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Astronomical Telescopes and Instruments


Admission requirements

Basic knowledge of optics (geometrical optics, physical optics, interference, diffraction), Fourier transforms, astronomical observing techniques and computer programming is required.


This course will teach Astronomy and Physics master's students the foundations of modern optical instruments including advanced concepts in geometrical and physical optics, optical design, and instrumentation. The course is the cornerstone of the Astronomy and Instrumentation master's specialisation. Students who have not followed the Astronomy bachelor's course Astronomical Observing Techniques (AOT) are advised to follow the AOT crash-course during the first week, as indicated in the Astronomy master schedules.

The following topics will be covered in lectures and exercises:

  • Foundations of optics

  • Interference, diffraction and Fourier optics

  • Geometrical optics

  • Polarization

  • Thin films and coatings

  • Optical design

  • Telescopes

  • Imagers

  • Classical spectrographs

  • Advanced spectrographs

  • Interferometers

  • Polarimeters

Course objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Understand the principles of modern optical instruments in astronomy

  • Explain the operations of state-of-the-art optical instruments

  • Design simple astronomical instruments

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)

  • Structured thinking (structure, modulated thinking, computational thinking, programming)

  • Responsibility (ownership, self-discipline, bear mistakes, accountability)

  • Motivation (commitment, pro-active attitude, initiative)

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

  • Verbal communication (presenting, speaking, listening)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)

  • Creative thinking (resourcefulness, curiosity, thinking out of the box)


See Astronomy master schedules

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Exercise classes

  • Practical classes

Assessment method

Retake exams will be oral. Homework assignments and presentation will still count for the final grade.


Brightspace will be used to communicate with students and to share lecture slides, homework assignments, and any extra materials. To have access, you need a student ULCN account.

Reading list

  • Field Guide to Astronomical Instrumentation, by Keller, Navarro, Brandl, published by SPIE (recommended)

  • Optics, by Eugene Hecht, published by Addison Wesley (recommended)


Via uSis. More information about signing up for your classes can be found here. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Lecturers: Prof.dr. C.U. Keller and Dr. M.A. Kenworthy
Assistants: Fedde Fagginger Auer,, Floor Derkink


Please note that this is a mandatory course for all master's students who follow the Astronomy and Instrumentation specialisation.