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AST 3018 Observing Project

Instruction Manual
Elizabeth Lada, Amy Gottlieb, Keara Wright, Emily Moravec, Dan Li, and Francisco Reyes
Fall 2016

Contents
1

Overview

Sign Up Procedure

Observatory Info
3.1 Where and When . . . . .
3.2 Parking . . . . . . . . . .
3.3 Weather . . . . . . . . . .
3.4 Necessary Things to Bring

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Equipment
4.1 Aligning and Operating the Telescopes and Detectors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Data Acquisition
5.1 Required Items and Observations Checklist
5.2 Logbook . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.3 Test Your CCD Camera . . . . . . . . . . .
5.4 Check the Telescope Pointing and Focus . .
5.5 Take an Image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.6 Save the Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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12

Data Reduction and Analysis


6.1 Measuring the Plate Scale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.2 Using the Plate Scale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.2.1 Align Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.2.2 Combine Images . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.2.3 Data Reduction to Make LRGB/RGB Color Image of Ring Nebula .
6.3 Photometry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
6.3.1 Aperture Photometry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Overview

For this project you will conduct astronomical observations using our Campus Teaching Observatorys telescopes and CCD detectors. In order to use the telescopes, you must sign up in advance for an observing session
using the scheduler in Canvas. Observing sessions for this class will normally take place on Wednesday nights
from 8-10 pm.
At the Observatory, you will learn to:
Boot up the telescope system/computers,
Align the telescope
Acquire astronomical objects using an eyepiece
Install CCD camera on telescope and start up computer interface
Focus the telescope
Obtain imaging observations for target and calibration sources
Store images on computer and memory stick
Close down CCDs and telescopes
You will separate into 3-4 groups to take your observations. The groups will share the data taken during the
night. You need to obtain observations of Albireo (actually two stars that are different colors) and The Ring
Nebula (Messier 57 or M57). If your group observes Albireo, you will need observations of Albireo and a
standard star. If you observe M57, you will need observations of M57 and Albireo.
After you obtain your observations, you will need to reduce and analyze your data. This part of the project
should be done individually using the AIP4WIN software located on Astronomy Department computers in
Room 7 in the basement of the Bryant Space Science Building. A separate sign-up will be made available
through the scheduler in Canvas.
Finally, you must write a report describing how you obtained, reduced and analyzed your data, answering
questions posed in this Instruction Manual and summarizing your results.
Detailed instructions on how to complete this project are presented in the sections that follow.

Sign Up Procedure

All students must sign up in advance for one observing sesson using the scheduler in Canvas. The initial signup process should be completed by 5 pm on September 9, 2016. There are a limited number of observing
opportunities for our class during the semester and given our class size, this means that once you sign up, you
are committed to that time slot. If you do not attend the night that you signed up for, there may not be another
opportunity for you to participate in this project. You may switch slots with another student but should notify
Prof. Lada of any changes in the schedule, since we will take attendance at the Observatory. A limited number
of make-ups will be offered, mainly reserved for students attending sessions that were not able to obtain data
due to bad weather.

3
3.1

Observatory Info
Where and When

The Campus Teaching Observatory (CTO) is located on the UF campus, southwest of the Reitz Union
parking lot, and west of the Aerospace Engineering building. On the day of observation, you should arrive at
the CTO no later than 8:15 PM (NOTE: This will change to 8 pm later in the semester as it starts to get darker
earlier) .

Figure 1: CTO Map: The green marker is CTO and the blue box is where you CAN park.

3.2

Parking

You can park your vehicle in the Reitz Union parking lot (no decal needed after 5:00 PM). You will be ticketed
if you park in front of the CTO gate.
Remember, since the observing takes place in the evening, make sure you have a safety plan in place for
traveling to and from CTO.

3.3

Weather

Students should come to the Observatory on their scheduled night even if it is cloudy. Dont assume a session
will be canceled. You can still learn some useful information even on a cloudy night. However, if the weather
is hazardous, i.e. heavy rain, thunder & lightening, or flood, hurricane or tornado warnings, we will cancel the
session. We will notify students of any cancellations via email by 7:30 pm the night of your observations. If
in doubt, you can also call the Observatory phone 392-1016 after 7:30 for a recorded message. To monitor the
weather at the observatory go to http://www.cleardarksky.com/c/UFCTOFLkey.html.

