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Syllabus for

Academic year
RRY131 - Radioastronomical techniques and interferometry
Radioastronomiska tekniker och interferometri
Syllabus adopted 2019-02-14 by Head of Programme (or corresponding)
Owner: MPPHS
7,5 Credits
Grading: TH - Pass with distinction (5), Pass with credit (4), Pass (3), Fail
Education cycle: Second-cycle
Major subject: Electrical Engineering, Engineering Physics

Teaching language: English
Application code: 85133
Open for exchange students: Yes
Block schedule: B

Module   Credit distribution   Examination dates
Sp1 Sp2 Sp3 Sp4 Summer course No Sp
0113 Project 3,0c Grading: UG   3,0c    
0213 Examination 4,5c Grading: TH   4,5c   15 Jan 2021 pm J   07 Apr 2021 am J,  25 Aug 2021 pm J

In programs

MPPHS PHYSICS, MSC PROGR, Year 2 (elective)
MPPHS PHYSICS, MSC PROGR, Year 1 (compulsory elective)


Cathy Horellou

  Go to Course Homepage


General entry requirements for Master's level (second cycle)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Specific entry requirements

English 6 (or by other approved means with the equivalent proficiency level)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Course specific prerequisites

Basic knowledge in electromagnetism.


The aim of the course is that students to understand radio astronomy techniques and the astrophysical goals motivating radio astronomy measurements. The course shall enable the students to plan an astronomical experiment using either single dish or interferometry, and to determine the required integration time, choice of instrument etc. The course will explain how to go from raw radio astronomy data to final images/spectra. The level of understanding should be such that the students in their profession as engineers or scientists should be able to apply radioastronomical techniques.

Learning outcomes (after completion of the course the student should be able to)

* Become aware of the role played by radio astronomy in the study of the Universe. 
* Know about the most important radio astronomical instruments (e.g. ALMA, VLA, SKA, LOFAR, VLBI) and their science drivers. 
* Be able to describe which physical quantities can be measured by radio telescopes. 
* Understand the mechanisms of continuum and spectral line radiation and the nature of the astrophysical sources (from star-forming regions to supermassive black holes). 
* From the spectral energy distribution of a typical source (star, active galaxy, etc), be able to determine in which frequency ranges it can be observed by different telescopes. 
* Calculate required angular resolution for a given science need (is an interferometer needed?) 
* Be able to describe and perform simple calculations involving fundamentals of positional astronomy. 
* Be able to describe the basic operation of a radio telescope and its instrumentation. 
* Know the main single-dish observational techniques (e.g. frequency - beam - position switching, polarization measurements, fast scanning). 
* Estimate required integration time for a given observation (the radiometer equation).
* Plan, carry out and analyze a single-dish astronomical observation. 
* Know the main limitations and strengths of interferometric observations. 
* Understand concepts of point source and surface brightness sensitivity. 
* Learn the mathematical tools needed to understand interferometry (signal cross-correlation, 2D Fourier transform, 2D convolution). 
* Visualise a simple two-element interferometer and the output response of a point source. 
* Understand the process of image reconstruction from interferometric observations (in particular, the CLEAN algorithm). 
* Learn the basics of data calibration (amplitude and phase) in interferometry. 
* Be able to reduce simple interferometric data: from the raw data to the final images. 


The course contains the following parts: 

* Single-dish radio astronomy. 
* Fundamental concepts. 
* Basic antenna theory. 
* Receiver and signal processing. 
* Observational methods. 
* Radio astronomical sources. 
* Spectral line analysis. 
* Planning a single-dish observation. 
* Observing with the Onsala 20m telescope. 
* Single-dish data analysis. 
* The 2-element non-tracking interferometer. 
* The tracking interferometer. 
* The 2D Fourier transform. 
* 'uv' coverage for example interferometers. 
* The dirty map and dirty beam. 
* Noise in interferometry images. 
* Properties of the main radio interferometers where one can apply for observing time. 
* Planning an observation with a radio interferometer. 
* Deconvolution methods. 
* Phase errors and their recovery using closure phase and self-calbration. 
* Interferometric data reduction. 
* Spectral line interferometry. 
* Design of aperture arrays.


Lectures, problem classes, practical observations, and computer exercises.


  • Lecture notes
  • Books (both are available as e-books from the Chalmers library):
    • Essential Radio Astronomy, J.J. Condon & S.M. Ransom, Princeton University Press, 2016
    •  Tools of Radio Astronomy, K. Rohlfs & T.L. Wilson, Springer Verlag, latest edition 

Examination including compulsory elements

(1) Written exam. 60% of the final grade. 
(2) Written report about the observations with a radio telescope (group work), hand-in assignments and oral presentation of a scientific paper.  40% of the final grade. 

Published: Mon 28 Nov 2016.