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PHY2204 Astronomical Techniques

Semester 1, 2021 Online
Short Description: Astronomical Techniques
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences
School or Department : School of Sciences
Student contribution band : Band 2
ASCED code : 010303 - Astronomy
Grading basis : Graded


Examiner: Duncan Wright


Pre-requisite: PHY1104 and PHY1911

Other requisites

It is recommended that students first complete 1st level Astronomy courses prior to study. It is assumed that students will have mathematical skills that are equivalent to MAT1102 Algebra and Calculus I.


This course forms a core coursework component for the Bachelor of Science (Astronomical and Space Sciences). The course provides an in-depth introduction to observational astronomy, and the physical concepts and measurements used to understand a broad range of topics in modern astrophysics and uses assignments to develop more general knowledge and skills relating to physical measurements.


This course introduces the science, techniques and technology of observational astronomy and astrophysics. Topics include astronomical observing, astrometry, photometry, spectroscopy, telescopes, optics, detectors and data analysis. Additional topics develop technical skills through the use of assignments. Data obtained from USQ's Mt Kent Observatory is made available to students enrolled in this course, to provide an opportunity for learning practical skills used in astronomical and space sciences.


On completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. Explain key concepts relating to astronomical techniques
  2. Apply quantitative methods to evaluate astronomical techniques
  3. Analyse qualitative and quantitative data in astronomical techniques
  4. Examine and assess the practicalities of observational astronomy, telescopes and instrumentation
  5. Review and report technical information regarding astronomical instruments


Description Weighting(%)
1. Key concepts in astronomical techniques 20.00
2. Presenting scientific results using astronomical techniques 15.00
3. Comparing theory with practical astronomical techniques 13.00
4. Communicating technical information regarding observations and instruments 13.00
5. Astronomical Observing 13.00
6. Observational Techniques 13.00
7. Telescopes 13.00

Text and materials required to be purchased or accessed

ALL textbooks and materials available to be purchased can be sourced from USQ's Online Bookshop (unless otherwise stated). (

Please contact us for alternative purchase options from USQ Bookshop. (

Carroll, B W. & Ostlie, D A 2014, An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics New International Edition, 2nd edn, Pearson Education Limited, Essex UK.
(ISBN 13: 978-1-292-02293-2) (

Reference materials

Reference materials are materials that, if accessed by students, may improve their knowledge and understanding of the material in the course and enrich their learning experience.
Barbara Ryden and Bradley M Peterson 2009, Foundations of Astrophysics, 1st edn, Pearson Education/Addison Wesley, Cummings, USA.
(ISBN: 978-0-321-59558-4) (
Bennett, J, Donahue, M, Schneider, N & Voit, M 2020, The Cosmic Perspective with Mastering Astronomy, 9th edn, Pearson Higher Education, USA.
Berry, R and Burnell, J 2005, The Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing, 2nd edn, WillmanBell.
(ISBN: 0943396824. Includes AIP4WIN 2.0 Software.)
Freedman & Kaufmann 2019, Universe, 11th edn, W H Freeman & Co, New York.
(ISBN 0716795647) (
Roy, A. E. and Clarke, D 2003, Astronomy: Principles and Practice, 4th edn, Institute of Physics Publishing.
(ISBN: 0750309172.)
Smith, Robert c 1995, Observational Astrophysics, Cambridge University Press.

Student workload expectations

Activity Hours
Assessments 26.00
Directed Study 24.00
Online Discussion Board 24.00
Online Lectures 24.00
Online Tutorials 24.00
Private Study 48.00

Assessment details

Description Marks out of Wtg (%) Due Date Notes
Assessment 1 20 20 22 Apr 2021
Assessment 2 20 20 21 May 2021
Open Examination - Online 60 60 End S1 (see note 1)

  1. This will be an online exam. Students will be provided further instruction regarding the exam by their course examiner via StudyDesk. The examination date will be available via UConnect when the Alternate Assessment Schedule has been released.