We will try to schedule make-up sessions in the case that you are unable to obtain the required data, or in
the case of a cancellation due to bad weather. In the end, however, it may not be possible for every student to
obtain his or her own data. In these cases, we will supply you with data taken under good conditions, for you
to reduce, analyze and complete the project.

3.4

Necessary Things to Bring

- This Instruction Manual


- Notebook and pencil
- Memory stick or flash drive to store data
- Flashlight, ideally covered with a red cloth or cellophane so you can maintain dark adaption
- Bug spray or wear long clothing as the mosquitoes are ruthless!

Equipment

Telescopes
The four telescopes that will be used for the AST-3018 are:
- 14 Meade LX200, GPS
- 12 Meade LX200, GPS
- 11 Celestron GPS (Equatorial mount)
- 11 Celestron GPS, (ALT-AZ mount)
The CCD Detectors
The four cameras are:
- one ST-402 with RGBC/L filters
- two ST-402 with photometric filters (BVIC/L) filters
- one ST-8300M with a 5 position filter wheel (UBVRI photometric filters)
Note: The C filter stands for Clear. It can also be called L for Luminesence. These are the same filters.
The ST-402 CCD camera
This is some basic information about the CCD camera. The ST-402 camera was built by the Santa Barbara
Instrument Group (SBIG) Co., now this company is part of the Diffraction Limited Co. The camera has the
following specifications:
- 765 x 510 pixels CCD (390,000 total pixels), Kodak KAF-0442ME CCD
- CCD size 6.9 x 4.3 mm
- Peak Quantum Efficiency (QE) 85- Range of exposure times: 0.09 to 3600 seconds
- Filter wheel options: RGBC/L or BVIC/L (Photometric) filters (See figures rgb and bvi on Canvas under
Files, Projects, Nighttime Observing Project for filter wavelengths.)
- A/D converter: 16 bits ( 65,000 conversion steps)
- Computer interface USB 2.0
- Software to operate the camera: CCDOps

4.1

Aligning and Operating the Telescopes and Detectors

Instructions on how to align, operate/point, shut down the telescopes, how to setup and use the CCD detector
instructions are located on the next few pages.

Star Alignment of the Meade LX200 (14 and 12 telescopes)


Before you can start using the telescopes and be able to find objects and get images, they must be
aligned using two stars. Once the alignment procedure is completed, you can command the telescope
to find object in the sky and the telescope will track that objects.
Aligning the telescope using Polaris and a second star (chosen by the telescope system)
Plug in the power supply
Turn on the power strip
Turn the telescope Power switch on
You will see in the display: Welcome to Autostar
Let the telescope boot up
Once it does that, the display will show Initializing the Smart drive
The telescope will start slowly slewing in Hour angle to the west for a several seconds and
then it will stop.
When display on the remote says, Press 0 to align or Mode for Menu. Do not press 0 yet.
Use the arrow keys at the top of the paddle to slew the telescope farther west and remove the
two lids (main telescope and the finder)
Now slew the telescope to the north celestial pole. The coordinates should read:
Hour angle = 0 hours
Declination = +90 degrees
Note: Verify that the 0 hours in the Hour angle dial are aligned with the reference mark
- If you are using the 12 or 14, slide 0 to line up with the telescope tick mark then use
paddle to line the scope up with the mount
Once the telescope is pointing to the north celestial pole, press 0 in the paddle
The paddle will show Polar alignment.
Press Enter
The paddle display will display a message Taking GPS fix
After a few seconds the display will show Ctr Polaris, slewing
The telescope will slew and will try to find Polaris
The paddle will show Adjust mount
The telescope system is expecting that you will center Polaris in the eyepiece by adjusting
the mount.
Do not do any adjustment of the mount or use the paddle (You cannot see Polaris in the 14
anyways, it is blocked by the roof)
Press Enter (Ignore the Adjust mount message)
Now it will find a suitable star to complete the alignment.
The display will show Searching. It is in the process of finding a bright star not too far
from the zenith.
Once it finds the star, it will slew the telescope to the alignment star (probably Altair during
October)
The paddle will show Ctr Altair (or another star it chose)
Check and see if Altair (or any alignment star) is in the field of the eyepiece (main
telescope). If it is there, use the 4 arrows keys (at the top of the paddle) to center Altair in the
field of the eyepiece. If not in the field, take a look through the finder. Align the star in the
cross hair of the finder first and then put it in the center of the field of the eyepiece of the
main telescope.
5

If you need a faster speed, press the Speed key and one of the number keys. The larger
the number, the faster the speed. If you press 9, it will go to the maximum speed (Slew)
If you cant find the star in the finder scope, you may need to realign the finder scope. Dont
spend too much time on this. Ask your TAs for help.
Once the star is aligned, Press Enter
The display will show Alignment Successful
The display will show Press 0 for Tour or Mode for Menu
Press Mode to go to the Menu
Now you are ready to find objects
You can navigate the menu using the two arrow key (scroll keys) at the bottom of the
paddle

An example:
Press Enter to select Object
If you want to observe a planet, press Enter to select Solar System and use the bottom arrow
keys to find a planet
If you need to select a Deep sky object, press Mode and press the left arrow key (bottom of
the paddle) to find Messier object or just press the M key.
Enter the object number, press Enter, wait for a few seconds while the system finds the objects
and then press the GoTo key.
The telescope will slew to the selected object.
Take a look through the eyepiece and see if the object is there. Very likely it will be off the center.
Center the object in the field using the upper arrow keys.
Important note:
In order to find and center an object, do it with the eyepiece first. Once you have it in the center of
the eyepiece, you can remove the eyepiece and insert the CCD camera and center and focus the
object in the field of the camera
The field of view of the camera is small and you can waste a lot of time (and go to a lot of
frustration) trying to finding the object with the camera. Very likely, after you hit the GOTO button
to slew to the object, it will not show up in the field of the camera.
DO NOT try to find the object by inserting the camera and start taking images first. Do this using the
eyepiece.
After the telescope goes through the alignment procedure, it will switch automatically to a slow
speed. This speed is a good speed to center the object. If the object is too far from the center, you
may need to switch to a faster speed.

Important: In case of an emergency


If you press a key in the wrong sequence, sometimes the telescope can get confused and may start
moving around the present position or it may try to run away, slewing in the direction of either of the
two coordinates.

You can quickly stop it by turning the power switch OFF.


6

If you need to restart the alignment, it may be better to move the telescope close to the parking
position (HA= 0, Dec=+30 degrees)
Since the power is off, you can manually move it to the parking positions by unclamping the RA and
Dec clamps.

Important note: Before you unclamp the telescope, make sure you have a firm
grip on the telescope (hold it with one hand) or it may swing and move t oo fast.
You can be hit by the tube or hit somebody or the tube may be damaged if it hit s
something.
After you reach the parking position, you can clamp it, turn the power on and start the alignment
from the beginning.
Once you have completed the telescope alignment, continue to the Data Acquisition section.
To shut down the telescope:
You need to change the speed to slew and park the telescope
Press the Speed key
Press the 9 key to switch to the maximum speed.
You need to put back the lids. If the top of the scope it to high, move it lower and put back the lids.
Slew the telescope to the parking position:
Hour Angle = 0
Dec = +30 degrees.
The tube of the scope will be vertical, that is the parking position
Turn the scope power switch off
Turn the power strip switch off
Unplug the power cord.

Celestron 11 GPS star alignment


(In equatorial mount configuration)
Turn the Power switch on to turn ON the telescope.
To select the Equatorial mount configuration:
Press the Menu key
Select Tracking
Select Mode
Select EQ-North, press Enter
(Slew?) NextStar will automatically align the tube perpendicular to the fork arms (page 31)
The hand control will display Find Meridian
Rotate the tube in RA to align with the meridian
Press ENTER
It will move (or slew) the tube parallel to the arms, pointing to the North pole (Declination 90
degrees)
7

To do a the Two-Star alignment


Use the Up-Down scroll keys to select Two-Star Align
Press ENTER
A message will appear in the display Select Star 1
Use the Up-Down scroll keys to select the first star one wants to use to do the alignment.
Press ENTER
May need to change the speed to slew to the star
To change the speed, press the RATE key and select a number (9 is fastest, 1 is slowest)
Slew and center the star in the eyepiece
Press the ALIGN key to accept this position
Select the second star for the alignment from the list
Slew to the second star, center it.
Press ENTER
The display will show Alignment Successful
To find objects:
Press the M key to slew to Messier objects
To enter a Messier object number that has two digits, enter a 0 first and then the two digit object
number.

Once you have completed the telescope alignment, continue to the Data Acquisition section.

Data Acquisition

5.1

Required Items and Observations Checklist

If you are observing Albireo the list of things you should have at the end of the night is:
Three exposures in each of the B, V, and I filters of Albireo (9 total)
Three exposures of a standard star (Gamma Lyrae/Sulafat) in each of the B, V, and I filters (9 total)
Platescale image (no need to take an extra image because you use Albireo in any filter for this)
A logbook (see Section 5.2)
If you are observing The Ring Nebula the list of things you should have at the end of the night is:
Three images of the Ring Nebula in each R, G, B, and L filters (12 total). Note: these exposures will
have to be longer than the images of the stars because the Ring Nebula is much fainter than the stars you
imaged. If your images dont look good, you may need to take more than three exposures (see Section
5.5)
Platescale image Three exposures of Albireo in any filter
A logbook (see Section 5.2)

5.2

Logbook

You will want to keep a logbook for your sanity as all good astronomers do. We have provided a template
for you that we will hand out at the observatory. Make note of when you do things such as test something,
what objects you observe with what filter and for how long, and especially if something goes wrong with your
images (like a cloud moves in). When you go to reduce your data, you may not remember which images are
good or bad (youd be surprised how difficult it is to remember these things), so it is a good idea to keep a
logbook. Attach your logbook, as well as the logbook from the other telescope, to your final report.

5.3

Test Your CCD Camera

At this point, the telescope should be pointed at your object. Instructions for setting up the CCD camera and
taking the data can be found in the following pages.

What to do before you start taking and saving the images with the ST-402 CCD
camera
Before you start using the CCD camera:
Check in the C: directory of the laptop for the AST_3018 directory. Normally it should be
there since it may have been created before.
Inside this directory create a subdirectory for your group. Give the name of the group such as
Group_1, Group_2, etc.
You will be saving all the files to your Group directory.
Name the files using the object name or number, the filter you used, the exposure time and the
date.
Here is an example for the Ring nebula (M57). The image was taken with the Blue (B) filter and it
is a 20 second exposure taken on October 20, 2015.
Example of file name: M57_B_20s_10202015.FIT
Do not forget to use the FIT format to save the files.
If the exposure time is less than a second (example 0.5 seconds), enter the exposure time in ms
(example 500ms)
Setup CCD:
- Connect the ST-402 CCD camera to the laptop using the USB cable.
- If the diagonal mirror (corner piece that holds the eyepiece) was on the telescope beforehand, leave
it on.
- Power on the camera by plugging in the power supply. (There is no on/off switch.) The fan should
be running once you connect the power.
- Attach the camera to the telescope in place of the eyepiece and make sure to screw it in place.
Important: The camera has a fan to keep it cool. If you put the camera on the table, leave it in
a position that does not block the air intake to the fan.
The software that runs the camera is the CCDOps.
Click in the CCDOps icon and launch the software.
Under the Camera menu, click Establish COM Link. This will connect the software to the
camera.
Click in the menu under the Camera setup and make sure you have the following parameters:
Temperature regulation: Active
Set point: Enter the target temperature, not too low so that the cooling system can get to that
temperature (suggested setting: -5C)
Reuse the dark frame: Yes
Anti blooming: High
Resolution: High (or Auto)
Troubleshooting:
- If the camera continues to disconnect, check the connection of the cables on the camera. Make sure
they are tightly wound and in their sockets solidly.

10

5.4

Check the Telescope Pointing and Focus

Before beginning your observations, the telescope should be pointed to the your object, and the CCD camera
should be positioned at the focus of the telescope. However, due to imperfect tracking and unstable observing
conditions, the object may move away from the center of the field of the view (FOV). In addition, the telescopes focus may be drifting. Therefore, in this step, we will move the object back to the FOV center using
the controller, and re-focus the telescope to get the sharpest image of the object.
Click Filter Setup under the Filters tab and select the filter wheel you are using (BVI vs RGB). Then
switch to the Clear filter under the Filters tab.
From the menu of CCDOps, select Camera, then Focus. Under this mode, the camera will keep grabbing new images and displaying them on the screen continuously until you click on the Pause button.
Make the exposure time as short as possible to get a high refresh rate (around 1 second).
While the CCD camera is grabbing images, use the 4-direction buttons on the telescope controller to
move the object back to the image center. Because the CCD camera is installed on the telescope at an
arbitrary orientation, you may have to try each of the four direction buttons to see how they are related
in space. The up arrow may yield a downward motion and the down arrow may yield an upward motion
(dont panic - all is well).
Locate the focus knob on the telescope and rotate the knob a small angle (e.g., 30 degrees), and see if
the image quality is improving.
If the object becomes more blurred, rotate the knob in the other direction in steps as small as possible.
Every time you rotate the focus knob, suddenly, the image may become much worse. This is caused by
the vibration (rather than defocus). In this case, you need to step back for a couple seconds to let the
camera take a stable image.
You may have to do this adjustment many times, back and forth, to find the best focus.

5.5

Take an Image

Exposures to take: In order to do photometry, you need images taken in the B, V, and I filters (take 3 in each
filter). In order to generate a color image of the object, we need four images: images in the R, G, and B filters
(take 3 in each) and one without any filter (this image is referred to as an L or C image - L stands for luminosity
and C stands for clear). The CCD camera we use is equipped with an internal filter wheel, and the filters can
be selected from Filters in the CCDOps menu. For example: To take an image without the filter, select Clear
Filter. Photometric means the B, V, and I filters.
To take an image:
From Filters in the CCDOps menu, select Filter Setup and choose filter you want to take an image in.
Go to the Camera menu and select Grab. Make sure the setting for Dark Frame is Also. Enter an
integration time (start with 1 or 5 seconds), and then click Start. The CCD camera will first acquire
a dark frame (which will be subtracted automatically afterward) with the shutter closed, and then a
frame with the shutter open (so the time you will have to wait is double the integration time). Once the
integration is done, the dark-frame-subtracted image will be displayed on the screen.
To check if the exposure time you chose is appropriate (enough counts but not saturated; see next step),
select Display, then Show Crosshair.
11

Move the mouse to the brightest pixel in the image, and check the surrounding pixel values. A very high
pixel value (e.g., 65,000 ADU) indicates that the detector is saturated. In this case, you need to reduce
the exposure time and try again. On the other hand, if the pixel values are too low (e.g., several hundred
to several thousand ADU), you need to increase the exposure time. (The sweet spot is around 30,000 45,000 ADU - but above 10,000 ADU is okay.)
Each time you want to take a new image in a new filter, you will have to go back to Filters in the
CCDOps menu. For each filter, you need to determine the appropriate exposure time.
You should take at least three images in each filter. Then you will be able to combine these images and
reduce the noise in each filter. If you find that your images are bad (stars look elongated/streaky and not
circular), you will need to take more exposures until you have three good images.
If you need to take a sequence of several images of the same object using the same filter, do the following:
Click in Camera and then Grab
Under Special processing, chose Auto Grab, then enter the name of the file and directory (Set Name/Dir)where
you will save the sequence of images, the type of format to save the image (FITS) and the number of
exposures that you want to take in the sequence.

5.6

Save the Data

To save images in the FITS format:


Select File, then Save FITS.
In the Ast 3018 folder, create a folder if necessary (Suggestion - make the name of your folder your
group name with the date)
Name your file properly. Make it a descriptive name to keep your data well organized. For example, use
a name like ObjectName+Filter+ExposureTime+Date. And dont forget to save it as a .FIT file.
At the end of the observation, do not forget to copy all FITS files from both objects to your flash drive.

