Required: You must purchase the following notebook (no substitutes)

43-591 National Brand Laboratory Notebook

5 x 5 Quad Ruled - 8.5" x 11" - Black Hard Cover

Time: Wed. 6-9 pm (plus other clear nights)
Room: 101 Tiernan Hall
Prof. Dale E. Gary

Office: Tiernan 101
Office Hours: W 2:00-4:00 pm

Phone: (973) 642-7878


Course Web Page:

  • Readings: Read over the lab assignment before the corresponding class period.
  • Lab Notebooks: The procedure for each lab is described in the lab assignment.  You must keep a lab notebook containing your notes while you take and analyze your data.  The only acceptable notebook is the one listed above (click on the link to go to the page). These will be turned in with each lab report.  Lab reports, written in Word or some similar word processor, are the final product of each lab assignment, and must be prepared as a separate document, well illustrated and explained.  Neatness and thoroughness counts!
  • Grades: The course grade will be based on your lab notebooks (30%), lab reports (50%), attendance and class participation (20%). The grading breakdown is as follows:
  • 85-100 % A
    80-84% B+


    65-69% C+
    55-64% C
    50-54% D
    0-49% F
  • Observing Sessions: Attendance is required every Wednesday night (the weekly lecture/demonstration and observing session, cloudy or clear).  Missing, without a doctor's excuse, a Wednesday night on which observing is possible will result in a 5% drop in your grade. All observing sessions are at the observatory on the roof of Faculty Hall. Keep in mind that we may have to move the observing night to a different night due to weather.
  • Due Dates: The due dates for the assignments are shown below.  You are expected to complete the labs on these dates.  If you have a legitimate excuse for not getting the lab done on time (i.e. equipment or weather not cooperating), seek permission to turn it in late from Prof. Gary.  A late lab without express permission will receive only half credit. Bad weather is NOT an excuse if it is clear on Tuesday/Thursday. In the case of a run of bad weather, you will be supplied with data taken by the instructor on an earlier date, so that lab due dates need not be missed.
  • Final Project: The "final exam" will consist of a final imaging project to be done at UACNJ (, Jenny Jump State Forest. The final project will count as two labs. The observations will be done in an overnight session some time during finals week (or just before).
  • Academic Integrity: NJIT has an honor code (see that you are all expected to apply rigorously to your conduct in this course. All work that you submit must be your own. All written words and ideas must be your own, unless cited (and using quotes where appropriate). All books, web materials, or other sources that you consult must be included in a bibliography at the end of your report. Any violations will be reported to the Dean of Students.

  • The table below shows the schedule of due dates for the 6 lab assignments and final project for Spring, 2017.
    Click on the links in the table to download the PDF version of the lab assignment.

    Lab Number and Title
    Reading Assignment
    Assignment Date
    Due Date

    Lab 1: Learning the System

    Sample lab report uncertainties

    • Learn Aladin web interface
    • Learn to point the telescope (Cartes du Ciel)
    • Learn to operate the camera (MaxIm DL) and focus (Focusmax)
    • Learn basics of astrometry (

    Lecture 1 (of Phys 321)

    Lecture 2 (of Phys 321)

    Wednesday 01/18 Wednesday 02/08
    Lab 2: CCD Digital Imaging

    Python Tutorial

    • Learn about CCD cameras
    • Learn calibration procedures (bias and dark frames)
    • Learn Python image analysis
    • Learn about signal to noise ratio and photon statistics
      Wednesday 02/01 Wednesday 02/22

    Lab 3:Imaging Asteroids

    • Precision astrometry and photometry of moving objects
    • Learn to obtain minor planet center information
    • Calibration (including flats), combining, and aligning of CCD images
    • Finding moving objects with Astrometrica.
    • Create minor planet center report
      Wednesday 02/15 Wednesday 03/08
    Lab 4: Eclipsing Binary Stars
    • Planning observations
    • Precision photometry
    • Obtaining light curves
    • Epoch fitting
    • Binary star analysis
      Wednesday 03/08 Wednesday 04/05
    Lab 5: Spectroscopy
    • Basics of spectroscopy
    • Laboratory measurement and calibration of spectral data
    • Taking astronomical spectra
    • Stellar classification, physical properties
      Wednesday 03/29 Wednesday 04/19

    Student Choice Lab, choose one

    Lab 6: Solar H-alpha Imaging, Lunar Imaging, Planetary Imaging, Star Color Photometry

    • Planning observations
    • Learning new software
    • Taking appropriate images for the purpose
    • Calibration, combining, enhancement of images
    • Quantitative analysis of data
      Wednesday 04/12 Tuesday 05/02

    Final Project: Make a true-color deep sky image

    2006 Student Images
    2008 Student Images

    • Observe from a dark sky site (
    • Choose your own object to image
    • Take images in multiple color filters
    • Learn to combine LRGB filters to a single color image.
      Wednesday 04/26 Wednesday 05/10

    Useful Links:

    Data Repository
    Click above for access to your data

    New Jersey Clear Sky Clocks Find out a day or so in advance what the weather will be like for observing.
    Moon Phases Check out whether the Moon will be a problem for your observations.
    Moon Map A detailed map of the Moon, with longitude and latitude lines.
    Minor Planet Center Many links for asteroid observation.
    Calsky Check out where planets and moons are, and what they look like on any date.
    Astronomy Picture of the Day Just a nice picture, often of current interest.
    Messier Object List The list of Messier Deep Sky Objects (clusters, nebulae, galaxies)
    New General Catalog List See images of all of the NGC objects.
    CCD University Learn details about CCDs and their use for Astronomy from Apogee Instruments

    Last Update: 2017 Jan 13