ASP3231 - Observational astronomy - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

School of Physics and Astronomy

Chief examiner(s)

Associate Professor Michael Brown


Associate Professor Michael Brown

Unit guides



  • First semester 2019 (On-campus)


One of ASP2011, PHS2011, PHS2022, PHS2061, PHS2062 or PHS2081.


This unit gives students theoretical background and practical experience in modern observational astronomy. ASP3231 students study telescope optics, spectroscopy, CCD imaging, image processing, statistics, astronomical distances, stellar evolution, extrasolar planets, neutron stars and galaxies. An observational project, including an astronomical observing session and analysis of the observations, comprises a substantial component of ASP3231.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Explain and understand the concepts taught in the unit, including astronomical instrumentation, data processing, photometry and spectroscopy;
  2. Describe how we observe celestial objects across the electromagnetic spectrum and how these observations are used to understand the nature of celestial objects;
  3. Evaluate the accuracy of astronomical instrumentation and observations, including angular resolution, spectroscopic resolution and photometric precision;
  4. Apply their knowledge to execute an observing program and use astronomical imaging to understand the nature of a celestial object;
  5. Present and communicate the results of an astronomical observing program.


Examination (2 hours): 40%

Laboratory: 15%

Project: 35%

Assignments: 10%

Hurdle requirement: Students must achieve a pass mark in the laboratory/project component to achieve an overall pass grade.

Workload requirements

The workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours spread across the semester (roughly 12 hours per week) - approximately an even mixture of attendance at scheduled activities and self-scheduled study time. Learning activities comprise a mixture of instructor directed, peer directed and self-directed learning, which includes face-to-face and online engagement.

Note: the unit includes a commitment of 3-5 hours of astronomical observing after hours (evening) using our facilities on Martin St, with the exact timing being weather dependent.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study