Observational Astronomy

National University of Ireland, Galway

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Observational Astronomy

  • Host University

    National University of Ireland, Galway

  • Location

    Galway, Ireland

  • Area of Study

    Astronomy, Physics

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    Admission to this course is subject to the agreement of the Head of the Discipline offering the course and will depend on the applicant's academic background in the relevant subject area.

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    24 lectures practicals:

    - 12 lectures practicals (field trip) in the "Observational Astronomy" half of the module
    - 12 lectures in the "Astronomy & The History of Ideas - a Paradigmatic Approach" half of the module, which is taught by Prof. Markus Woerner (Philosophy Dept.).
    - The field trip is to a professional observatory abroad, normally Loiano Observatory in Italy.

    Texts (reference)


    Preparatory work enabling practical observing.

    Telescope Systems & Imaging

    Telescope optical principles
    Factors in imaging performance - PSF, MTF, spot size, image circle

    Optical aberrations

    Reflecting, refracting and hybrid telescope designs


    Observable domains & evolution of optical detectors
    Photon statistics
    Quantum efficiency
    Design and detailed usage of CCDs

    Types of noise & noise reduction principles

    Stellar Photometry

    Magnitude system
    Distance modulus & absolute magnitudes
    Photometric systems
    Colour indices & CMDs
    Interstellar reddening & extinction

    Atmospheric effects - sky background, extinction


    Types of spectrograph & dispersion elements
    FOSC spectrographs - Loiano BFOSC
    Spectral range, dispersion, and resolution
    Sky subtraction

    Some characteristic lines and features

    Time-series observations

    Variable Stars

    Practical Observing

    Predicting object visibility
    A night on the telescope: planning and conducting observations

    Overview of image/data processing

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.

Please reference fall and spring course lists as not all courses are taught during both semesters.

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.