filters


Available filters on 0.4m LCO telescopes:

  • Bessel-B
  • Bessel-V
  • Clear
  • PanSTARRS-w
  • SDSS-gp
  • SDSS-ip
  • SDSS-rp
  • SDSS-up



Mandatory Assignments and Presentations

As usual, you should have completed your short paper on something of interest by 5:00 each Thursday

and submitted it in the class drive. Additionally, there is  an exercise involving blackbodies and color
indices. Have your code file and results for this assignment
directory) by Midnight on Friday 10/25

Blackbody and Color temperature exercise is here:



We will also be having a few concluding assignments regarding your projects. As a reminder, you
should have two or three science-oriented observing projects and no more than one astrophotography
(pretty picture) project (three projects in all). Each student (or pair, if it
is a group project) will give a 5 minute presentation on ONE of his/her SCIENCE projects.
 This is not


Also, you need to complete a written (typed) report of all three of your observing projects by 5:00 on
the Friday of finals week


If you are confused about parts of this, please contact your professor or the TA. If you are lost, please let
us know sooner rather than later.


Ongoing Information

Class Notes

The most up to date version of the class notes (different than the observation instructions, below)
can be found below. Copies should be available on the class drive, but they cannot be guaranteed
to be up to date.

Class Notes available here:

134-Notes – 10-19



Aperture Photometry Notes:

CH6 – Aperture Photometry


Astroart Labs

To do the Astroart Labs, follow the tutorial given here. You should be able to do labs 1-3,5, and 6,
but please do check out the others and read what they have to say. A few of the commands
mentioned have been deprecated since this was made, but you should be able to find your way
around anyway. The images needed are present in the Astroart Labs directory on the class drive.
If they are corrupted, you can recreate them with the zipped files present.


Observing with LCOGT’s BOS Telescope

See the quick guide linked below. After your observation is made, the relevant FITS files will be put
on to the class dropbox account (same login information as the Google account). Simply download
your files to your directory on the class drive and begin working with them as you please.

Observation Instructions

To add an observation, click on the “Google Calendar” button, log in on the class gmail account,
and make your edits there. Be careful not to disturb other observations!