ASTR1002 Assignments 4-6: Planet Ziggy

[Main ASTR1002 Web Page] [WebCT] [Paul Francis]

Assignments 4, 5 and 6 all involve the imaginary world of Ziggy. They are designed to test your understanding of many parts of the course, and to give you a feeling for the frustrations and thrills of real research.


It is the year 2234 AD. You are crew members on board the starship USS Drongo: the pride of the Australian Space Agency. Its five year mission: to explore new regions of the galaxy: to boldly go where no Earthlings have been before.

The ship has a crew of 1000 people, including experts in all branches of science. You are all members of the astrophysics team, with the job of solving any astrophysical problems that may emerge. Fortunately, only two years into your mission, you stumbled across a highly advanced race of aliens, hiding deep in the Orion Nebula. Unfortunately, these aliens turned out to be antisocial and bad mannered: they got rid of you by creating a wormhole: a tunnel in space to another dimension. The wormhole sucked you in, and after a bumpy ride through is, you emerged in an uncharted region of space. You are not sure if you are in a new universe, or whether the aliens just transported you to a very distant part of our own universe.

Badly damaged by its passage through the wormhole, the USS Drongo crash landed on a nearby planet, which you have named "Ziggy". Luckily this planet appears to be habitable. While the engineers set about fixing the ship, the captain of the USS Drongo (Captain Howard) has asked you, the astrophysics group, to start studying the region of the universe into which you have been transported by the wormhole. She particularly wants to know if you are still in your own universe, or whether you have been transported to another one.

The Assignments

The whole astrophysics group are constantly making observations of the sky of Ziggy. I will release these data every week. The first data release is below. There will be a total of three data releases.

Your job is to read through these data, and try and deduce as much as you can from them. Each week, you should write a short executive briefing to Captain Howard, explaining to her what you have learned from that week's data. These briefing papers should outline your conclusions, and the reasoning by which you reached them. They should be written in such a way that they are comprehensible to a busy executive officer (ie. no jargon, and as little waffle as possible).

The more you can deduce from the data releases, the higher your mark. Marks will also be lost if you do not write in the executive brief style. A 500 word limit applies to each briefing you submit.

You will submit three briefing papers (due dates below): one for each data release. As agreed in class, I will only accept briefings handed in on paper: e-mail is not acceptable (unless you have a special reason and prior permission). They can be handed in in class, or put in my mailbox in the Physics Department.

You may work as individuals, or if you prefer, you may work in teams of up to three. If you work in a team, you should only submit one write-up for the whole team, and I will give you all the same mark. This simulates real-world research, which is mostly done in small teams. I will mark team submissions and individual ones in exactly the same way. If you do work in a team, please remember to list all the team members in anything you submit, including web postings (if they were a team effort). You may change your group between every part of these assignments, if you wish.

In the real world, researchers discuss their ideas and conclusions a great deal with each other before they write anything down. You should do the same, using the bulletin board. If you have an idea, a question or a comment: put it there. To encourage you to share ideas in this way, I will give a bonus 2% to any person or group that makes at least two postings, relevant to these assignments, on the bulletin board. Don't worry about giving away your secrets by making postings about what you have discovered: these assignments are marked on an absolute, not a relative scale, so if you help others, it will not hurt you.


  • 3rd June, 9am. First briefing due (Assignment 4). 2nd data set released. Worth 7% of the total marks for ASTR1002
  • 12th June, 9am. Second briefing due (Assignment 5). 3rd and final data set released.Worth 7% of the total marks for ASTR1002
  • 21st June, 5pm. Third and final briefing due (Assignment 6). Worth 7% of the total marks for ASTR1002 Submit via WebCT or on paper.

Briefing and First Data Release (Powerpoint) (PDF)

Model Answer (Word) (PDF)

Second Data Release (Powerpoint) (PDF)

Model Answer (Word) (PDF)

Third Part

For this part, you should use the telescope simulator (click below). No other data will be released. The assignment should be written and submitted using the WebCT system (click on Submit Ass 3), or on paper, to my mailbox in the Physics Department..

Multiple images have now taken of many of the fuzzballs, both bright and faint. Variable stars have now been seen in several of them. Using these stars, you have found that the fuzzballs are many Mpc away. This means that they are not globular clusters orbiting the Milkstain, but separate small elliptical galaxies. They all seem to have roughly the same brightness - the more distant ones appear fainter (on average).

You decided that getting more data on these fuzzballs was a priority, so you set up the automatic telescope (simulator below).

Telescope Simulator

Model Answer (HTML) (Word) (PDF)

Last updated 12th June 2002. These notes are copyright.
Maintainer: Paul Francis

The Australian National University: CRICOS Number 00120C