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Radio Astronomy

This webpage contains information regarding the master course on Radio Astronomy at Leiden University for 2018. This page will be updated during the course.


Radio astronomy has a special place in modern astrophysics. It yields an unobscured view of the structure of our own Milky Way and other galaxies. It shows us a very diverse range of both thermal and non-thermal phenomena and objects. It maps out dust and molecules forming stars and planets in dark clouds. It uniquely probes magnetic fields across interstellar and intergalactic space. It reveals the distribution of dark matter in galaxies via observations of neutral hydrogen, the most abundant element in the Universe. Finally, it provides the only way to study the very earliest epochs of the Universe, by measurements of the cosmic microwave background and by studying the large-scale distribution of neutral hydrogen during the so-called dark ages and the epoch of reionisation, when stars began to shine for the first time, and active galaxies were forming.

This course provides an introduction to the tools, techniques, and science of radio astronomy. The discussion includes: fundamentals and some history of measuring cosmic radio signals, the basic properties of antennas and receivers, practical aspects of radio interferometry (incl. calibration and imaging techniques from ALMA to VLBI to LOFAR), overview of existing facilities and next generation radio telescopes (e.g. SKA). Specific science topics include molecular radiation and masers, sub-mm galaxies at high-z, pulsars, the early Universe.

The course includes practical sessions where students get a chance to make radio images from real interferometry data under close supervision. The students will be asked to report on a specific data processing assignment. The course concludes with a field trip to ASTRON and JIVE and the LOFAR and WSRT radio telescopes located in Drenthe.

Students will learn how specific astronomical phenomena can be studied at radio wavelengths and which type of telescopes match the requirements for such observations, including quantitative assessments of sensitivity and resolution. They will be familiar with the concepts of radio astronomy techniques and acquire basic skills for dealing with interferometry data. The course will require students to consult the scientific literature and produce a concise scientific report.

Time line

The class consists of lectures and practical sessions. Unless indicated differently, lectures are on Friday between 11:00 and 12:45 in room HL414, and practical sessions (tutorials and assignments) are Friday between 13:30 and 15:15 in room HL411. The table below provides an overview. More detail is given on the schedule_2018 page and on the assignment_2018 page we provide the guidelines for finishing the reports.

Date What (and Who*) Note
Sep 7, 2018 Lecture 1 (TS) No practical session
Sep 14, 2018 No lectures or practical sessions
Sep 21, 2018 Lecture 2 (MB), Tutorial 1 (MB/TS/MO/RM)
Sep 28, 2018 Lecture 3 (MB), Tutorial 2 (MB/MO/RM)
Oct 5, 2018 Lecture 4 (MB), Tutorial 3 (MB/MO/RM)
Oct 12, 2018 Lecture 5 (MB), Tutorial 4 (MB/TS/MO/RM)
Oct 19, 2018 Lecture 6 (MB), Assignment (MB/TS)
Oct 26, 2018 Lecture 7 (TS), Assignment (MO/RM)
Nov 2, 2018 Lecture 8 (TS), Assignment (MO/RM)
Nov 9, 2018 Lecture 9 (MB), Assignment (MO/RM)
Nov 16, 2018 Lecture 10 (TS), Assignment
Nov 23, 2018 Lecture 11 (GL), Assignment (MO/RM) GL = TBD
Nov 30, 2018 Lecture 12 (MB)
Dec 7, 2018 - !! ASSIGNMENT REPORTS DUE !!
Nov 21, 2018 Field trip Long day; includes lunch. Choose a date on:
Dec 14, 2018 Written Exam 10:00 - 13:00 HL414

[*]: MB = Michiel Brentjens, TS = Tim Shimwell, MO = Martijn Oei, RM = Rafaël Mostert, GL = guest lecturer



Michiel Brentjens
Michiel Brentjens

ASTRON | brentjens @ astron dot nl

Tim Shimwell
Tim Shimwell

ASTRON | shimwell @ astron dot nl

Teaching Assistants

Martijn Oei
Martijn Oei
Room 551 | oei @

Rafaël Mostert
Rafaël Mostert
Room 570 | mostert @

start.txt · Last modified: 2019/02/23 18:41 by oei