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Detection of Light



Detectors are the crucial link between the astronomical target and the observer. Apart from the telescope, their performance is arguably the 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, coherent receivers, 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.

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.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and homework assignments

Assessment method

Oral exam

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.


BSc course on Astronomical Observing Techniques;
Basic knowledge of solid state physics.


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

Course schedule

See Master schedules

More information

Lecturer: Dr. B.R. Brandl
Assistant: Michael Wilby

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 & Instrumentation programme.