[Virginia Tech Department of Physics]

Some Results from the Spring 2008 Semester of PHYS 3154 Observational Astrophysics


The following images were taken by students in PHYS 3154 Observational Astrophysics during the Spring semester of 2008 using the 14-inch Telescope.

A view of the 14-inch Telescope and astronomer Ryan Hubbard. (Or is it Edwin Hubble? See insert, in upper-left corner.)

Linearity curve for the ST-8E CCD camera in 2x2 binning
Linearity curve for the ST-8E CCD camera in 2x2 binning, as determined by James Dowd, Jessica Gorzo, Ryan Hubbard, and Angelle Stromeyer. Note that the linear response of the CCD breaks down for pixel values above approximately 35,000 ADU. These data were obtained by taking dome flats of differing exposure time, determining the mean pixel value in a 31x31 box centered on the image, and subtracting a value of 100 (the bias value automatically added in by CCDSoft). Two trials are plotted. The straight line is a fit to the three points with lowest pixel values in Trial 1.

Orion Nebula (M42) Color Image
Color image of M42 taken by Marcus Harold, Trevor Kuether, and Brandon Nipper. Note the color differential across the nebula.

Images of Asteroid (3554) Amun
Three successive images of the Near Earth Object (3554) Amun, taken by Amanda Chou, Chris Grimm, Parke Loyd, and Tarish Smith. Each image was a 60 second exposure, with north up and east to the left; the images were taken 30 minutes apart. Interesting fact about this asteroid: it appears to be a metallic object, which, if it were mined, would have an estimated value of 20 trillion dollars (John Lewis, "Mining the Sky").


Students made observations of the locations of asteroids for reports to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Minor Planet Center. The asteroids observed were (3554) Amun and (704) Interamnia.


Students collaborated with astronomers in France and Spain on continuing observations of the variable star BL Cam.


At the end of the semester each student gave an oral presentation on a project they worked on during the semester. The presentations are listed below.
  1. Amanda Chou "Extra-Solar Planet Transits"
  2. James Dowd "Linearity Study of the Dynamic Range of a CCD"
  3. Jessica Gorzo "Observing the Periodicity of BL Camelopardalis"
  4. Chris Grimm "Asteroids: Friendly Visitor or Harbinger of Death?"
  5. Marcus Harold "Astrometry"
  6. Ryan Hubbard "CCD Imaging the Universe"
  7. Trevor Kuether "Random Spatial Observing in the Hunt for Asteroids"
  8. Parke Loyd "55 Cancri's Zit"
  9. Brandon Nipper "The Search for Asteroids"
  10. Tarish Smith "Imaging Asteroids Interamnia and Amun"
  11. Angelle Stromeyer "Observing Asteroids Using Basic Astrometry Techniques"

To PHYS 3154 webpage