AST80002 (formerly HET609) Astrophotography & CCD Imaging

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 project (50%).

This Unit will discuss the principles behind the imaging of astronomical objects with telescopes, conventional cameras and CCD cameras, plus the use of computer techniques for image processing. It will focus particularly on techniques and equipment within reach of the serious amateur astronomer.

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

  • understand the fundamental principles and techniques involved in the imaging of astronomical objects with telescopes, conventional cameras and CCD cameras;
  • understand the use of computer techniques for image processing;
  • have an awareness of the range of optical astronomical targets available to amateur astronomers;
  • have a good knowledge of current trends in observing techniques in both amateur and professional astronomy;
  • discuss basic principles and concepts of astrophotography and CCD imaging in a non-technical way understandable to the wider public; and
  • research an astronomy topic in depth, using dependable sources of astronomical information on the internet and/or observational means.


  • Introduction to astronomical co-ordinate systems
  • Principles of telescopic imaging: optics, aperture size, focal length, F ratio, field of view, magnification, resolution, aberrations, distortion of field, contrast, spectroscopy, tracking and control.
  • Principles of photographic imaging: SLR operation, lenses, specialised camera bodies, wide field (no telescope) use, 50mm, telephoto and wide angle lenses, filters (eg. broad, H alpha etc.), focal plane and eyepiece projection, vignetting.
  • Digital Astrophotography: principles, equipment, Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras, operation, lenses, detectors.
  • Principles of CCD imaging: principles, spectral range and sensitivity, digital, integrating and video cameras; DIY construction, computer requirements, pixel size and binning, exposure time, dark frames and flat fielding, remote telescope use, reduction of photometric data, reduction of spectroscopic data, images from the Internet.
  • Principles of CCD data reduction: software, dark frame subtraction, cosmic ray removal, flat fielding; brightness, contrast, greyscale, colour contouring, negatives, resizing, pixel editing, filters, unsharp masking; scaling, histogram, equalization and noise reduction techniques.
  • Photometry and colours: spectral distributions; atmospheric extinction, dispersion and seeing, filters, standard photometric systems.
  • Properties of astronomical targets: point and extended objects, point and surface brightness, spectrum distribution, sky brightness, atmospheric emission and scattering, motion of object (real or due to Earth), variable stars, supernovae and novae, gamma ray bursts.
  • Future trends in astronomical observing

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

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