Observational Astronomy (2022 Fall)

Information and Material for the course Observational Astronomy (2022 Fall)

The Goal of this Course

In the last decade, a series of ground-breaking astronomical discoveries have stepped into the spotlight of science and collected a bucketload of Nobel Physics medals. Do you know which surreal technology enables the confirmation of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy? Can you imagine the challenges astronomers faced when they searched for the first exoplanet? And do you understand the amount of effort behind the observational evidence for “accelerated expansion of the Universe”? “Astronomy is a discipline based on observation.” And, in this course, we will show you what it means.

This course will give you a panoramic view of the landscape of modern astronomical observation, including some of the frontlines of observational astrophysics. We will focus on the optical/infrared observations and cover the basics of the multi-wavelength and multi-messenger sides of the subject. This course will give a basic grasp of fundamental concepts and methods of observational astronomy. You will also taste actual observation and essential data reduction through a small project.

This course will primarily cover the following four topics: 1. Observation: What is astronomical observation? Why do these observations? What did astronomers in history observe? And what are today’s astrophysics targets? 2. Measurement: What are astronomers measuring during the observation? How do they achieve it? What fundamental space, time, and energy reference systems support all the cutting-edge observations? 3. Instrument: What equipment and instruments are essential for modern observation? And which exciting technologies are involved? 4. Methodology: How do the data collected during the observation become “science”? What are the common senses and universal logics in this critical data reduction step?


  • Lecture time / place: Wednesday 19:20-21:45, Room A101 of the 6th Teaching Building (第六教学楼)
  • Instructor: Song Huang (黄崧)
  • Teaching Assistant: Si-Yi Zhao (赵思逸)
  • Language: This course will be taught in Chinese; the lecture slides and homework assignments will be in English.


Grading Scheme

  • Homework (30%): There will be 4 homework assignments. Each assignment will be worth 7.5% of the final grade.
  • Midterm (30%): There will be one midterm exam consisting of single-choice questions.
  • Final Project (40%): It will be in the form of a Jupyter notebook.


  • The links to the lecture slides are from Tsinghua Cloud.
Week Date Lectures Crash Course
1 2022-09-14 Introduction Share the Sky
2 2022-09-21 Spatio-Temporal Reference Frames Coordinates & Time; DS9
3 2022-09-28 Radiation Organizing the Sky; Units; Filters
4 2022-10-05 From ISM to the Atmosphere Dust Extinction; Organizing the Sky; DS9
5 2022-10-12 Modern Telescopes - 1  
6 2022-10-19 Modern Telescopes - 2  
7 2022-11-02 Astronomical Detectors  
8 2022-11-09 Observation & Data Reduction Image Analysis & Photometry
9 2022-11-16 Statistical Data Analysis Catalog Data; Topcat
10 2022-11-23 Spectroscopy  
11 2022-11-30   Hands-on Project; Python
12 2022-12-07 Radio Astronomy  
13 2022-12-14 Radio Interferometry & High-Energy Astrophysics  
14 2022-12-21 Multi-Messenger Astronomy  

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is one of the cornerstones of the Tsinghua University. It is critically important both to maintain our community which honours the values of honesty, trust, respect, fairness, and responsibility and to protect you, the students within this community, and the value of the degree towards which you are all working so diligently.

Both the teacher and students of this course will follow the guidance of the Tsinghua University Academic Integrity Policy. Any violation, such as cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, interference, and obstruction, will be reported to the Department of Astronomy.