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: Dr. Markus Hundertmark, Dr. Silvia Martocchia and Christian Sorgenfrei


Time and location:

  • Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday 9:15 - 11, Grösser Hörsaal (gHS), Philosophenweg 12
  • Tutorials by Christian Sorgenfrei: Monday 9:15 - 11, ARI, SR1
  • Tutorials by Dr. Markus Hundertmark: Tuesday 11:15 - 13, Philosophenweg 12, R056
  • Tutorials by Dr. Silvia Martocchia: Tuesday 11:15 - 13, Philosophenweg 12, R058

Lectures will start on Thursday April 18th 2023. Tutorials will begin on Tuesday May 2nd.

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 25th, 9:00 - 11:00, in INF227 HS1

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


Course content and planned schedule:

  • 01 April 18th: Lecture organization; Coordinates and time
  • 02 April 20th: Atmospheric extinction and airmass; Geometric optics: focal length and image scale
  • 03 April 25th: Optical aberrations and telescope design
  • 04 April 27th: Instrumental diffraction and Airy-PSF
  • 05 May 2nd:  First part of optical detectors and CCDs
  • 06 May 4th:  Second part of optical detectors and CCDs
  • 07 May 9th:  The night sky; S/N calculation
  • 08 May 11th: 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 23rd: Imaging data: flux, magnitudes, noise
  • 11 May 25th: Imaging data reduction, spectroscopic reduction
  • 12 May 30th: Imaging data analysis: photometry; Spectroscopic data analysis: line centers, equivalent widths; Flux calibratios
  • 13 June 1st:  Atmospheric turbulence and seeing
  • 14 June 6th:  Active Optics, Adaptive Optics
  • 15 June 13th: Observation and analysis of the Sun
  • 16 June 15th: Web-based access of data and measurements; Observational tools
  • 17 June 20th: Near-, mid-, and far-infrared Astronomy (detectors and instrumentation, science)
  • 18 June 22nd: Radio astronomy (detectors and instrumentation, science)
  • 19 June 27th: Interferometry: concepts, optical/near-infrared, radio
  • 20 June 29th: UV astronomy
  • 21 July 4th:  X-ray astronomy: detectors and science
  • 22 July 6th:  Gamma-ray astronomy and particle astronomy
  • 23 July 11th: Neutrino astronomy; Gravitational wave astronomy; Gravitational lensing; Observational cosmology
  • 24 July 13th: Questions and answers
  • JULY 25th: Exam: 9:00-11:00
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