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Astronomy: Astronomy and Instrumentation

Structure of the Programme (120 EC)

This specialisation offers students the option to conduct a research master in astronomy with a particular focus on advanced astronomical instrumentation, techniques, and instrument development. The 2-year programme consists of two parts. First, students follow advanced courses in both instrumentation and general astronomy. Second, students carry out a minor and a major research project.

The requirements for the programme are as follows:

Mandatory Courses: Level EC Stellar Structure and Evolution 500 6 Optics and Instruments 500 6 Detection of Light a + b 500 6 Electives: Level EC Core/General/Specialist Astronomy Courses 500 30 Instrumentation-related Courses 400 – 500 12 Research Projects: Level EC Minor Project in General Astronomy 500 24 Major Project in Instrumental Astronomy 600 36 ### Master Study Plan

At the start of the master’s programme in September, students are required to draw up a complete overview of the courses and projects they are planning to follow in the 2 subsequent academic years. This Master Study Plan needs to be approved by the Study Advisor Astronomy. To select courses, students need to consult the course list for academic year 2015-2016 (see below), and/or the course list for academic year 2016-2017 (see: Astronomy and Instrumentation, 2016-2017).

Learn more

For more information on the specific requirements of this specialisation, please look at:

Courses 2015-16

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Instrumentation-related Astronomy Courses:

High Contrast Imaging 3
Optics and Instruments 6
Project Management for Scientists 3
Astronomy from Space 3
Detection of Light a + b 6

Other Instrumentation-related Courses:

The following courses offered by the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering (AE), at Delft University of Technology, may be included as instrumentation-related courses in the above programme:

More information: Enrolment as a minor student [guest student] at TU Delft.

Astronomy Core Courses:

Origin and Evolution of the Universe 6
Stellar Structure and Evolution 6

General Astronomy Courses:

Large Scale Structure and Galaxy Formation 6
Star and Planet Formation 6
Computational Astrophysics 6

Specialist Astronomy Courses:

Compact Objects and Accretion 3
Databases and Data Mining in Astronomy 3
Observational Cosmology 3
Astrochemistry 3

Inter-faculty Electives:

Science Methodology 4
Science and the public: contemporary and historical perspectives 6

Non-Astronomy Courses:

These courses can be selected from the courses offered by the following Leiden MSc programmes:

Additional BSc Courses if required:

Radiative Processes 5
On being a Scientist 3
Introduction to Solid State Physics 3


Research projects

Minor and major projects

The second part of the programme consists of a minor research project [24 EC] and a major research project [36 EC], resulting in the MSc thesis, and is therefore also called MSc project. The substance of the research projects will be individually decided between students and research staff involved in the training programme.

The minor project should be related to observational astronomy, and the major project to astronomical instrumentation. With regard to the latter, this can be hands-on lab work at Leiden Observatory.

The major research project, or MSc project, could also be conducted at one of Leiden Observatory’s research partners, such as:

  • Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands and cosine in Leiden
  • TNO in Delft
  • ESA-ESTEC in Noordwijk
  • ASTRON in Dwingeloo
  • SRON in Utrecht/Groningen.

In this case, students will be participating in one of the international projects Leiden Observatory is carrying out with leading Dutch astronomical and astrophysical institutes.

During the instrumentation-related courses, students need to design an instrument or device. For their MSc project, however, students are also expected to develop a prototype of an instrument.

