nl en

Astronomical Observing Techniques


Admission requirements



This course introduces students to the observational tools of modern astronomy. The course contains lectures and homework on the basics of observational astronomy, provides the theoretical background to understand modern observational techniques and describes the most important 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.

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)

  • Flexibility (adaptability, dealing with change, teachability, eagerness to learn)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)

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


See Schedules bachelor Astronomy 2017-2018

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Exercise classes

Assessment method


Blackboard will be used to send e-mail to students. To have access to Blackboard, you need an ULCN account. More information:

Reading list

  • Observational Astrophysics, Lena (3rd edition, 2012), ISBN 9783642218149 (recommended)

  • Astrophysical Techniques, Kitchin (6th edition 2013), ISBN 9781466511156 (recommended)


Register via uSis. More information about signing up for classes and exams can be found here. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to register. For a la carte and contract registration, please see the dedicated section on the Prospective students website.

Contact information

Docent: Prof.dr. C.U. (Christoph) Keller
Assistant: Rob van Holstein, Emiel Por, Maaike van Kooten
Course website: Astronomical Observing Techniques (will be online at the start of the course)