12

Data Reduction and Analysis

You will use AIP4WIN to reduce the data. You can find this software on any desktop computer in our Astro
Lab (Room 7, Bryant Space Science Center).
Note: There are THREE sections below that are marked IN REPORT (in sections 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3) that have
questions you must answer in your project report.

6.1

Measuring the Plate Scale

How does the pixel size relate to angular distance on the sky? Well, we can use two stars with known angular
distance (for example, the two stars in Albireo) to determine the pixel, or plate scale of the CCD camera.

IN REPORT: Plate Scale and FOV of CCD for Each Telescope using Albireo Stars
Think back to the night you went observing, there were at least three telescopes. Two or three of the telescopes
took photometric data of Albireo and one took RGB images of the Ring Nebula. Each telescope is a different
instrument and will therefore have a different platescale. A plate scale is simply how many arcseconds are in a
pixel (/pixel) for your detector. You are going to be working with two data sets: one from the telescope inside
(14) that took images of the Ring Nebula (and a few images of Albireo) and the telescopes outside that took
lots of photometric images of Albireo. Each data set will have some images of Albireo in anticipation of this
part of your analysis.
1. Measure the X and Y pixel coordinates for the two stars in each image in one filter of Albireo from
each of the datasets (one data set per telescope (14 M57 data and another telescope) for a total of
6 sets of coordinates). For the photometric dataset, just pick any filter. For the Ring Nebula dataset, just
use whatever images in one filter that were there of Albireo. To get X and Y coordinates, hover over the
star and the values will be displayed at the bottom of the Image Display Control window. Include a
table of your data in your report.
2. Calculate the distance in pixels between the two stars in each image and take the average of all
your determinations for each telescope (you should have 2 final values). Show an example of your
work in your report.
3. Determine the plate scale (arcsec/pixel) using the known separation of 34.3 arcsec between the two
stars for both telescopes.
4. Use the size of your CCD image in pixels (given in Section 4) and the plate scale to determine the
Field of View (FOV) of the detector for both telescopes. Hint: Check your units.

6.2

Using the Plate Scale

IN REPORT: Plate Scale and the Ring Nebula


1. Align and combine your Ring Nebula images in each filter so that you have three final images (one
in each filter). Then, measure the length and the width of the Ring Nebula in pixels for each filter
and include your results in a table in your report. (You should have a total of 6 values: three for
both the length and the width.)
6.2.1

Align Images

To combine images or to stack the filters, the raw images obtained through different filters need to be
aligned with each other accurately. AIP4WIN provides a tool for this purpose.
13

To align images in AIP4WIN, go to File, Open Image... and open all of your good images in one
filter.
From the menu, select Multi-Image, then Register Images...
Pick an arbitrary exposure in that filter with which all other frames will be aligned as the Master
Image.
Add the other exposures in that filter as the Slave Images.
After all master and slave images are added, the button Register Images will become active. Click
on Register Images, and the master image will be brought to the front.
In the dialog of Register Images (if it is covered by the master image, you can make it visible again
from Menu, Window), choose 1-Star.
In the Master Image, select a bright star and click on it, then click Star 1, then OK. This will finish
the step of finding a reference star in the master image, and the reference star you selected will be
labeled by a green circle around it.
The first slave image will be brought to the front. Click on the same reference star on the screen,
then click Star 1, then OK. Repeat the last step for all other slave images.
Once the reference star has been selected in all slave images, AIP4WIN will calculate the spatial
offset between each slave image and the master image, and shift them accordingly.
6.2.2

Combine Images

Multiple images in each filter for your object will get you a better image and you need to combine the
three, aligned object images in each filter separately.
From the menu, select Multi-Image, then Median Combine (Astronomers usually use a median
combine as it will discard outliers, whereas the average would include the outliers), then Images
(if you have them open already), then Add the images of one filter that you want to combine, and
hit OK.
The combined image will be generated and displayed in a new window. Select this image and go to
File, choose Save as FITS use a descriptive filename such as (object name (filter median number
of images combined) .
The file may take a while to save. If it doesnt save at first either wait or hit the save button again.
Close the individual files you used to make the combined image.
Repeat the process of aligning, combining, and saving the images for the rest of the filters.
2. Using the plate scale you calculated previously (use the one from the 14 telescope which took the
M57 data set), estimate the angular size of the Ring Nebula.
3. Assuming a distance of 700 pc, estimate the physical size of the nebula.
4. Compare the size estimates in each filter. Are they the same or different and why?
5. Discuss the possible errors in your measurements and possible underlying assumptions that may
cause your estimate to misrepresent the actual dimensions of the nebula.
6. Research the Ring Nebula. What kind of nebula is it? How did it originate? What causes the color
variations observed?
7. Make a composite 3-color image (RGB) of the nebula (see Section 6.2.3). Describe the appearance
of the Nebula.
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6.2.3

