This course aims to provide an understanding of the tools and techniques used by astronomers to study the Universe, with an emphasis on ground-based optical observations. You will also learn the practical skills necessary to work with your own observations. Topics covered include: astronomical telescopes, astronomical instruments and electronic detectors.

It builds on Introduction to Astrophysics (PHY104) and the topics covered in the first-year astronomy lab (PHY115 & PHY116). The module is designed to prepare students choosing to do observing projects or the La Palma field trip in their third year (PHY319), fourth year projects (PHY480), and those intending to spend a year abroad on La Palma (PHY473, PHY474).

As part of this module, all students must do an observing project using the University's 16-inch telescope. On successful completion of this course you should be able to:

  • Assess the relative merits of different telescope and mounting designs, and different observing sites.
  • Understand the effect of optical aberrations and the Earth's atmosphere on astronomical observations.
  • Understand the operating principles of imagers.
  • Describe the operating principles of modern optical detectors.
  • Follow the procedures required to reduce and calibrate astronomical data.
  • Understand noise sources and predict the signal-to-noise ratio of an astronomical observation.
  • Analyse and visualise data in the Python programming language