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ASTR 700 – Radio Astronomy

Instructor: Dr. Duncan Lorimer

Contact details:

Overview: Fifty years ago, most astronomical observations were made at optical wavelengths. Today, using a wide variety of telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum, astronomers are making dramatic advances in our understanding of the nature of the Universe. The aim of this course is to introduce students to the art of astronomical observations carried out at radio wavelengths. Emphasis will be placed on sources of and mechanisms for radio emission and single-dish observational techniques.

Textbooks: We shall be covering selected material from Essential Radio Astronomy (ERA; Condon & Ransom), a freely available web-based resource ( containing extensive notes, images and example problems. Students are strongly advised to read the relevant sections of the website ahead of time. Further information and background reading can be found in Tools of radio astronomy (Rohlfs & Wilson) and An introduction to radio astronomy (Burke & Smith), though neither of these are required. All additional material will be handed out in class.

Homework: Six assignments will be distributed during the semester, each counting 5% towards your final grade. Assignments will mostly consist of analytical derivations and applications of formulae and concepts introduced during the lectures. Full details on what is expected of you will be given in the homework handouts. Late submission of homeworks will not be accepted.

Projects: Three data analysis projects will be assigned during the middle of the semester. One on HII regions, one on pulsars and one on HI. Each project is worth 10% and you are expected to write up your analysis in the style of an ApJ paper. Full details will be given about each project in class.

Exams: An in-class midterm exam, based on material covered in the first part of the course will be given on February 29. The format of this test will be short conceptual questions and a few short proofs. A comprehensive take-home final exam will be assigned at our final class meeting (April 27). The format of this exam will be several longer questions as well as short conceptual questions.

Grading: The breakdown of the assessment will be as follows: Homeworks (30%); Projects (30%); (Midterm (20%); Final exam (20%). Students will obtain an A grade for a score of 80% or higher, a B in the range 70%-79%, a C in the range 60%-69% and a D in the range 45%-59%.

Social justice statement: I aim to maintain a positive learning environment based upon open communication, mutual respect, and non-discrimination. Our University does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, veterans status, religion, sexual orientation, color or national origin. I welcome any suggestions as to how to further such a positive and open environment in this class.

Academic dishonesty statement: It is assumed that you will follow the University’s policies on academic honesty during this course. Students found engaging in plagarism, cheating or forgery during any assignment or test will be subject to the conduct code policies of the University which can be found on-line at