Creative Commons License Copyright © Michael Richmond. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Introduction to Ast Obs Tech Inst

The goal of this course is to introduce students to the very wide range of methods by which astronomers can measure the properties of objects beyond the Earth's atmosphere. This is a survey course, meaning that we will touch on many topics, but cover very few -- perhaps none -- in much depth.

One might describe the course as focusing on several closely related issues:

The messengers
You may have heard of "multi-messenger astronomy", a phrase which has become somewhat common recently, due in large part to the influence of LIGO. Although the great majority of astronomers still rely on good ol' electromagnetic waves to get their information, we now do have additional options:

              Q:  How many "messengers" can you name?  


The sources
What are the sources of these different messengers from space? As we discuss each type of signal, we will talk about the objects in space which provide the strongest sources. We won't go into great detail, but I hope to provide enough information that you will be able to figure out which observational method might be best for any particular sort of object.

              Q:  What sort of sources are the most likely
                    candidates for each type of messenger?

                    (Just for fun now)


The detectors
How can we actually detect each type of messenger? What is the technology (or technologies) best suited to each? This may involve some physics and/or engineering.

My plan is to touch lightly on most types of detector, in part because our time is limited, but also in part because I'm certainly no expert in most of them. We will go into a bit of detail on optical detectors, simply because they are used widely to study all sorts of objects, and because I know something about them.

The techniques
Hand-in-hand with the physical objects used to detect messengers from space are the methods by which these objects are placed in the right locations; for example, the world's best X-ray spectrograph won't do much good sitting in an observatory on the Earth's surface.

In addition, for a subset of our regimes, I'll try to describe some of the data reduction techniques. This is not the right course to take if you are interested in gaining a working knowledge of, say, optical CCD-based photometry, but it will at least introduce some ideas and basic concepts.

A topical example: the Gravitational Wave source in NGC 4993

Let's look at an event which has been in the news recently -- it can show the importance of multi-messenger astronomy. You've probably heard about it.

Perhaps the best way to start our discussion is with a simple timeline:

You can find a more detailed discussion of this event in one of the later lectures

  Q:  Just how close are the positions of the gamma-ray burst
            and the optical counterpart?

      What is the expected uncertainty in position for the 
            gamma-ray burst?

  Q:  Who are the scientists who have been given time to 
            chase this object with HST?

  Q:  Did the Chandra satellite detect anything?

The one type of information which we DON'T have, at the moment, is exactly where and when the LIGO and/or VIRGO teams detected gravatational waves. And we may not have that information for some time.

(I am following many leads which appear on a blog entry for Telescoper).

Well, well, well.

  Q:  Just what might be present in the sky at the position
         to which these telescopes were pointing?

              RA   =   13:09:48   =   197.45

              Dec  =  -23:22:53   =   -23.38

There are many good tools to answer that question. A few of my favorites are:

  Q:  What about neutrinos?  Where was the IceCube observatory
         looking over the past week?

For more information

Creative Commons License Copyright © Michael Richmond. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.