For your class project, you have two three options for project type, but also some freedom to design a project around your interests within each type.

Project Options
Data Analysis project
Ask a question or pursue an area of interest. The question can be a very simple one, based on the properties of stars or galaxies. Use the data from one of several possible online sources to make one graph that encapsulates your question or use your own Skynet images to make a measurement. Interpret the data in the context of your question.

Some possible sources for data are listed in detail below. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but if you have ideas for another data source to use, you should run it by me first. If you choose this option, please read through some information and project ideas at the bottom of this page.

I am happy to chat with you about what kind of question you want to ask and how you can go about using the available data to answer it.

Data or theme-based creative work
The product can be in any medium- spoken or written word, music, drama, dance, video, or combination of any.  The grade will be based upon the extent to which the project relates to and interprets course material in a way that is accurate and accessible.
(NEW!) Formal paper
The product will be a formal research paper on any topic in the course or related to the course content.

The paper must:

    • be written independently (no partner for this project type)
    • extend your topic beyond what is covered in class- in the labs, lecture slides, or online text
    • be between 2000 and 2500 1500 and 2000 words excluding the bibliography  
    • must use high quality sources, cited appropriately*
    • cite at least two sources which are popular science articles. It is NOT necessary to read any academic articles unless you wish to. It is acceptable to use websites for additional sources but they must be cited*

*Failure to cite sources is plagiarism and a violation of the TU Academic Integrity policy. Plagiarized text in the final paper will result in a zero for the project.

Project Products

All projects will be presented to the class in the last week of the semester. Data and Creative projects will require a 1/2 – 1 page (single-spaced) description. All materials will be submitted via Blackboard.

Students must submit the project in 3 phases:

  1. Project plan (or topic of formal paper): due Friday, Mar. 13 Tuesday, Mar. 24 at 11:59 PM.
  2. Project draft: a draft of your product and summary is due Friday, Apr. 17 at 11:59 PM. If you are doing a formal paper, your draft product is the full draft of the paper, including cited sources. No summary is necessary. 
  3. Final product: the final version of the product and summary incorporating my feedback is due Friday, May 8 at 11:59 PM.
Project Grades

Project grades will be assigned by:

20% Timely submission of all parts of the project

plan (6 pts)
draft (7 pts)
final (7 pts)
20% point deduction for each day late

35% Level of effort and quality of final product.
This project is worth 10% of your course grade and should reflect approximately 4-6 3-5 hours of work.

Ideas (11 pts)
Data: generated new question or chose and understood question posed in my examples
Creative: generated a creative objective

Effort (12 pts)
3: less than 1 hr
6: 1-2 hours
10: 3-4 hours
12: 4-6 hours

Execution (12 pts)
Data: gathered data, made graph with title, labeled axes, legend if necessary
Creative: completed project of reasonable scope
Formal paper: coherent writing, followed guidelines

35% Extent to which final product relates to and extends understanding/interpretation of the course material. This will be gauged by the final product as well as the written summary and presentation.

Interpretation  (15 pts)
Data: demonstrated how related to material
Creative: demonstrated how related to material
Formal paper: broadened scope of topic from what was covered in the course material

Accuracy (20 pts)
Data: interpretation of data is correct or plausible
Creative: incorporated scientific data/ideas correctly
Formal paper: interpreted cited sources accurately

10% Incorporation of feedback on draft into the final product

Note: If you don’t submit a draft, you will not earn these 10 points, nor the 7 points for timely submission of the draft.

Detailed Information for Data Analysis Projects

Here are three options for data sources you could use:

  • Your own Skynet telescope observations,
  • The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (from your Galaxies lab) or
  • Galaxy Zoo, which are subsets of the full SDSS database.

Project ideas and more detailed instructions for obtaining the data are described below.

You may pursue any of these ideas or one of your own. I will give you feedback on your Project Plan, especially if you submit a new idea from these data sources, or others. You are welcome to talk with me about any additional ideas you have before you submit your Project Plan.

