PHYS 3154
Observational Astrophysics

J. H. Simonetti
[Small Radio Telescope] [14-inch Telescope]
PHYS 3154 Observational Astrophysics: Advanced Project Menu

Menu of Possible Observing Projects

This is a list of possible observing projects students may pursue after the initial required projects. Projects with an asterisk can be pursued with the goal of contributing to astronomical knowledge. Some projects have references; these references are not meant to exhaust all the possible sources of info; try using a search engine to find more. Projects are grouped in terms of the primary observing technique used (imaging, photometry, or astrometry); some projects may actual involve more than one technique.


  1. You think of a project!*
    There are many ways to come up with an idea. Try looking through Sky and Telescope magazine, or at the Sky and Telescope website; look at their News or Observing sections for something that might be interesting to explore. Try other websites. Use your imagination and knowledge from Introduction to Astronomy or Introduction to Astrophysics. Do a follow up based on one of the required projects.

  2. Targets of Opportunity*
    This is just a general comment, not a project. AstroAlert News Service from Sky and Telescope can be used to alert you to new events for observing projects. Events/objects that could be used are: comets, extragalactic supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, minor planets, neutrino-detected supernovae, novae, variable stars. Also check out Sky and Telescope's Pro-Am Collaboration webpage for interesting ideas.


  1. Testing other image processing software
  2. Multi-band (BVRI) or color imaging (galaxies, nebulae,...) Comparing our images with professional images
  3. Computer enhancement of images
  4. Optical interferometry
    • "Cardboard Double-Star Interferometer," by Andreas Maurer, Sky and Telescope, March 1997. See the Blackboard website for this course for a pdf file copy of this article.

  5. Image mosaic(s)
  6. Imaging interstellar H-alpha emission (nebulae, other galaxies)

  7. Measuring the relative/actual distances of galaxies
  8. Imaging Recent Supernovae*
  9. Searching for new supernovae* (bit of a long shot)
  10. Satellite motion around the outer planets

  11. High-resolution, lunar/planetary imaging (A bit of a stretch since our pixels under-sample the images. But do look at...)


  1. Some detailed photometry references (not a project, but could be useful)
  2. Some potentially useful photometry sofware (not a project, but could be useful)
  3. Photometry of a variable star(s)* (individual stars, eclipsing binaries, cataclysmic binaries,...)
  4. Determining the rotation period of an asteroid(s), or other photometry of asteroids*
  5. Optical observations of Gamma Ray Burst(s)* (photometry and astrometry)
  6. Observations of the variability of an active galaxy*
  7. Observations of a supernova or nova*
  8. Transformation of BVRI measurements to standard photometric system (magnitude scale)
    • I have a hardcopy of useful (unpublished) material on this
    • The detailed photometry references at the top of this section have information on this topic

  9. Extrasolar planet transit*
  10. Photometry of a planetary satellite(s)* (e.g., Saturn's Iapetus)

  11. HR diagram of a star cluster


  1. Searching for asteroids*
  2. Observations of Critical List Asteroids, NEOs, PHAs,...*
  3. Observations of a recently discovered comet(s)* (astrometry and photometry)
  4. Determining double star separations and position angles*

Writing Your Own Software

  1. Image Reduction/Analysis
    The ImageJ software provides the opportunity for you to write your own plugins to enhance image processing, or analysis. Some reference material follows. There is much more information out there on the Web.


  1. Spectroscopy
  2. Radio astronomy using our Small Radio Telescope (SRT)
    Advanced radio projects could be hunted down by starting at the following website. A general web searches might also be useful.
  3. Artificial satellite imaging
  4. Optical SETI
    We don't currently have the equipment to do this but eventually we may.

Things that have been tried

...with varying degrees of success

  1. BVR imaging of galaxy M51
  2. BVR imaging of galaxy M81
  3. BVR imaging of Crab Nebula
  4. BVR imaging of galaxy M65
  5. BVR imaging of galaxy M82
  6. BVR imaging of galaxy NGC 2403
  7. BR imaging of M87 and its optical jet
  8. LRGB imaging of galaxy M101
  9. H-alpha, RVB imaging of the Orion Nebula
  10. Imaging the galaxy M104 (Sombrero)
  11. "Snapshot" survey of a variety of galaxies
  12. H-alpha mosaic of the Rosette Nebula
  13. Mosaic of the Moon
  14. RVB imaging of Jupiter (small image)
  15. Simple stellar spectroscopy using a diffraction grating (star in M44, others)
  16. Relative galaxy distances using the surface brightness fluctuations technique
  17. Photometric observations of a supernovae in other galaxies (variety of goups/years)
  18. Photometric observations of a binary asteroid (90 Antiope)
  19. Astrometric observations of comet P/1983U3
  20. Asteroid search (while observing a set of 7 known asteroids)
  21. Search for asteroid 1950 DA (unsuccessful)
  22. Determining the rotation period of asteroid 490 Alma (photometrically); prompted by an article in the Astronomical Journal
  23. Observations of an artificial satellite

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