Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

MKEP5 Astronomical Techniques

Core course for Master students, listed on Moodle and LSF


Course content (short summary): Concepts, technologies, and physical principles of modern observational techniques, along with their scientific applications. Includes optical telescopes and detectors, imaging and spectroscopy, characterization of data, effect of the atmosphere, multi-wavelength and particle astronomy.


Lecturer: Priv.-Doz. Dr. Anna Pasquali


Tutors: Beatriz Bordadagua, Karin Kjellgren, Abhinna Samantaray, Yash Mohan Sharma


Time and location:

  • Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday 9:15 - 11, Grösser Hörsaal (gHS), Philosophenweg 12
  • Tutorials by Beatriz Bordadagua: Monday 9:15 - 11, ARI, SR1
  • Tutorials by Karin Kjellgren: Tuesday 11:15 - 13, Philosophenweg 12, R056
  • Tutorials by Abhinna Samantaray: Tuesday 11:15 - 13, Philosophenweg 12, R058
  • Tutorials by Yash Mohan Sharma: Tuesday 11:15 - 13


Lectures will start on Thursday April 16th 2024. Tutorials will begin on Monday/Tuesday April 29th/30th.

Homework sheets become available every Tuesday on Moodle and have to be submitted by Tuesday of the following week on Moodle. We encourage solving and submitting the homework in groups; the maximum is 3 people.


Prerequisites: Knowledge of the introductory astronomy lectures (MVAstro0 or WPAstro). Basic knowledge on electromagnetic radiation.


Credit points: 8



  • P. Léna, "Observational Astrophysics", Springer
  • F.R. Chromey, "To Measure the Sky", Cambridge University Press
  • C.R. Kitchin, "Astrophysical Techniques", CRC Press

Additional recommendations for specific parts of the lecture:

  • S.B. Howell, "Handbook of CCD Astronomy",  Cambridge University Press
  • I. Appenzeller, "Introduction to Astronomical Spectroscopy", Cambridge University Press
  • D.J. Schroeder, "Astronomical Optics", Academic Press


Exam: Tuesday, July 23rd, 9:00 - 11:00

50% of homework points are required for participating in the exam.


Course content and planned schedule:

  • 01 April 16th: Lecture organization; Coordinates and time
  • 02 April 18th: Atmospheric extinction and airmass; Geometric optics: focal length and image scale
  • 03 April 23rd: Optical aberrations and telescope design
  • 04 April 25th: Instrumental diffraction and Airy-PSF
  • 05 April 30th:  First part of optical detectors and CCDs
  • 06 May 2nd:  Second part of optical detectors and CCDs
  • 07 May 7th:  The night sky; S/N calculation
  • 08 May 14th: Spectroscopy 1: gratings-grisms-prims, basic mathematical relations
  • 09 May 16th: Spectroscopy 2: scientific information at different wavelength and resolution: SED and population models, redshift, rotation/dispersion; IFUs
  • 10 May 21st: Imaging data: flux, magnitudes, noise
  • 11 May 23rd: Imaging data reduction, spectroscopic reduction
  • 12 May 28th: Imaging data analysis: photometry; Spectroscopic data analysis: line centers, equivalent widths; Flux calibratios
  • 13 June 4th:  Atmospheric turbulence and seeing
  • 14 June 6th:  Active Optics, Adaptive Optics
  • 15 June 11th: Observation and analysis of the Sun
  • 16 June 13th: Web-based access of data and measurements; Observational tools
  • 17 June 18th: Near-, mid-, and far-infrared Astronomy (detectors and instrumentation, science)
  • 18 June 20th: Radio astronomy (detectors and instrumentation, science)
  • 19 June 25th: Interferometry: concepts, optical/near-infrared, radio
  • 20 June 27th: UV astronomy
  • 21 July 2nd:  X-ray astronomy: detectors and science
  • 22 July 4th:  Gamma-ray astronomy and particle astronomy
  • 23 July 9th: Neutrino astronomy; Gravitational wave astronomy; Gravitational lensing; Observational cosmology
  • 24 July 11th: Questions and answers
  • JULY 23rd: Exam: 9:00-11:00
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