I. Skynet data
You may take your own data using the Skynet telescopes to which you have access through the lab. You should analyze the images you take in some quantitative way, either using the Afterglow software or using the ds9 software you used for the lab on planetary nebulae.

Consult with me or your lab instructor or your LA for guidance on what exposure times to use for your images if you’re not sure.

Here are some potential ideas, I’m happy to discuss other ideas you may have:

1. Take images of nearby galaxies in the B, V,  and R filters. Follow the steps from your lab on Planetary Nebulae to make a combined RGB image (here G image = V filter image you take). What can you learn from the multicolor images, both in terms of comparing your galaxies to one another and from the way a single galaxy looks different in  the 3 filters? Here is a link to lists of galaxies you could choose from:

2. Take images of an open star cluster in two filters, say B and V. Measure the B and V magnitudes of the stars and create a color-magnitude diagram. How does it compare to the ones you used in lab? Here is a list of open star clusters:

3. Take images of a few different star clusters or spiral galaxies. Use the angular size method you studied in the “Star Cluster Distances and the Dustiness of Space” lab to measure the distances to these objects. Compare with the accepted values that you can find online. You can use the list of clusters in #1 above or this list of spiral galaxies:

II. Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Advanced Projects
You may choose any of the Advanced Projects outlined on this page except the Galaxies exercise, which you did (or will do) in lab. These projects should be the work of a student working individually, not as a pair. You should plan to address all the questions and exercises posed and present the purpose and background of the project, along with any graphs you make in your presentation.

Research Challenges
As the name suggests, these are more open-ended and challenging projects. You may attempt one of these either individually if you choose, or as a pair.

III. Galaxy Zoo
This resource uses data from the SDSS but with the galaxy classifications only. And some other measurements tabulated. The data are also separated into some unique subgroups that may be of interest.

You’ll need to download the table you’re interested in using in a spreadsheet (csv) form, and then decompress or “unzip” it. You can usually do that by just clicking on the file icon on your desktop.

Data sets on this webpage
Galaxy Zoo 1 data release Full catalog (older version): over 600K galaxies, galaxy classifications given in the last 3 columns of the first table listed (Table 2).
Possible project: Examine the relative numbers of spirals and ellipticals. Does it agree with the numbers quoted in the text, slides, or online? (See also Galaxy Zoo 2 below)

AGN host galaxies: Galaxies with active nuclei in the sample.
Project ideas: Examine possible correlations with the measurements listed for each galaxy- stellar mass, color (remember this is a difference in 2 filters, e.g. u-g or g-r), host galaxy classification (listed as: no emission lines, 1 = star-forming, 2 = composite, 3 = Seyfert and 4 = LINER)

Merging Galaxies: List of galaxies in the process of merging, listed by pair. Magnitude and morphology data are listed for each member of the pair, as well as the stage of the merger (1 = “separated”, 2 = “interacting”, 3 = “approaching post-merger”).
Project ideas:  Examine trends with galaxy color or morphology and merger stage.

“Green Pea” Galaxies: List of galaxies with high rates of star formation.
Project ideas: Examine trends in listed parameters like star formation rate (SFR) and far UV luminosity (L_FUV) or doubly ionized oxygen (OIII) line strength (called “equivalent width” or EW)

Red and blue spirals: List of spiral galaxies with red(?) and blue colors.
Project idea: Compare the distribution (frequency plot) of galaxies as a function of g-r color for both the red and blue samples. 

Galaxy Zoo 2 Full Catalog: Newer release of the classification information. Information on classifications in just column 7 of the first table listed, Table 1. Note that the “votes” is referring to the fact that this research was done with crowd-sourced citizen scientists on the Galaxy Zoo web page! You could do a similar project with these data as with the first Galaxy Zoo catalog listed above.

Dust Lane spheroidal galaxies: List of “elliptical” type galaxies with dust lanes! This implies the galaxy is the remnant of a merger that has completed.
Possible projects: Examine trends between parameters like morphology of the galaxy and the dark matter halo mass or the environment density (=# galaxies in the “neighborhood” of this merger remnant).