Review Comment

[ASTR 3646] Observational Astronomy

September 29, 2020

Schiminovich, David Silver_nugget
[ASTR 3646] Observational Astronomy

Prof. Schiminovich has to be the most caring and kind professor I've had the pleasure of having at Columbia. The class is super interesting, held in the astro library where you can sit on couches during lecture, and he even provides cookies and snacks every once in a while.

The labs in the class are super interesting and you don't really need to have any experience with astrophysics to thrive in the class and get something out of it. You'll split the class between lecture time and lab time which usually involves going onto the roof of Pupin to use the domes or other stuff.

The highlight of the class is the trip you'll take a trip during Spring Break to MDM Observatory in Arizona where you'll get hands-on experience with the telescopes there which is super rad. Plus, you'll have plenty of opportunities to get Mexican food, In-N-Out, etc which is amazing.

Great class, super kind prof, amazing TA, and just generally a good time


Most labs are finished in class so maybe 2-4 hours a week if you don't finish it within class. No exams or homeworks outside of finishing the labs. Final project is a little more time intensive but very manageable

September 12, 2014

Patterson, Joseph Silver_nugget and Schiminovich, David Silver_nugget
[ASTR 3646] Observational Astronomy

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

If you are not a science major, do NOT take this class. They say that high school level math and science is all required to do well-- NOT TRUE. I thoroughly enjoyed science/math courses in high school and always did fairly well. This class was so difficult. If you've taken an introductory astronomy class before that would definitely help. If not, the professor requires you to get an intro astro book to familiarize yourself with concepts and terminology. I did not understand a word either of the professors said during their lectures. I was so overwhelmed, I didn't even know where to start if I wanted to ask a question. There is a trip to Arizona for some observing that I was excited about, but when I saw most of the class didn't sign up for it (it's optional), I decided not to go either. The coursework is very minimal. He doesn't really care about grades-- barely talks about them until the end of the semester. I just stopped coming to the lectures because they were a waste of my time. I did the bare minimum work at the end of the semester and got a C.


Not much work. A couple of problem sets, telescope tests, lots of observing, and one project due at the end with presentation.

December 31, 2005

Crotts, Arlin
[ASTR 3646] Observational Astronomy

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class was very possibly the worst class I have taken as a Physics and Astronomy major - and I can cite enough reasons why without even referring to Prof. Crotts's hygiene and personality.
Yes, Observational Astronomy involves the rumored class trip to MDM Observatory in Arizona - that was the reason I took the class. But the trip was in the middle of midterms, and Crotts did his best to teach nothing, leaving the 2 people on the class with previous observing experience to teach most of the basics of telescope use.
The lectures were horrible. He delivered information in a soporific monotone after handing us photocopies of the transparencies that he has written nearly every word of the lecture on. Despite this, he often fell silent (once for over 7 minutes) when he was trying to figure out how to explain something to us. He usually failed to get his point across - you could sort of sense he knew something but you couldn't tell what it was.
There were 2 projects that were the main part (70%) of our grade. They were both due during finals. Much of the work on the projects (data reduction, working with Linux operating systems and IRAF) were things that half the class had not encountered before but were not discussed during lectures or in homeworks. Because Crotts didnÂ’t give us our data or discuss our projects ahead of time, most of the work was done during reading week and even into finals.
I had been warned against taking this class. I wish I had listened. With another professor it could be fun and very educational but with Crotts it was a stressful disaster.


4 problem sets/reading questions (easy), joke of a final (10 multiple choice questions), 2 huge projects

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
ASTR / ASTR ASTR ASTR C3646: Observational Astronomy Arlin Crotts 2012 Fall TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
ASTR / ASTR ASTR ASTR C3646: Observational Astronomy Joseph Patterson, David Schiminovich 2011 Spring R / 7:00- 9:00 PM 1
ASTR / ASTR ASTR ASTR C3646: Observational Astronomy Joseph Patterson 2009 Spring R / 7:00- 8:30 PM 1
ASTR / ASTR ASTR ASTR C3646: Observational Astronomy Arlin Crotts 2003 Fall MW / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1