University of Heidelberg

Observational Astronomy (MKEP5)

Summersemester, 2010

C.P. Dullemond, Roy van Boekel and Andreas Quirrenbach


This lecture gives an overview over methods of astronomical observations across the electromagnetic spectrum (gamma-rays, X-rays, UV/optical, infrared, millimeter and radio). We will discuss this from various perspectives:

  • Practicalities of the methods and of observational astronomy as a whole
    We will discuss the basics of time measurement, celestial coordinate systems (and their variations in time), aspects of absolute astrometry, catalogs of astronomical objects, web-based archives for catalogs and databases. For various observational techniques we will discuss the physical principles, data analysis, data reduction and calibration methods.
  • The theory and physics behind the methods
    We will discuss issues like geometric optics, aberration, wave propagation, Fresnel/Fraunhofer diffraction, the theory of diffraction patters (point spead functions) of telescopes, atmospheric turbulence and seeing, atmospheric transmission and emission, coherence of light, stochastic signals, bias, van Cittert-Zernike theorem and the theory of interferometry.
  • The techniques used, including examples of actual telescopes and instruments
    We will discuss telescope design and detector technology for the various wavelength domains, and, as a more in-depth topic, we will discuss adaptive optics.
  • A few example applications
    During the course of the lecture we will also every now and then present an example of what kind of astrophysical observations are done with these techniques.

We will try to be as broad as possible, but naturally we will put some more emphasis on the wavelength domains of our own expertise.


Tuesday 13.04Roy van BoekelIntroduction slide show
Thursday 15.04Roy van BoekelCoordinates and time
Tuesday 20.04Roy van BoekelCatalogs, archives and their web-based access
Thursday 22.04Kees DullemondBasics of radiation transfer
Tuesday 27.04Kees DullemondGeometric optics and theory of diffraction
Thursday 29.04Kees DullemondDiffraction continued (+recap of Fourier analysis)
Tuesday 04.05Andreas QuirrenbachTelescope design + aberrations
Thursday 06.05Andreas QuirrenbachTelescope design + aberrations
Tuesday 11.05Roy van BoekelAtmospheric transmission
Thursday 13.05--- Ascension day ------ No lecture ---
Tuesday 18.05Kees DullemondAtmospheric turbulence effects + signal theory
Thursday 20.05Kees DullemondAtmospheric turbulence effects + signal theory
Tuesday 25.05Kees DullemondFinalizing topic of seeing; Start with CCD detectors
Thursday 27.05Roy van BoekelImaging with CCDs: Observational methods + Demo
Tuesday 01.06Andreas QuirrenbachCCD Performance, IR arrays
Thursday 03.06--- Fronleichnam --- --- No lecture ---
Tuesday 08.06Roy van BoekelPhotometry, various techniques + Demo
Thursday 10.06Roy van BoekelSpectroscopy + spectrometers I
Tuesday 15.06Roy van BoekelSpectroscopy + spectrometers II
Thursday 17.06Kees DullemondInterferometry I
Tuesday 22.06Roy van BoekelInterferometry II
Thursday 24.06Roy van BoekelInterferometry III
Tuesday 29.06Kees DullemondX-ray and gamma-ray astronomy I
Thursday 01.07Kees DullemondX-ray and gamma-ray astronomy II
Tuesday 06.07Andreas QuirrenbachAdaptive optics I
Thursday 08.07Andreas QuirrenbachAdaptive optics II
Tuesday 13.07Kees DullemondNon-Electromagnetic Astronomy
Thursday 15.07Roy van BoekelObservational Astronomy Highlights: High-mass stars
Tuesday 20.07Roy van BoekelObservational Astronomy Highlights: Exoplanets
Thursday 22.07Roy and KeesQuestion Session

On-line material:

The material of this lecture will be somewhat diverse. It consists partly of Powerpoint presentations and partly (the more mathematical parts of the lecture) of LaTeX PDF documents. Also some references to material on the web will be posted. But this material will be posted as we go, and not all material will be posted in electronic form (and will instead be handed out during the lecture). The three lecturers will lecture at different dates, taking turns.

For the first few lectures by Kees Dullemond, here is the on-line material (NOTE: this is very fresh, so there may still be errors and typos):

The following demonstration computer programs are available for download:

R. van Boekel and C. P. Dullemond
Max-Planck-Institut fuer Astronomie
Koenigstuhl 17
69117 Heidelberg
Tel: 06221-528-405 resp. 395
Email: resp.

A. Quirrenbach
Zentrum fuer Astronomie Heidelberg, Landessternwarte
69117 Heidelberg
Tel: 06221-541792

Responsible: Cornelis Petrus Dullemond, last modification Jun/06/2015 23:32 CEST
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