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Radio Astronomy


Admission requirements

Leiden Astronomy bachelor's courses Analyse 3NA (Fourier transforms) and Radiative Processes, knowledge of Linux/Unix and Python.


In this course you learn critical aspects of radio astronomy, allowing you to relate radio observations to the astrophysical sources they probe. We thus deal with both the electromagnetic processes in the Universe that produce radio emission, as well as the workings of the telescopes that measure this radio emission.
The course consists of presentation- and discussion sessions, complemented by written exercises and practical computer classes, where you are coached to process state-of-the-art radio interferometry data. The course covers the whole spectrum from Mega-Hertz to sub-millimetre radiation and from the cosmic dawn to galactic star formation, focusing on how to interpret data with different frequency- and spatial resolution.

In particular, the following aspects are covered:

  • Detection of radio waves, telescope and receiver characteristics

  • The workings of interferometers and their response

  • Data processing techniques, such as image deconvolution and self-calibration

  • The AGN phenomena and the brightest radio sources

  • Radio properties of the cold and warm interstellar medium

  • Special radio sources, such as pulsars and masers

  • Design and data flow characteristics for interferometers like LOFAR, VLBI, ALMA, SKA

  • Spectral line observation of molecules and HI throughout the universe

Course objectives

After this course you are ready to engage in scientific discussions that concern radio observations of astrophysical phenomena. You can compare how various radio telescopes and observing modes can be used optimally to investigate the astrophysical processes that generate long wavelength emission.

After this course you can:

  • Write a clear, concise report describing a radio-interferometric data reduction and subsequent image analysis;

  • Develop a data reduction process from raw radio interferometric data to science-quality images;

  • Write an observing proposal for an appropriate radio telescope to answer a scientific question;

  • Analyse quantitatively how radio interferometric concepts affect a specific scientific result;

  • Explain if and why certain radio image features are astrophysical or not;

  • Analyse to what extent signals are mutually coherent;

  • Identify common radio-astronomical data visualizations with their axis labels removed;

  • Identify the type of astrophysical object visualized in a figure;

  • Perform basic Fourier-analyses, such as deriving a SINC function andqualitatively predicting the telescope’s response to a small collection of elementary shapes;

  • Describe (the function of) common components involved in a telescope’s signal processing;


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

  • Literature study

  • Group projects

  • Written exercises

  • Data processing tutorials

  • Data reduction and scientific reporting

  • A field trip to ASTRON, JIVE, LOFAR, Westerbork and Dwingeloo

  • Report on practical assignment in radio data processing (40% of final grade, must be submitted before Dec 15, teacher-assessed)

  • Several smaller assignments (10%-15% of final grade each), peer-assessed based on clear rubrics. Includes appeal-process.

Assessment method

  • Report on practical assignment in radio data processing (40% of final grade, must be submitted before Dec 15, teacher-assessed)

  • Several smaller assignments (10%-15% of final grade each), peer-assessed based on clear rubrics. Includes appeal-process.

Reading list

  • Essential Radio Astronomy (J.J. Condon, S.M. Ransom), ISBN: 9781400881161 (required, free online HTML version here)

  • Synthesis Imaging in Radio Astronomy (G.B. Taylor, C.L. Carilli, R.A. Perley), ISBN 1-58381-005-6 (recommended)

  • Interferometry and Synthesis in Radio Astronomy (A.R. Thompson, J.M. Moran, G.W. Swenson Jr.), ISBN 9783319444314 (recommended, free download here)


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. (Michiel) Brentjens and Dr. T.W. (Tim) Shimwell
Teaching assistants: Jurjen de Jong, Osmar Guerra Alvarado


Soft skills
During this course, you will also learn about:

  • Assessing each other’s work

  • Giving effective feedback

  • Managing (Python) source code

  • Reproducible data analysis

  • Working as part of a large collaboration

  • Finding and reviewing relevant literature

  • Scientific writing

  • Proposal writing