Radio Astronomy: Tools and Techniques

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Revision as of 13:36, 22 September 2011 by Jmcbride (talk | contribs) (broke up units in to two parts, added "general tools" section to software development for aggregation project)
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This is course is aimed at graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and interested third parties who:

  • would like to understand radio astronomy better
  • would like to develop technical skills (programming, signal processing, instrumentation, algorithms, pedagogy, etc) to help them in their research
  • would like to be involved, and involve their peers, in developing concrete tools to help their research

This class will follow a flexible, non-traditional format whereby each week, a group of students and I will work together to prepare public-domain pedagogical materials on a subject that will be distributed to the rest of the class in advance of each meeting. Class time will be split between discussing the subject informally, and working in groups to develop tools and address on-going research questions that each student brings to the class.

My hope is that this class will be moderately time-consuming, but that the tools, collaborations, and research developed inside the class will have a broad enough scope that it can double-count as research/work time. All of our activities are aimed at creating tools (both pedagogical and research-oriented) that will have value beyond the classroom.


Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of topics that we will consider covering in this class. Eventually, it would be nice to link in as many topics as possible and begin to organize subjects by their prerequisites and relatedness.


Software Development


Signal Processing / Fourier Analysis



Signal Path

Pedagogy of Radio Astronomy / Meta-Information

Science of Radio Astronomy

Topics by Date

  • Aug 31:
  • Sep 07:
    • Revision Control
    • Radiometer Equation
    • Choosing a Lab Project
    • Begin a Python project (radioastro), revision-controlled under GIT, that
      • has a convolution module ( with functions for
        • performing 1D and 2D convolutions of two provided functions
      • has a module ( with brightness-temperature/jansky conversions
        • should take beam size and wavelength as arguments
        • should predict noise levels for observations of given bandwidth, time, number of antennas, etc.
  • Sep 14:
    • Basic Interferometry
    • Discus class project: the Homemade Interferometer
    • Create some software for simulating a visibility. That is, given two antennas (with x,y,z positions in equatorial coordinates) and a source (with x,y,z also in equatorial coordinates), compute the phase that you would measure as a function of frequency.
  • Sep 21:
  • Sep 28:
  • Oct 05:
  • Oct 12:
  • Oct 19:
  • Oct 26:
  • Nov 02:
  • Nov 09:
  • Nov 16:
  • Nov 23:
  • Dec 03: