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AST80018 Tools of Modern Astronomy

Course/s with Unit:
A unit of study in the Graduate Certificate of Science (Astronomy), Graduate Diploma of Science (Astronomy) and Master of Science (Astronomy).

Credit Points:
12.5 Credit Points

One semester

Contact Hours:
Equivalent to 60 hours


AST80004 Exploring Stars and the Milky Way, or equivalent.


Learning and Teaching Structure:
Online delivery mode, contact via newsgroups & email.

Assessable newsgroup contributions (30%), online tests (20%) and group work (50%).

This Unit aims to provide a good understanding of electromagnetic radiation, focusing on both its emission mechanisms and its subsequent detection, with an emphasis on telescopes and their observations.  The electromagnetic spectrum from gamma rays to radio waves will be covered.

After successfully completing this Unit, students should be able to:

  • Identify the nature of light and recognise that different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation require different types of telescopes and detectors
  • Differentiate the basic principles of telescope design and compare their use
  • Explain and summarise the principles and techniques of observational astronomy across the electromagnetic spectrum
  • Use problem solving skills to explain and synthesise solutions to problems in multiwavelength astronomy
  • Design and create, in a team, a telescope application time proposal, by applying communication skills and assessing relevant astronomical information


  • Celestial co-ordinates and time systems
  • The nature and production of light: gamma-rays to radio waves; thermal and non-thermal sources; emission lines; earthly and heavenly examples
  • The electromagnetic spectrum; the sky at different wavelengths; atmospheric windows
  • Photometry, filters, colour magnitudes and colour indices
  • Photomultipliers, CCD imaging
  • Optical spectroscopy, prism and grating spectroscopy; the detection of extrasolar planets via spectroscopic means
  • The eye as an optical instrument, lens systems, refracting and reflecting telescopes; magnification, light-gathering power, angular resolution, diffraction limit and aberrations
  • Principles of telescope mount and housing design, control systems.
  • Optical seeing, active and adaptive optics, laser guide stars, astronomical site selection and light pollution issues
  • Infrared astronomy: detectors, South Pole infrared astronomy and space missions
  • Construction and resolving power of single-dish radio telescopes, principles of radio and microwave receivers
  • Radio interferometry, interferometer arrays and aperture synthesis, VLBI, data analysis
  • High-energy astronomy: design of UV, X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes and detectors
  • Neutrino astronomy, gravity wave detectors

Prescribed Textbook & Reading Materials:
For information about the textbook, follow this link.

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