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Detection of Light a


Admission requirements

  • Basic knowledge of solid state physics


Part a of this course is aimed at observational astronomers in general, to provide a solid knowledge basis on the generation of their observational data. Detectors are the crucial link between the astronomical target and the observer. Apart from the telescope, their performance is arguably the single most important component – and often weakest link – in the chain of observational optical devices. As astronomers are increasingly aiming at fainter targets, the quality and calibration of the detector systems have become increasingly important. Detector types that will be discussed include intrinsic and extrinsic photo-conductors, CCDs, BIB detectors, photodiodes, bolometers, and submillimeter- and millimeterwave heterodyne receivers. The course covers their physical principles and discusses performance aspects like linearity and dynamical range, spectral response, bandwidth, quantum efficiency and noise. In addition, this course covers practical aspects of general relevance to observational astronomers, including readout schemes, cosmetic quality of array detectors and the mitigation of artefacts.

Course objectives

The main objectives of this course are to provide an overview of:

  • Technologies and underlying physics used to detect electromagnetic radiation from UV to sub-millimeter wavelengths;

  • The most common devices to be found in astronomical instruments;

  • Performance aspects, mitigation of artefacts and calibration strategies relevant to the data analysis.

  • Important aspects for the design and operation of photon detectors.


See Astronomy master schedules

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Weekly homework assignments (mandatory and accounting for 33% of final grade)

  • Written exam - closed book with formula sheet provided (66%: ~50% calculations, ~30% qualitative explanations, ~20% multiple choice questions), see the Astronomy master examination schedules

The re-take exam will be an oral exam; the final grade will then be computed from the grade for the oral retake (2/3), and the previously done homeworks (1/3, no "homework retake").

Reading list

Detection of Light, by George H. Rieke, 3rd Edition, 2021, Cambridge University Press. Required


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturer: Prof.dr. B.R. (Bernhard) Brandl


Soft skills
In this course, students will be trained in the following behaviour-oriented skills:

  • Problem solving (recognizing and analyzing problems, solution-oriented thinking)

  • Analytical skills (analytical thinking, abstraction, evidence)

  • Motivation – commitment, pro-active attitude, initiative

  • Self-regulation – independence, self-esteem, aware of own goals, motives and capacities

  • Verbal communication – presenting, speaking, listening

  • Written communication (writing skills, reporting, summarizing)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)

  • Creative thinking – resourcefulness, curiosity, thinking out of the box