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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.

The following topics will be covered in lectures and exercises:

  • Geometrical optics

  • Interference, diffraction and Fourier optics

  • Polarization

  • 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 successfully 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 to 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)


As a student, you are responsible for registering on time, i.e. 14 days before the start of the course. This can be done via Mystudymap. You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2. Please note: late registration is not possible.

Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from July; registration for courses in the second semester is possible from December. First-year bachelor students are registered for semester 1 by the faculty student administration; they do not have to do this themselves. For more information, see this page

In addition, it is mandatory for all students, including first-year bachelor students, to register for exams. This can be done up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the exam or up to five calendar days in case of a retake exam. You cannot participate in the exam or retake without a valid registration in My Studymap.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturers: Dr. M.A. Kenworthy and Prof.dr. B.R. Brandl


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)