NFYK16006U Observational Astronomy

Volume 2017/2018

Bacheloruddannelsen i fysik
MSc Programme in Physics


The purpose of the summer course is to become familiar with basic elements of modern observational astrophysics and the heart of the course is an observing trip to the Nordic Optical Telescope at which we during three nights will carry out an observational program.


Structure of the Course

The course has three elements:

1) a preparation phase, 2) the actual observations at the telescope,

and 3) a data reduction and report writing phase.


Objective of the Course

The objective of the course is to give the students an introduction to the central elements in preparation, execution and data reduction relating observations at a modern astrophysical observatory.



- phase 1: application for observing time, astronomical instruments, preparation of observing runs (target visibility, finding charts, signal-to-noise considerations).

- phase 2: execution of astrophysical observations at the Nordic Optical Telescope. When possible we will also visit other telescopes on Roque del los Muchachos (e.g., the Swedish solar telescope, the Isaac Newton Group telescopes or the Spanish GTC).

- phase 3: reduction and publication of data.

Learning Outcome


The student will after having passed the course have these competences:

  • Prepare for and carry out an observing run at a modern observatory

  • Extract the astrophysically relevant information from a dataset and write up a report presenting the conclusions in a clear and comprehensive manner.


The student will after having passed the course be able to:

  • apply for observing time (although there is no guarantee that time will be granted)

  • prepare an observing run. This includes determining when a given target can be observed during the year and on a given night, how long the target should be observed to reach a specified signal-to-noise ratio, establishing which calibration data are needed, and interact with the observatory staff about which instrumental setup is needed for the run.

  • Carry out astrophysical observations in an efficient and careful manner, i.e. the skill to actually use a modern telescope and its mounted instrumentation.



The student will after having passed the course know:

  • how a modern observatory functions 

  • how to do rudimentary reduction of data from a modern telescope

  • which kind of observations one can carry out with a modern telescope like the Nordic Optical Telescope. 

There are no formal prerequisites but some basic knowledge of astronomy corresponding to an introductory astronomy course is an advantage.
Programming skills and access to a laptop with linux or MacOS is also an advantage
Project work and field observations.
It is possible to sign up for summer courses twice a year. It is recommended that you sign up for this course in the earliest possible period (fall period, when you also sign up for block 3 and 4 courses), as there may not be available places for the later sign-up.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Excursions
  • 75
  • Preparation
  • 71
  • Project work
  • 60
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
A final report should be handed in based on the observational data. The report can be written individually or in a group of up to 4 students. The students will have at least 2 weeks to submit the report, and later submission can be arranged with the course responsible on an individual basis.
Exam registration requirements

Active participation in the course, particularly the observational part at NOT. 

All aids allowed
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
several internal examiners

Same as regular exam.

It is not possible to fulfill the exam registration requirements before the re-exam for a student who has not participated in the observational excursion. The student must follow the course next year.

Students who participated, but did not have a report approved, can submit a new report no later than two weeks before the re-exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

see learning outcome.