Data Reduction to Make LRGB/RGB Color Image of Ring Nebula

Steps to do:
1. Align the three images in each filter
2. Combine the images in each filter
3. Align the combined filter images with one another
4. Generate LRGB image
You have already done steps 1 and 2 above in Section 6.2. Follow the instructions below to create your color
image.
Open your median combined images in each filter from Section 6.2.2 and repeat the alignment process
outlined in Section 6.2.1 with the median combined images.
From the menu, select Color, then Join Color Tool....
Use your median combined registered frames as the R, G, B, and Luminance (i.e., the L image) frames,
and click on Make Color Image
If everything has been done correctly, an LRBG color image will be generated and displayed in a new
window.
If you are not satisfied with the color, you can do some manual adjustment with the Color Balance
Buttons in Manual.
Finally, you can either save the color image in the FITS format (File, Save as FITS...), or in the more
popular JPEG format (File, Export..., Save as type: JPEG).

6.3

Photometry

Photometry (best done in B, V, and I filters) refers to the measurement with which we determine the apparent
magnitude of an object. In this project, we are going to observe a binary star or a cluster and find out the
magnitude of each star of it. In order to do photometry, we are also going to need to observe another star, of
which the magnitude is known (i.e., the standard star). Note that the instructions here describe a simplified
version of the actual process of photometry that astronomers use, as our version skips several key steps (i.e.,
flat-fielding, airmass correction, etc.). Nevertheless, the fundamentals of photometry are all covered, and the
accuracy is still acceptable (<0.2 mag) if everything is done correctly.

IN REPORT: Photometry of Albireo Stars


1. Determine and record in a table, the observed magnitudes of the two stars in Albireo and calibration stars in each of three images in each of the the B, V and I filters by performing aperture
photometry (see Section 6.3.1).
2. Using the given standard star magnitudes, determine and record in a table the zero-point offset
(Ostd-ins ) by comparing the observed magnitude of your calibrator star to its standard value
(mstandard = minstrumental + zero-point offset) (see Section 6.3.1). Determine and record the
average and standard deviation of the zero-point offset for each filter.

15

3. Determine and record in a table the final calibrated magnitudes or apparent magnitude, mv of
the Albireo stars for each observation using the zero-point offset calculated in step 3 (see Section
6.3.1). For this part of the analysis, refer to Chapter 13 of our textbook.
4. Calculate the B-V and V-I colors for each star.
5. Research to find the actual magnitudes and compare your values for magnitudes and colors with
the actual values. If your values differed from the published values, you should discuss why they
differ (i.e. what are your sources of error) and you can either use the correct values for the remainder of the project or you can re-analyze your data, correcting your procedure to get more
reasonable values. Please specfiy what you do.
6. Assuming a distance of 118 pc to Albireo, determine the absolute V magnitude, Mv of each star.
7. Using the Stellar photometry data tables on the Class Website, construct a color-magnitude diagram. Plot Mv vs B-V for the stars. Place the Albireo stars on this diagram with special symbols.
8. Using the B-V colors, estimate the surface temperature for each star.
9. Using your color-magnitude plot estimate the luminosity class for each star.
10. Are your results consistent with the stars being a true binary system (i.e. did the stars form at the
same time)? Why or Why not?
6.3.1