Important assessment information

  1. Attendance requirements:
    There are no attendance requirements for this course. However, it is the students' responsibility to study all material provided to them or required to be accessed by them to maximise their chance of meeting the objectives of the course and to be informed of course-related activities and administration.

  2. Requirements for students to complete each assessment item satisfactorily:
    To satisfactorily complete an assessment item a student must achieve at least 50% of the marks available.

  3. Penalties for late submission of required work:
    Students should refer to the Assessment Procedure (point 4.2.4)

  4. Requirements for student to be awarded a passing grade in the course:
    Due to COVID-19 the requirements for S1 2021 are:
    To be assured of receiving a passing grade a student must achieve at least 50% of the total weighted marks available for the course.

    Requirements after S1 2021:
    To be assured of receiving a passing grade a student must obtain at least 50% of the total weighted marks available for the course (i.e. the Primary Hurdle), and have satisfied the Secondary Hurdle (Supervised), i.e. the end of semester examination by achieving at least 40% of the weighted marks available for that assessment item.

    Supplementary assessment may be offered where a student has undertaken all of the required summative assessment items and has passed the Primary Hurdle but failed to satisfy the Secondary Hurdle (Supervised), or has satisfied the Secondary Hurdle (Supervised) but failed to achieve a passing Final Grade by 5% or less of the total weighted Marks.

    To be awarded a passing grade for a supplementary assessment item (if applicable), a student must achieve at least 50% of the available marks for the supplementary assessment item as per the Assessment Procedure (point 4.4.2).

  5. Method used to combine assessment results to attain final grade:
    The final grades for students will be assigned on the basis of the aggregate of the weighted marks obtained for each of the summative assessment items in the course.

  6. Examination information:
    Due to COVID-19 the requirements for S1 2021 are:
    An Open Examination is one in which candidates may have access to any printed or written material and a calculator during the examination.

    Requirements after S1 2021:
    Candidates are allowed access only to specific materials during a Restricted Examination. The only materials that candidates may use in the restricted examination for this course are:
    1. writing materials (non-electronic and free from material which could give the student an unfair advantage in the examination)
    2. calculators which cannot hold textual information (students must indicate on their examination paper the make and model of any calculator(s) they use during the examination).
    3. Students may take an appropriate unmarked non-electronic translation dictionary (but not technical dictionary) into the examination. Dictionaries with any handwritten notes will not be permitted. Translation dictionaries will be subject to perusal and may be removed from the candidate's possession until appropriate disciplinary action is completed if found to contain material that could give the candidate an unfair advantage.

  7. Examination period when Deferred/Supplementary examinations will be held:
    Normally Deferred and Supplementary Examinations are held in the next Examination period. In S1 2021 selected courses will pilot an early Deferred and Supplementary Examination period held within 30 business days of results release. The list of courses involved can be found at

  8. University Student Policies:
    Students should read the USQ policies: Definitions, Assessment and Student Academic Misconduct to avoid actions which might contravene University policies and practices. These policies can be found at

Assessment notes

  1. Harvard (AGPS) is the referencing system required in this course. Students should use Harvard (AGPS) style in their assignments to format details of the information sources they have cited in their work. The Harvard (AGPS) style to be used is defined by the USQ Library's referencing guide.

Evaluation and benchmarking

In meeting the University’s aims to establish quality learning and teaching for all programs, this course monitors and ensures quality assurance and improvements in at least two ways. This course:
1. conforms to the USQ Policy on Evaluation of Teaching, Courses and Programs to ensure ongoing monitoring and systematic improvement.
2. forms part of the Bachelor of Science (Astronomy and Space Sciences) and the Bachelor of Science (Physical Sciences) and will be benchmarked against the professional accreditation standards of the Australian Institute of Physics.

Other requirements

  1. Students will require access to e-mail and internet access to UConnect for this course.

Date printed 18 June 2021