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Astronomical Observing Techniques


Admission requirements



This course introduces students to the observational tools of modern astronomy. The first part concerns the basics of observational astronomy, the second part concerns the theoretical background of observational techniques, and the third part describes specific techniques and instruments.

The following topics will be covered in lectures and exercises:

  • Properties of radiation (black body, radiometry)

  • Atmospheric properties (transmission, emission, scattering, dispersion)

  • Telescopes (reflector, refractor, mounts, foci, ground/space telescopes)

  • Fourier transform (definition, properties, 1D/2D examples, theorems)

  • Geometrical & diffraction optics (image formation, PSF, aberrations)

  • Measurement properties (signal-to-noise, sensitivities, sampling)

  • Radio Techniques (basics, antennae, receivers)

  • Detectors (physical basis, photo-conductors, bolometers, heterodyne)

  • Spectrometers (spectral information, dispersing elements, types)

  • Adaptive Optics (principle, components, laser guide stars, types)

  • Interferometry (speckle interferometry, visibility, closure phase)

Course objectives

Students will know and be able to apply the most common techniques that are currently used to observe and understand the universe.


See BSc schedules.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and seminars.

Assessment method

Written exam, for dates see Exam schedule (in Dutch: Tentamenrooster)


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

Reading list

Recommended books (NOT required):

  • Observational Astrophysics, by Pierre Lena, 3rd edition, 2012, published by Springer, ISBN 978-3-642-21814-9

  • Astrophysical Techniques, by C.R.Kitchin, 5th edition 2008, published by Institute of Physics Publishing, ISBN 978-1420082432


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

Docent: Prof.dr. C.U. (Christoph) Keller
Assistant: Joshua Albert, MSc / Emiel Por, BSc
Course website Astronomical Observing Techniques.


In academic year 2015-2016, this course will be lectured to both 2nd and 3rd year BSc students. See: OER 2015-2016.