Aperture Photometry

Open a FITS file of your object in a filter (one of the three images in B or V or I if they arent open already) in AIP4WIN, from File, Open Images.., and then select Single Star Photometry from Measure
in the menu.
Go to Settings, choose proper values for Radii (you can make a good guess by inspecting the pixel size
of the star with the mouse and looking at the Current Pixel number in the the Image Display Control).
The first number is the radius of the photometric aperture, which should be large enough to include all
fluxes from the object, but not too large. The second and third radii define the inner and outer radii of
the sky aperture, which must not include any flux from the object.
In the image, click on the object you want to measure. The photometry aperture (white circle) and sky
aperture (yellow annulus) will be displayed. You may have to try different settings to find out the best
radii. The best radii is one at which the white circle includes most of the star within it without including
sky. You can change the size of the aperture by going to the Settings tab and typing in the radius you
want, click save, then reclick on the star to see your updated radius. To do a more quantitative check,
click the Show Analysis box in the lower left hand corner of the tool you are using, click on the tab
in the upper right hand corner labeled Curve of Growth and Plot Profile or click on the star again to
help you choose proper sizes for the photometry/sky apertures (see Figure 2). In the Curve of Growth,
magnitude inside the aperture vs radius is plotted. It shows you that as you increase the radius, how
much light the aperture contains. You want the left horizontal line (your white circle or aperture radius)
to be where right before where the line flattens out (see Figure 2). When it flattens out, this is when you
have begun to include sky, which doesnt have high counts and therefore doesnt add much more to the
total light - therefore it is flat. Play around with how different radii affect this line to see for yourself.
Once you are satisfied with the apertures, you can read the magnitude of the star in Result. Note that this
magnitude (mins ) is with respect to an default instrument zero-point (displayed as Z=(some number) it
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Figure 2: Optimal placement of horizontal line in the Curve of Growth.

is usually Z = 25.0 or Z = 0 ), and thus may be different from the true magnitude (mstd ) of the standard
star as we know. You need to correct for this by calculating a zero-point calibration offset (done in next
part).
Do this for both stars in Albireo and the Standard Star (Gamma Lyrae). Repeat for all the different filters.
(You should have 3 magnitudes for each filter for each star.)
To calculate the the zero-point offset (Ostdins ) between mins and mstd (where mins is the instrumental magnitude or observed magnitude that you calculated using the Single Star Photometry tool and mstd is the published
standard star magnitude below):
You should have already completed Section 6.3.1, but with a standard star image. If not, do so now. You
can use aperture radii different from those used for your object, but Z must not be changed.
Use the information that mstd for Gamma Lyrae in the various filters is B = 3.20, V = 3.25, and I = 3.28
(these are the published values for our standard star Gamma Lyrae). If you did not use this star, contact
a TA or Prof. Lada.
Calculate the offset (Ostdins ) between mins and mstd :
Ostdins = mstd mins

(1)

Repeat for all the images of the standard star in a filter, record all values in a table, and find the
average offset for each filter.
Apply (add) the average offset Ostdins for each filter to the corresponding Albireo measurement. So,
lets say you choose to do the blue filter first. The calculation will look like:
mcalibrated = mins + Ostdins
Where mins and Ostdins are both the measurements in the blue filter.
Repeat for the remaining filters, as the offset will be different in various filters.
Return to questions at the beginning of this section (Section 6.3) to finish answering questions 5-11.
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(2)

Side note (not required, just information for the reader): The program has some default instrumental zeropoint (Z) as an input. You can calibrate your measurements either the way we did this OR you can begin by
making the initial measurements of Gamma Lyrae, find the offset, apply it to the Z in the program (usually 25),
and hit save. THEN you make your measurements of Albireo and voila you have your calibrated magnitudes.
So you would use the average of all measurements of the offset in a specific filter to determine the new
instrumental zero-point which you can then put the Zero Point slot in Settings :
Z = 25.0 + Ostdins

(3)

where 25.0 is an example value. Yours may be different. This will automatically apply your new zero point to
the rest of the measurements you make, as long as you dont close the Single Star Photometry.
Another note (again just info for the reader): you can also change the Z at the beginning of the whole
process to 0, use (mstandard = minstrumental + Ostdins ) equation to find the correct zero-point (the value at
which the difference between the mstd and the mins is 0) using the standard star data and put zero-point in for
Z and make your measurements of Albireo. And the result is that your measurements of Albireo are calibrated!
As you can see this zero-point or Z value is arbitrary. The important thing is that we correct it.

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