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Durham University

Department of Physics

Astrophysics

Overview

The AstroLab is a level 3 option of the BSc/MPhys Physics degree courses (including the BSc/MPhys Physics and Astronomy course) in which students undertake projects in observational astronomy using the telescopes on the roof of the Physics building. The projects are term based and are equivalent to three laboratory sessions of three hours per week over a term. All projects are based on the assumption that observations will be obtained on at least seven evenings during the term. A typical observing session would be two hours.

students_telescope

Students

  • plan their projects.
  • make the observations.
  • reduce the data.
  • analyse the results.
  • write a report.

The overall aim of the Level 3 Laboratory Course is to allow students to build on the experience in experimental physics gained in the previous years in the Department by carrying out an advanced project and producing a scientific report. The AstroLab section offers a variety of observational astronomy projects which focus on the dynamical nature of the universe. The AstroLab objectives are

  • To appreciate the overall aim of the individual project and its wider importance.
  • To learn how to gather experimental data on the universe using a modern observatory.
  • To gain skills for the reduction and analysis of the numerical data gathered, with particular reference to finding the uncertainty on the final results.
  • To produce a scientific report of the project which describes the background, the experimental details, the data reduction, the data analysis and the final result. The report should be framed such that someone outside the laboratory itself, but with a scientific background, is able to appreciate the project and the work undertaken. Further details on the format of the report can be found on DUO.

Projects

A list of typical projects for the AstroLab are given below. Note that we regularly update our projects, so those available in a particular term may not exactly correspond to this list.

For information regarding current projects please go to: http://community.dur.ac.uk/physics.astrolab/index.html.

Safety

As well as following the general health and safety guides for level 3 laboratories, AstroLab students must also adhere to regulations regarding the use of the physics department roof. Additionally, further information regarding the use of the Astrolab facilities and Computing facilities must be observed.

A comprehensive list of procedures that must be followed in the AstroLab can be found here: http://community.dur.ac.uk/physics.astrolab/obs_notes.html.

More Information

For more information including dynamic telescope and weather data as well as other supporting material please go to: http://community.dur.ac.uk/physics.astrolab/index.html.