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Detection of Light a + b


Admission requirements

  • BSc course on Astronomical Observing Techniques;

  • Basic knowledge of solid state physics.


Part ‘a’ of this course is aimed at observational astronomers in general, to provide a solid basis on the generation of their 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 devices. As astronomers are aiming at fainter and fainter targets, the quality and calibration of the detector systems have become increasingly important.
Topics to be covered include intrinsic and extrinsic photo-conductors, CCDs, infrared arrays, photodiodes, bolometers, and submillimeter- and millimeterwave heterodyne receivers. In addition, this course covers practical aspects which are of general interest to the observer, such as cosmetic quality, linearity and dynamical range, spectral response and bandwidth, and quantum efficiency and noise.
Part ‘b’ of this course will focus on very recent detector technologies, such as microwave kinetic inductance detectors (MKIDs), transition edge sensors (TES), electron multiplying (EM) CCDs, avalanche photodiodes, and more. Some lectures will be given by guest lecturers. This part is also complemented by practical exercises.

Course objectives

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

  • the various technologies (and underlying physics) used to detect UV to the sub-millimeter radiation;

  • the most common devices to be found at an observatory;

  • performance aspects and artifacts of detectors;

  • readout and calibration strategies for detectors;

  • overview of future detector technologies for astronomy.


See MSc schedules

Mode of instruction

Lectures, homework assignments and practicals

Assessment method

Written exam (at the end of part ‘a’).


Lecture notes, additional readings and assignments will be provided on Blackboard. To have access, you need an ULCN account. More information:

Reading list

  • Detection of Light – from the Ultraviolet to the Submillimeter, by George Rieke, 2nd Edition, 2003, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-01710-6.


Via uSis
More information about signing up for your classes at the Faculty of Science can be found here

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Lecturer: Prof. dr. B.R. Brandl
Assistant: Michael Wilby, MSc
More information can be found on the lecturer’s website


Please note that this is a mandatory course for all MSc students who follow the Astronomy and Instrumentation programme.