Proposed projects

Proposed projects

  • Prototyping of a truly achromatic liquid crystal polarization modulator
    For more information, please contact the supervisor by e-mail.
    Supervisor: dr. Frans Snik
    Level: Major/Minor

  • Measurement of slit polarization and comparison with theory
    A spectrograph slit creates a certain amount of polarization. To be able to predict this instrumental polarization from a slit, a model based on waveguide theory has been established. This model can be extended to also cover other diffractive polarization effects.
    The student will measure the slit polarization for a range of slit widths and wavelengths. These measurements are then compared to the models.
    Supervisor: Prof. dr. Christoph Keller
    Level: Major/Minor

  • Optimal coronagraph design for exoplanet characterization
    Current approaches to designing corographs do not necessarily find the optimum instrument configuration that works at an actual telescope. In this project, a general code will be developed based on simulated annealing or genetic optimization to automatically find the optimum coronagraph for a given telescope and science target.
    Supervisor: Prof. dr. Christoph Keller
    Level: Major/Minor

  • Detecting Water Vapor Turbulence for mid-IR observations
    METIS, which will be one of the first instruments on the 39-meter European Extremely Large Telescope, will be the only instrument able to deliver diffraction limited images in the mid-IR range, mainly because Adaptive Optics is much easier than for other instruments. One of the remaining challenges is that the image quality of METIS might ultimately be determined by variations in the composition of the atmosphere, i.e., the amount of water and CO2 and other trace gasses. Your job, should you accept it, is to determine as accurately as possible the impact of composition changes on the performance of METIS and try to find ways to mitigate its effects.
    Supervisor: dr. Remko Stuik
    Level: Minor

  • Advanced tracking and fast tip/tilt correction for the old observatory telescope
    Supervisor: dr. Remko Stuik
    Level: Major

  • Implementation of the all-sky camera at the Old Observatory
    Supervisor: dr. Remko Stuik
    Level: Major

  • Verification of the pointing accuracy of Cherenkov Telescopes (only if timing works out)
    Supervisor: dr. Remko Stuik
    Level: Major

  • Characterization of different ice constituents
    Dust grains in space are coated by several tens of layers of ice. In the Sackler Laboratory such interstellar ices can be simulated and within this minor project it is your task to spectroscopically characterize the different ice constituents. The data are used to compare with astronomical observations.
    You do not need an experimental background for this project. You will receive an intense laboratory training and after 2-3 weeks you are supposed to record spectra with your own setup.
    Supervisor: Prof. dr. Harold Linnartz
    Level: Minor
    See also Sackler Lab

  • Spectroscopic experiments on supersonically expanding plasma
    Diffuse interstellar band features are absorption bands observed in star light crossing translucent clouds. The molecular origin of these bands is unknown. A new setup to search for eventual carriers has been recently constructed and within this major project it is your task (under guidance of a postdoc and/or PhD student) to perform spectroscopic experiments on supersonically expanding plasma, simulating the harsh conditions in space.
    Some experience with physical equipment will be a clear advantage for this project.
    Supervisor: Prof. dr. Harold Linnartz
    Level: Major
    See also Sackler Lab

  • Leiden Database for Ice (LDI)
    You don’t like laboratory work, but you like to link laboratory data to databases. Then this is the right project for you. For more than 20 years the Sackler laboratory is recording spectra of interstellar ice, and these data are public, but hard to get, given the rather poor status the LDI (Leiden Database for Ice) is in. You need programming skills, as well as spectroscopic knowledge of solid state features. You are able to fit spectra and to translate fits in fundamental parameters. This is a challenging project !
    Supervisor: Prof. dr. Harold Linnartz
    Level: Major
    See also Sackler Lab

(Last updated: August 25, 2015)

Previous projects

Previous projects


  • TreePol: Development of an instrument to measure circular polarization signals of homochirality in biomolecules
    Student: Luuk Visser

  • Calibration of iSpex
    Student: Ritse Heinsbroek

  • Polychromatic Polarization Modulation with Ferro-Electric Liquid Crystals
    Student: Ronniy Joseph


  • LOUPE: Observe the Earth as an Exoplanet
    Student: Jens Hoeijmakers

  • Modeling a Stepped Luneberg Lens for All-Sky Imaging
    Student: Mason Carney


  • Development of the iSPEX spectropolarimetric add-on for smartphones
    Student: Stephanie Heikamp