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Astronomy & Instrumentation (2013-2014)

Why Astronomical Instrumentation?

First-class astronomical research requires state-of-the-art instruments and telescopes. Pushing the detection limits to ever fainter levels and sharper images relies on improved detector technologies, new photonic devices, better and larger telescopes and innovative observing techniques. Traditionally, astronomical instruments have been designed and built by astronomers and closely associated groups, for three main reasons:

First, the instruments are designed to provide specific performance criteria, and the best definition of a new instrument is made by its future users, the astronomers themselves. Second, many observations "from the search for the first galaxies in the Universe to the direct detection of extra-solar planets" requires a careful understanding of the instrument, its calibration and performance. Last but not least, astronomers who build instruments get rewarded with guaranteed observing time, which often leads to exciting discoveries with the new instrument.

Interestingly, four of the seven Nobel Prizes awarded to astronomy went to instrument builders. The close connection between astronomical instrumentation and research is being recognized at Leiden Observatory and strongly supported at both teaching and the project levels. The most relevant large projects with key researchers from Leiden are listed at the end of this page, and many offer research projects to gather hands-on experience (please see also the Observatory's Astronomical Instrumentation Group).

Astronomical Instrumentation at Leiden University

The Astronomical Instrumentation stream offers the exceptional opportunity to learn about both, exciting astronomical research and the state-of-the art instruments that are required to perform it. The main goal is to better understand the principles and performances of astronomical instruments, and to develop new ideas and concepts for future instruments. This stream results from a unique collaboration between Leiden Observatory and Delft University of Technology (TUD), combining their excellence in astronomical research and state-of-the-art photonics developments.

Generally, the stream consists of mandatory courses (12 EC) and an individual selection of courses from the following: general astronomy (12 - 18 EC), instrument-related astronomy (12 - 6 EC), and instrument-related physics (24 EC). An overview of the suitable courses is given below:


In addition, Leiden University students following this stream should compose their minor research project (24 EC) in observational astronomy and their major research project (36 EC) in astronomical instrumentation. The latter could be performed at various locations, including the Sterrewacht Leiden, at TUD (Kavli Institute, Optics, 3mE, L&R, EWI), cosine Leiden, ASTRON (Dwingeloo), or SRON (Utrecht/Groningen).

Leiden University students can sign in at Delft University of Technology (TUD) at the student administration, without any extra costs. Just bring a copy of your subscription at Leiden University. After subscription you have access to all facilities at both universities.

Students who studied astronomy in their Bachelor phase may enroll in this stream without any further preparation. Students without astronomy courses in their BSc need the courses labeled above as 'required prerequisite' to successfully follow the stream.

Astronomical Instrumentation Projects at Leiden Observatory

Leiden Observatory is involved in a wide range of astronomical instrumentation projects. Most of these offer students the opportunity to carry out their major research project. A recent list of projects include:

ALMA (http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/alma/) and APEX (http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/div/mm/apex.html) - a huge international synthesis radio telescope that will operate at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, and its pathfinder antennae experiment. [Hogerheijde/van Dishoeck]

APP (Apodising Phase Plate) (http://www.eso.org/public/announcements/ann1037/) - a photonics device to interferometrically suppress starlight in part of the image to enhance the contrast and search for faint exoplanets in the other part of the image [Kenworthy].

ASSIST (http://www.strw.leidenuniv.nl/muse/ASSIST/) - the Adaptive Secondary Simulator and InStrument Testbed for the testing of the MUSE adaptive optics system [Stuik]

GAIA (http://www.rssd.esa.int/index.php?project=GAIA&page=index) - an ambitious ESA mission which aims to produce a three-dimensional map of our galaxy by measuring precise positions, parallaxes and proper motions for all stars brighter than 20th magnitude. [Brown].

LOFAR (http://www.lofar.org/) - a pioneering low-frequency radio telescope, which uses an array of simple omni-directional radio antennas instead of mechanical signal processing with a dish antenna [Rottgering].

MATISSE (http://www.oca.eu/matisse/) - the Multi-AperTure mid-Infrared SpectroScopic Experiment MATISSE is a four beam combiner for the VLTI, offering an efficient capability for image reconstruction at milli-arcsecond resolution [Jaffe].

METIS (http://www.strw.leidenuniv.nl/metis/) - the Mid-IR E-ELT Imager and Spectrograph for wavelengths longward of 3 microns on the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT, 42m optical mirror!) [Brandl].

MICADO (http://www.mpe.mpg.de/ir/instruments/micado/micado.php?lang=en) - the MCAO Imaging Camera for Deep Observations for the E-ELT [Kuijken].

MIRI (http://www.roe.ac.uk/ukatc/consortium/miri/index.html) - the mid-IR instrument on board the James-Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope to be launched in 2014 [van Dishoeck/Brandl].

SACKLER LAB FOR ASTROCHEMISTRY (http://www.strw.leidenuniv.nl/~lab/) - in the laboratory experiments are performed that simulate conditions in space and that focus on the spectroscopy of molecular transients and processes in inter- and circumstellar ice analogues [Linnartz].

Further Information

Before starting this stream you should contact one of the coordinators, Dr. Bernhard Brandl of the Leiden Observatory, brandl@strw.leidenuniv.nl, Prof. T.M. (Teun) Klapwijk from the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience (Applied Sciences) at TU Delft , or dr. L.L.A.(Bert) Vermeersen of Planetary Science and Exploration at TU Delft ().

Astronomical Instrumentation courses at TUD

* Systemen en Signalen (TN2545)
* Imaging systems (AP3121 D)
* Geometrical optics (AP3391)
* Advanced Digital Image Processing (ET4283)
* Adaptive Optics and Interferometry (SC4120)