The School Book
The main aim of the school book ‘Observing the Universe’ is to introduce a range of techniques and skills that you need to participate effectively and successfully in observational work in astronomy and planetary science. The first part of the book introduces modern tools and techniques, starting with an overview of the night sky and an introduction to positional astronomy.
This is followed by a description of telescopes, spectrographs and astronomical detectors. Several chapters are devoted to a discussion of CCD data-reduction techniques, and how to deal with photometric and spectroscopic data. The use of polarizing microscopes for the analysis of extra-terrestrial mineral samples is introduced, and some guidance on the interpretation of images of planetary surfaces is given. The second part of the book focuses on the development of skills that are of relevance to astronomy and planetary science projects. There are chapters on teamwork, preparing for practical work and keeping records. This is followed by a review of how to deal with experimental uncertainties, notes on analysing experimental data, and guidelines on making use of graphs and computers. The book concludes with a discussion on how best to communicate the results of scientific investigations.
You will study the school book before you attend the residential portion of School; but you should also take the book with you so that you can refer to it during the week. You are not expected to memorize all the information the book contains, but you should become familiar with the topics covered and what sort of advice is contained in the book, so that you can find things rapidly when you need to. Some of the topics within the book that may appear a bit dry and theoretical when you first read them but will come to life when you are actually engaged in the observational projects at the OAM.
Short self-assessment questions are provided in the book (with answers at the back), and these allow you to assess whether you have understood important topics and developed relevant skills. There are also In-Text Questions, with answers provided on the spot. If you find yourself confused about some aspect of the book remember the learning environment is there for you to discuss the schools content with your fellow participants and tutors.
Your time at the OAM
The practical activities of the School will take place at the OAM where, for obvious reasons, your study day starts in the early evening and continues until the early hours of the morning. The transfer from the hotel to the OAM and back is included in the school fee, and will be by dedicated coach. Should you hire a car during your stay, we would still strongly recommend that you use the (free) coach for transfers to and from the hotel. The OAM is located in a rural area and the return journey will be during darkness. The roads will be unfamiliar and you may be tired from the observing sessions.
The school fee also includes an arrival snack, a main evening meal and a lighter midnight snack at the OAM, but you have to pay for any food while away from the OAM yourself. You are likely to sleep until late morning or even beyond noon, so you may wish to have a suitable meal in the hotel, or in a nearby bar or restaurant, or perhaps just a snack from a supermarket, at a time that suits you.
The preliminary timetable for the week is shown below and though the overall structure of the timetable is final some details are changeable and may be amended prior to the residential segment of the school. Given the school ends at 04:00 in the morning on the last day you may wish to book your accommodation to extend for one more night to allow you to catch up on some sleep.
|Mallorca Residential School Timetable (times are given in local time)|
|Day/Night 1 - Induction|
|17.00||Meet your tutors at the hotel|
|17:30||Coach to OAM departs|
|18:30||Arrive at the observatory & snack|
|18:45||Introduction to the School|
|19:00||Induction, part I|
|21:00||Induction, part II|
|00:30||Induction, part III|
|02:30||Coach to Hotel Departs|
|Days/Nights 2, 3, 4 & 5 - Projects|
|17:00||Coach to OAM departs|
|18:00||Arrive at the observatory & snack|
|18:15||Project Introduction & Planning Session|
|21:00||Observing & Data Analysis|
|00:30||Observing & Data Analysis|
|03:00||De-brief and Summary of Results|
|04:00||Coach to Hotel Departs|
|Days/Nights 2, 3, 4 & 5 - Poor Weather alternative timings|
|As above then...|
|01:30||De-brief and Summary of Results|
|02:00||Coach to Hotel Departs|
During the week, you will be working in groups on four different projects, either in one of the observatories or in the computer laboratory. For many projects an observing team will be working in the observatory, and a data analysis team will be working in the computer lab. All of the projects use data collected from the telescopes but, even though the climate in Mallorca is more favourable than may other locations, clear skies cannot be guaranteed. In the case of clouded skies all projects can be completed successfully by working with archived data. Clear skies should be regarded as a bonus.
Before the residential portion of the School you will be given a set of Practical Notes that introduce the scientific concepts underlying the activities, and provide detailed, step-by-step instructions for the practical work. You will also receive the Observatory Manual with instructions on how to operate the hardware and software at the OAM.
The Observatory Manual, the Practical Notes and the school book are designed to enable you to participate in each activity, even if you have little or no experience of practical work in astronomy or planetary science. There are some in text questions in the Practical Notes that you can use to test your understanding of the key points of the activities. You should never hesitate to ask a tutor for help or advice if there is anything troubling or puzzling you about any aspect of the project.