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Observational Techniques

Code: 42866 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
4313861 High Energy Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology OT 0 1


Josep Miquel Girart Medina

Use of Languages

Principal working language:
english (eng)


Josep Miquel Girart Medina
Francisco Javier Castander Serentill
Ricard Casas Rodríguez
Francesco Coti Zelati


No specific prerequisites are set for this course, but it is advisable to possess some basic knowledge of Astronomy and Physics.

Objectives and Contextualisation

The objective of this course is to familiarize the student with the various techniques for observations as used in Astronomy. The student will be required to comprehend basic concepts, nomenclature and unit systems that are commonly employed in astronomical work. Detection techniques and instrumentation will be described as a function of wavelength, including the entire particle and electromagnetic spectrum: neutrino astronomy, high-energy (gamma-rays and X-rays), UV-optical, near infrared and radio astronomy. For all these regimes, which use different methodologies, data reduction and analysis techniques will be covered. The final goal is that the student acquires sufficient basic knowledge to be able to plan, execute and analyze observations in all branches of Astronomy thus enabling him/her to perform scientific research.


  • Apply the main principles to specific areas such as particle physics, astrophysics of stars, planets and galaxies, cosmology and physics beyond the Standard Model.
  • Formulate and tackle problems, both open and more defined, identifying the most relevant principles and using approaches where necessary to reach a solution, which should be presented with an explanation of the suppositions and approaches.
  • Understand the bases of advanced topics selected at the frontier of high energy physics, astrophysics and cosmology and apply them consistently.
  • Use acquired knowledge as a basis for originality in the application of ideas, often in a research context.
  • Use critical reasoning, analytical capacity and the correct technical language and formulate logical arguments.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Apply the optical principle of the conceptual design of astronomical cameras and telescopes.
  2. Make a comparative analysis of the different observation techniques (optical astronomy, radioastronomy, etc.).
  3. Plan an optical observation of a series of astronomical objects.
  4. Understand the basics of astronomical observations.
  5. Understand the basics of optical and infrared astronomy.
  6. Understand the basics of radioastronomy.


Basic concepts of astronomy (atmospheric windows, position astronomy, magnitude systems)

Solar observation

UV, optical and infrared astronomy:

  • Telescopes: optical and mechanical designs, adaptive optics, observation planning
  • Detectors: CCDs, near IR detectors
  • Reduction of astronomical images
  • Photometry and photometric systems
  • Spectroscopy
High-energy astrophysics:
  • Detection principles
  • Instrumentation
  • Data analysis


  • Detection principles
  • Radiointerferometry
  • Data analysis

Neutrino astrophysics:

  • Basic principles
  • Detectors


Theory lectures and exercises.

Classwork and homework. 

Preparation of an essay for oral presentation and preparation of lab reports.

Annotation: Within the schedule set by the centre or degree programme, 15 minutes of one class will be reserved for students to evaluate their lecturers and their courses or modules through questionnaires.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Practical labs 6 0.24 3
Theory lectures 39 1.56 2, 1, 5, 6, 4
Type: Supervised      
Practical labs 5 0.2 3
Essay 5 0.2 5, 6, 3
Type: Autonomous      
Discussion, team work 38 1.52 2, 1, 5, 6, 4, 3
Homework 28 1.12 2, 1, 5, 6, 4


The evaluation is composed of an oral presentation and discussion of a topical essay with 27.5% weight (individual), a written report of a topical essay with 27.5% weight (individual), and the reports from three practical labs on data reduction and analysis with 15% weight each (in small groups or indivual).

There will be a resit exam for those who fail the course.

Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Oral presentation and discussion of a topical essay 27.5% 4 0.16 2, 1, 5, 6, 4, 3
Resit Exam 100% 3 0.12 2, 1, 5, 6, 4, 3
Written report of a topical essay 27.5% 12 0.48 2, 1, 5, 6, 4, 3
Written report on practical lab on X-ray astrophysics 15% 3.3 0.13 1, 4
Written report on practical lab on solar observations 15% 3.4 0.14 5, 4, 3
Written report on practical lab radiastronomy 15% 3.3 0.13 6, 4


  • Astrophysical Techniques (CRC Press), C.R. Kitchin, 2013 (6th ed)
  • The Design and Construction of Large Optical Telescopes (Springer), Pierre Y. Bely (editor), 2002
  • The Sun. An introduction (Springer), Michael Stix, 2002
  • Observational Astrophysics (Springer), Pierre Léna et al., 2012 (3rd ed)
  • Handbook of CCD Astronomy (Cambridge), Steve B. Howell, 2006
  • Handbook of Infrared Astronomy (Cambridge), I.S. Glass, 1999
  • Observational Astronomy: Techniques and Instrumentation (Cambridge), Edmund C. Sutton, 2011
  • Radiation Detection and Measurement (Wiley), Glenn F. Knoll, 2010 (4th ed)
  • High Energy Astrophysics (Cambridge), Malcom S. Longair, 2011 (3rd ed)
  • Exploring the X-ray Universe (Cambridge), Philip A. Charles, Frederick D. Seward, 2010 (2nd ed)
  • Lectures on Neutrino Astronomy: Theory and Experiment (Lectures presented at the TASI School), Francis Halzen, 1998 (arXiv:astro-ph/9810368v1)
  • Tools of Radio Astronomy (A&A Library, Springer), Kirsten Rohlfs, Thomas L. Wilson, 2009 (5th ed)
  • Interferometry and Synthesis in Radio Astronomy (Wiley), A.R. Thompson, J.M. Moran, G.W. Swenson Jr., 2001 (2nd ed)
  • An introduction to Radio Astronomy (Cambridge). Bernard F. Burke, Francis Graham-Smith, 2009 (3rd ed)