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Astronomical Observing Techniques


Admission requirements



This course introduces students to the observational approaches and instruments of modern astronomy. The first part of the course is focused on the theoretical background including Fourier transforms, radiation, the Earth’s atmosphere, and optics. The second part introduces the most important observational techniques including optical and radio telescopes, detectors, spectrometers, and adaptive optics. Students will write their own codes to apply their knowledge.

The lectures and exercises cover the following topics:

  • Properties of radiation

  • Atmospheric properties

  • Fourier transform

  • Geometrical and diffraction optics

  • Telescopes

  • Measurement properties

  • Radio techniques

  • Interferometry

  • Detectors

  • Spectrometers

  • Imagers

  • Adaptive optics

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to select the most appropriate technique to observe a given astronomical phenomena.

In particular, students will be able to:

  • Calculate the properties of radiation received from black bodies

  • Explain the different influences of the Earth’s atmosphere on astronomical observations

  • Perform analytical and numerical Fourier transforms

  • Explain the working principles of optical and radio telescopes

  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different detector types

  • Calculate the expected performance of a given instrument

  • Select an appropriate instrument to observe a given astronomical phenomena

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)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)


See Schedules bachelor Astronomy

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Exercise classes

Assessment method


Blackboard will be used to communicate with students and to share lecture slides, homework assignments, and any extra materials. You must enroll on Blackboard before the first lecture. To have access, you need a student ULCN account.

Reading list

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

  • Astrophysical Techniques, by C.R.Kitchin, 6th edition 2013, published by Institute of Physics Publishing, 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

Teacher: Prof.dr. H.J.A. (Huub) Röttgering
Assistants: Violeta Gamez-Rosas