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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


See Astronomy master schedules

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

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.

Reading list

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

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


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturers: Dr. M.A. Kenworthy and Prof.dr. B.R. Brandl
Assistants: Fedde Fagginger Auer,, Ciaran Rogers, Minttu Seppälä, David Doelman


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

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)