Physics 134 – Observational Astrophysics – Fall 2022

Meeting time: MW 12:30-13:45 Broida 5223 Sept 26

Prof Philip Lubin

Office – 2015 C Broida

Office hours: TBD 

Class contact email address –

TA:   Jeonghwa Kim

Office Hours: TBD  – link will be sent you on Gauchospace


Learning Asst: Samuel Whitebook


Textbook: To Measure the Sky – F. Chromey – Cambridge Press – 2nd edition

Final presentations:

Tue Dec 6 from 12-3 in class


Image processing program often used in the class – PC (Win) for Mac see link below:

This AstroArt program is very useful if you plan on doing longer term work in astro image processing but it is not free. The demo (very useful) is free.

It is installed on UCSB machines in the class.

Astro Art for astronomical image processing


Running Astro Art on a Mac:


Running Astro Art image processing code remotely using UCSB machines:


Useful Free Programs:

DS9 – Astronomical Image Processing

Astro Image J – Astronomical Image Processing

FITS Liberator – turns FITS files into common image formats

GIMP – Similar to Photoshop

In The Sky – Astronomical Sky Plotter of objects

Skymaker – image simulation software

Astrometry.Net – astrometry analysis of images – identifies and locates the position of your objects


Useful textbook:

Observational Astrophysics – P. Lena

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


LCO Resources

  • Instruments

  • Exposure and SNR Calculator

  • Visibility Calculator

  • Filters

  • BANZAI – Data Processing Pipeline

  • Recent Science and Educational Research (great for ideas)

  • Spacebook – Learn Astronomy (good overview)

  • Decompressing FPacked data – converting .FZ files to .FITS


LSST – Rubin Observatory –  Science Book


Hubble Space Telescope Legacy Database – HST FITS Images and spectra


Aladin Lite Sky Atlas


Observable Asteroids and Comets and other objects


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 short paper (2 pg is fine) on a topic of your interest in observational astrophysics is due  by 5 PM Monday (except first week). Please submit PDF on GauchoSpace.

Homework – HW will be assigned as needed. Submit on GauchoSpace.

HW 1 – Due Oct 10 – Astro Art tutorials (download Astro Art demo (free) – submit one PDF  of all relevant tutorial screen shots.

HW 2 – Due Oct 17 Physics 134 HW 1-a

HW 3 – Due Oct 26 – bbColors bbColors-a (see below)


Final Exam

TBD Online  – 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 (will not be used this quarter):

User: ucsb.physics134

Pass: given in class

Class Data Server – UCSB Box (this is where your LCO images will appear and where you will put your PPTX or equivalent presentations.

Make a sub directory with your full name (first and last). DO NOT delete other peoples folders! 

with UCSB Net ID


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


Events and Links (Note that due to the current CV situation, most of these are remote and may be at different times/ days this quarter)

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

Astro Colloquium:

LCOGT Colloq (check schedule) 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

Physics Dept Colloq talk list

Astro web event schedule,  

LCOGT Colloq Schedule (must sign up for van)

KITP Schedule

LCOGT – Las Cumbres 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

]Write a short (1-2 page) paper each week on an astro topic of interest such as one of the APOD pics of the week by Monday the following week (except the first week) by 5 PM (PT).

Send papers to the class TA on GauchoSpace. TA will send you info on this.

Additionally, there is  an exercise involving blackbodies and color

Blackbody and Color temperature HW exercise is here:


Blackbody Calculator:


Observing Projects

Each student will do several observing projects. We encourage groups of students to work together. A maximum of three students per groups. Single student projects are also possible.

You should have two or three science-oriented observing projects and no more than one astrophotography
(pretty picture) project (three projects in all). Each group or student will give a 5 minute presentation on ONE of each of their projects. This is not
optional. In general this is done during class meetings.


Here is an example request form to submit to the TA, who will then submit your request to LCO and return the data to you:

Observation Request Sheet template


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 – 10-22

Aperture Photometry Notes:

CH6 – Aperture Photometry


Phys 134 Lecture1 10-20-22

Phys 134 Lecture2 10-20-22

Coordinate Systems and Time-a

Large Scale CCD and CMOS – Phys 134 – b

Keck Wide Field Imager


Center for Adaptive Optics Lectures


Astroart Labs and Tutorials

In the newer versions of AstroArt there are tutorial in the Help area under “Quick Start Tutorials”. Please use the newer version which is installed on the class computers.

Tutorial #1  Noise reduction.

Tutorial #2  Dark frame and flat field correction.

Tutorial #3  Blinking two images.

Tutorial #4  Deconvolution.

Tutorial #5  Aligning and summing images.

Tutorial #6  Trichromy and LRGB.

Tutorial #7  Image processing on comets.

Tutorial #8  Mosaic.

Tutorial #9  Astrometric and photometric reduction.

Tutorial #10  FFT.

Tutorial #11  Masks.

Tutorial #12  Camera control.

Tutorial #13  Scripts.


In the older version 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 server account. Simply upload/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!