Tools of Modern Astronomy - 2017

To enrol in this unit, you must be accepted into a course from the provider. Read before you start

Unit summary


  • Level of Study: Postgraduate
  • Study load: 0.125 EFTSL
  • Delivery method: Fully Online
  • Prerequisites: Yes
  • Duration: 13 weeks
  • Government loans available: FEE-HELP
  • Availability for 2017: SP3
  • Availability for 2018: SP3
  • Assessment: Assignment (30%) , Essay (20%) - Learn more

Unit provided by

2017 Fees
Domestic 2,440.00
Domestic continuing 2,084.00
International 2,690.00
International continuing 2,334.00

Tuition fees are reduced for continuing registered SWI students.
Please login to view the applicable amount.

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 is covered.

At the completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Identify the nature of light and recognise that different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation require different types of telescopes and detectors
  2. Differentiate the basic principles of telescope design and compare their use
  3. Explain and summarise the principles and techniques of observational astronomy across the electromagnetic spectrum
  4. Use problem solving skills to explain and synthesise solutions to problems in multiwavelength astronomy
  5. Design and create, in a team, a telescope application time proposal, by applying communication skills and assessing relevant astronomical information
  6. Apply technical research skills to justify and interpret observational and theoretical propositions, methodologies and professional decisions to specialist and nonspecialist audiences.
  • Assignment (30%)
  • Essay (20%)
  • Project (30%)
  • Test (20%)

Equivalent units

You cannot enrol in this unit if you have successfully completed any of the following unit(s) because they are considered academically equivalent:

  • HET606 — Tools of Modern Astronomy

Recommended prerequisites

You are recommended to have completed the following unit(s) or have equivalent knowledge before starting this unit:

In order to enrol in this unit, you must be accepted into one of the following courses:

Please visit the course details page and read the Requirements tab for more information about eligibility.

This unit addresses the following topics.

1Celestial co-ordinates and time systems
2The nature and production of light: gamma-rays to radio waves; thermal and non-thermal sources; emission lines; earthly and heavenly examples
3The electromagnetic spectrum; the sky at different wavelengths; atmospheric windows
4Photometry, filters, colour magnitudes and colour indices
5Photomultipliers, CCD imaging
6Optical spectroscopy, prism and grating spectroscopy; the detection of extrasolar planets via spectroscopic means
7The eye as an optical instrument, lens systems, refracting & reflecting telescopes; magnification, light-gathering power, angular resolution
8Principles of telescope mount and housing design, control systems.
9Optical seeing, active and adaptive optics, laser guide stars, astronomical site selection and light pollution issues
10Infrared astronomy: detectors, South Pole infrared astronomy and space missions
11Construction and resolving power of single-dish radio telescopes, principles of radio and microwave receivers
12Radio interferometry, interferometer arrays and aperture synthesis, VLBI, data analysis
13High-energy astronomy: design of UV, X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes and detectors
14Neutrino astronomy, gravity wave detectors

This unit is delivered using the following methods and materials:

Instructional Methods

  • Discussion Forum/Discussion Board
  • Embedded Multimedia
  • Online Quizzes/Tests
  • Online assignment submission
  • Standard Media
  • Web links

This unit is a core requirement in the following courses:

This unit may be eligible for credit towards other courses:

  1. Many undergraduate courses on offer through OUA include 'open elective' where any OUA unit can be credited to the course. You need to check the Award Requirements on the course page for the number of allowed open electives and any level limitations.
  2. In other cases, the content of this unit might be relevant to a course on offer through OUA or elsewhere. In order to receive credit for this unit in the course you will need to supply the provider institution with a copy of the Unit Profile in the approved format, which you can download here. Note that the Unit Profile is set at the start of the year, and if textbooks change this may not match the Co-Op textbook list.

Textbooks are subject to change within the academic year. Students are advised to purchase their books no earlier than one to two months before the start of a unit.

Click on the titles of the listed books below to find out more:

Required textbooks

  • Observational Astronomy 2ed

    By:Birney, D. Scott

    ISBN: 9780521853705


    Supplier:Go to The Co-op Bookshop

  • Enquire online

    Need to ask a question that's best put down in words?
    Make an online enquiry.

    Enquire now

    Ready to enrol?

    Start studying this unit now.


    Got a question?

    Get an answer from one of our friendly Student Advisors.