Al's Astronomy at SAO

This page contains Al's student projects and essays for Swinburne Astronomy Online units as part of a Graduate Diploma in Science (Astronomy)


When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman / 1865


Semester 2, 2003
HET 603: Exploring Stars and the Milky Way

Semester 1, 2004
HET 604: Exploring Galaxies and the Cosmos

Essay: Standard Candles (604 KB) Certain types of stars (e.g. Cepheids, RR Lyraes, Type Ia supernovae) have been employed as "standard candles", enabling astronomers to map out the size and shape of the Milky Way, as well as the distances to other galaxies.

Semester 2, 2004
HET 606: Tools of Modern Astronomy

Project: Spectroscopy with a Rainbow Optics Spectroscope
In this project, I first describe the theoretical function of a spectroscope and the variety of types that have been constructed.
I then show how to construct and use a simple spectroscope to record the spectral lines of some of the brighter stars and establish the spectral types of the observed stars.

Semester 2, 2005
HET 607: The History of Astronomy

Essay: History of Spectroscopy (262 KB)

Semester 2, 2006
HET 609: Astrophotography & CCD Imaging

Project: Wide field CCD Imaging (2313 KB) Using a CCD-lens combination to take images of various large astronomical objects. To create a mosaic in order to obtain a very large field of view.

Semester 1, 2007
HET 611: Stellar Astrophysics

Essay: Sunshine Holiday (214 kb)
In this essay I describe a trip a photon takes from the core of the Sun to the Earth, the time spent at each site along the way and the environmental conditions encountered.

Project: Photometric Monitoring of Cataclysmic Variable Stars (454 KB)
The aim of this project is to observe and characterise the brightness variations of a cataclysmic variable star with a small telescope. The technique of differential photometry is used to analyse the brightness data and convert to magnitudes. A light curve is constructed to determine any possible periodicity in its light output.

Semester 2, 2007
HET 608: Introductory Radio Astronomy and SETI

Essay: Radio Spectrum Wars (303 KB)
The radio spectrum (from a few MHz to 1000 GHz) is used by all kinds of services and organizations - in fact, only a small fraction of this spectrum is "reserved" for astronomy. The problem is serious and becoming worse.

Project 200: Listening to the Sun and Jupiter (1358 KB)
I have proposed to take part in a Radio Jove project ( and make observations and record signals from Jupiter and the Sun with a radio receiver and antenna built from kit form.

Semester 1, 2008
HET 602: Exploring the Solar System

Essay: The Impact of Space Weather (602 KB)
In this essay, the solar cycle is explained and how it influences space weather phenomena. The essay focusses on the underlying physics involved and the cause and effect relationship between solar phenomena, solar weather and their imapct on the Earth.

Project 14: Diameter and Depth of Lunar Craters (990 KB)
I describe two methods utilizing my own digiatl images of the Moon to calculate the size and depth of selected Lunar craters. The acuracy of these estimations is then compared with