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 will be covered. Students will additionally be introduced to cosmic ray astronomy and the emerging field of gravitational wave astronomy.

Teaching periods
Start and end dates
Last self-enrolment date
Census date
Last withdraw without fail date
Results released date
Study Period 3
Start and end dates
Last self-enrolment date
Census date
Last withdraw without fail date
Results released date

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

  • Identify the nature of light and recognise that different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation require different types of telescopes and detectors
  • Differentiate the basic principles of telescope design and compare their use
  • Explain and summarise the principles and techniques of observational astronomy across the electromagnetic spectrum
  • Use problem solving skills to explain and synthesise solutions to problems in multiwavelength astronomy
  • Design and create, in a team, a telescope application time proposal, by applying communication skills and assessing relevant astronomical information
  • Apply technical research skills to justify and interpret observational and theoretical propositions, methodologies and professional decisions to specialist and non- specialist audiences

Teaching methods


Type Hours per week Number of weeks Total (number of hours)
Directed Online Learning and Independent Learning
12.50 12 weeks 150


Type Task Weighting ULO's
NewsgroupsIndividual 20 - 30% 1,2,3 
Online TestsIndividual 20 - 30% 1,2,3,4 
Time Assignment SubmissionGroup 20 - 30% 5,6 
Time Assignment SubmissionIndividual 20 - 30% 5,6 


  • Celestial co-ordinates and time systems
  • Gamma rays to radio waves; thermal and non- thermal sources.
  • The electromagnetic spectrum; atmospheric windows
  • Photometry, filters, colour magnitudes and colour indices
  • Photomultipliers, CCD imaging
  • Optical spectroscopy, prism and grating spectroscopy; the detection of extrasolar planets
  • The eye as an optical instrument, lens systems, refracting and reflecting telescopes.
  • Principles of telescope mount and housing design, control systems.
  • Optical seeing, active and adaptive optics, laser guide stars, astronomical site selection, light pollution issues
  • Infrared astronomy: detectors, South Pole infrared astronomy and space missions
  • Principles of radio and microwave receivers
  • Radio interferometry, arrays and aperture synthesis, VLBI.
  • High-energy astronomy: design of UV, X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes and detectors
  • Particle astronomy: Neutrinos and cosmic rays
  • Gravitational wave astronomy: gravitational wave detector

Study resources

Reading materials

A list of reading materials and/or required textbooks will be available in the Unit Outline on Canvas.