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PH30116: Data analysis and research methods for observational astronomy

[Page last updated: 15 October 2020]

Follow this link for further information on academic years Academic Year: 2020/1
Further information on owning departmentsOwning Department/School: Department of Physics
Further information on credits Credits: 6      [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Further information on notional study hours Notional Study Hours: 120
Further information on unit levels Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Further information on teaching periods Period:
Semester 1
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework (CW 100%)
Further information on supplementary assessment Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Further information on requisites Requisites: Before taking this module you must ( take PH10007 OR take MA10207 ) AND ( take PH10102 OR take PH20018 ) AND take AT LEAST 1 MODULE FROM {PH20016, PH20076, PH20106, PH20114} AND ( take PH20107 OR take MA20216 )
Description: Aims:
The aim of this unit is to introduce students to data analysis and research methods in observational astronomy. They will familiarize themselves with the areas of instrumentation, data analysis, modelling, statistical analysis, observation planning/proposal writing and presentation of scientific results. Students will learn to work independently on data analysis tasks and to assess their work and those of others critically.

Learning Outcomes:
After taking this unit, the student should be able to:
* plan and evaluate astronomical observations based on their understanding of instrumentation;
* apply data reduction techniques;
* apply basic modelling techniques;
* apply and interpret statistical tests;
* perform literature searches specific to astrophysics;
* present research result clearly in writing;
* critically assess aspects of astronomical literature;
* work independently on a research project;
* solve problems independently and in a group.

Written Communication T/F A, Numeracy T/F A, Data Acquisition, Handling, and Analysis T/F A, Information Technology T/F A, Problem Solving T/F A.

Instrumentation: Astronomical instrumentation & detectors; current facilities in astronomy; choosing the appropriate setup for a science question.
Data analysis: Astronomical data reduction (photometry); optical data reduction (bias, flatfielding, calibration); error estimation for astronomical data; implementation of techniques in Python.
Modelling: Introduction to modelling; fitting techniques (least squares, ML); model comparison); implementation of modelling techniques in Python.
Interpretation: Selection effects; combining datasets.
Proposals: Observation planning; proposal writing.
Presentation: Astronomical literature search and standards; publication processes.
Further information on programme availabilityProgramme availability:

PH30116 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Physics
  • USPH-AFB01 : BSc(Hons) Physics (Year 3)
  • USPH-AAB02 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USPH-AKB02 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • USPH-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics (Year 3)
  • USPH-AAB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USPH-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • USPH-AFM02 : MPhys(Hons) Physics (Year 3)
  • USPH-AFM04 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Research placement (Year 3)
  • USPH-AAM12 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USPH-AKM03 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Professional Placement (Year 4)
  • USPH-AKM04 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Professional and Research Placements (Year 4)
  • USPH-AFM10 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics (Year 3)
  • USPH-AFM11 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Research placement (Year 3)
  • USPH-AKM10 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Professional Placement (Year 4)
  • USPH-AKM11 : MPhys(Hons) Physics with Astrophysics with Professional and Research Placements (Year 4)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2020/21 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2021/22 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2020/21.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.