Physics 3399
Observational Astronomy

May Term

Dr. Richard Thompson 

S110, 793-3875


This course presents an in-depth introduction to ground-based astronomy. The first week of the course will cover basic principles of optical astronomy, the astrophysics of interacting binary star systems and quasars, and the fundamentals of image processing and analysis software. The second week will consist of observations utilizing the National Undergraduate Research Observatory , a research telescope on Anderson Mesa outside of Flagstaff, AZ .


Thomas Grimstad Huntin' for Asteroids

Thomas Grimstad Filling the Camera Dewar with Liquid Nitrogen


Dr. T. with Ronda Henry, Weldon Bailey, and Jason Mosley

At the observatory, students will be in control of a fully computerized telescope, utilizing state-of-the-art computer software and electronic imaging detectors.

While in Flagstaff, excursions to nearby attractions such as Walnut Canyon National Monument (site of some of the best preserved cliff dwelling ruins in the country), historic Lowell Observatory (home of the telescope used to discover Pluto), and the Grand Canyon will be possible.


May Term Students at the Grand Canyon, May 1999


San Francisco Peaks North of Flagstaff


Dr. T. Hard at Work in Telescope Control Room

The third week of the course will be spent back at McMurry reducing and analyzing the data taken in Flagstaff. It is entirely possible that projects begun as part of this course could turn into long-term independent student research projects...

Students of all majors are welcome to take this course and those interested are encouraged to talk with Dr. Thompson well before the enrollment period.  Students must have the permission of the instructor in order to enroll.  Though there are no formal prerequisites, it is strongly suggested that students have successfully completed at least one laboratory science course.  Due to space constraints at the observatory, the enrollment for this course must be limited to six students. An additional fee of approximately $550 will be required to cover airfare (Abilene to Phoenix), rental van (Phoenix to Flagstaff), and lodging in Flagstaff. Students will also be responsible for their meals while in Flagstaff.

This course will not satisfy the general education laboratory science requirement.

For more information, please see here

Page Prepared by Richard J. Thompson, Jr