Detection of Light 2019

A 3 EC Masters course at Leiden Observatory

Location and Time

The lectures take place in room HL 414.

The lecturer of 'Part A' is Dr. Matthew Kenworthy, office: HL 1102, phone (071) 527-8455,

'Part B' will be taught by a number of expert guest lecturers.

The teaching assistant is Patrick Dorval, office: HL 1103 dorval@strw

Course level is 500. The course language is English.

Course concept and content

Detectors are the crucial link between the astronomical target and the observer. As astronomers are aiming at fainter and fainter objects the quality and calibration of the detector systems have become increasingly important. The main goal of this course is to provide an overview of the various physical principles and techniques to detect electromagnetic radiation, from the UV to the sub-millimeter.

The course is split in two parts:

'Part A' (3 ECTS) is aimed at the observational astronomer and provides an overview of common detector technologies and their operation. Course topics are intrinsic and extrinsic photo-conductors, photodiodes and other junction-based detectors, detector arrays, bolometers, coherent receivers, and submillimeter- and millimeterwave heterodyne receivers. The course will not only provide the physical background of the various detector technologies but also cover practical aspects, which are of general interest to the observer, such as cosmetic quality and detector artifacts, linearity and dynamical range, spectral response and bandwidth, quantum efficiency and noise.

'Part B' (3 ECTS) can be followed by all astronomy MSc students, but is mainly aimed at students of 'Astronomy & Instrumentation' or physics. It consists of talks on specific topics, given by renowned guest lecturers.

Students may follow 'Part A' only, but students who want to get credits for 'Part B' must have followed 'Part A' before.

Credits and grading

'Part A' and 'Part B' count each 3 ECTS (3+3).

The grade for 'Part A' is based to 80% on the written exam and to 20% on the mandatory homeworks. The exam is on Friday, 05 April 2019, 13:30 - 16:30 hr. It is a written, "closed book" exam. Pocket calculators are required at the exam.

The distribution of the final grades are given in the chart below:

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In order to get the credits for 'Part B', one has to attend the lectures of 'Part B', as well as write a report, which is mainly a literature study on one of the topics of the guest lectures. The report has to be written within six weeks and will not receive a numerical grade but receive, for simplicity, an O/V/G "grade".


The course will be heavily based on the book Detection of Light - from the Ultraviolet to the Submillimeter, by George Rieke, 2nd Edition, 2003, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-01710-6. It is recommended that students get their own copy of this book.

Recommended for further reading are:


Part B Schedule

Date lecturer Title
April 12th Christoph Keller Spectral Hole Burning
April 26th Jochem Baselmans Kinetic Inductance detectors
May 3rd Pourya Khosropanah Transition Edge Sensors and their applications
May 10th Alessandra Menicucci The space radiation environment and effects on detectors
May 17th Simon Tulloch CCDs in Astronomy - not available because of commercial reasons
May 24th Naidu Bezawada Infrared Systems in Astronomy
Lecture Taken? Topic
1 yes What is the current state of spectral hole burning technology? What materials are used, what are the current challenges?
1 yes Looking at the non-linearity of the detector. Can one actually deal with non-linearity of this technology? Use analogies to film/other technologies.
1 yes Single molecule spectroscopy. Nobel prize of Moerner Literature study on single molecule spectroscopy, a spin off of this one. Describe and compare the two methods
2 yes What is a LeKID? How do they couple to radiation? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the LeKID compared to the antenna coupled devices presented? For which applications is it better or worse?
2 yes How do optical KIDs work? How do they absorb photons? How can they be used as spectrometers? What are their advantages compared to CCDs?
3 yes When does a TES become unstable and oscillate? Take a closer look at the stability criteria. This relates to the handshake discussed in class.
3 yes Can a TES achieve high dynamic range and high sensitivity (low NEP) at the same time? A closer look at designing a TES for specific application.
Space radiation yes Space radiation L2 orbit
Space radiation yes Space radiation Elliptical orbit
Space radiation yes Space radiation lunar orbit
IR detectors yes Investigate various dark current generation mechanisms in IR detectors and their dependence on the operating temperature
IR detectors yes Investigate various noise sources in the detector and the readout chain and various sampling schemes to reduce the read noise
IR detectors no Investigate suitable low noise cryogenic preamplifiers and optimisation of detector signal processing chain
High contrast imaging no Investigate sources of noise in current day coronagraphs, in particular the speckle noise. How does this affect observations?
High contrast imaging no Detail the history and evolution of the coronagraph. Focus on apodized Lyot, vector apodized phase plate, vortex coronagraphs.
High contrast imaging no What are the major differences and challenges between space-based and ground-based coronagraphy?
Polarimetry no How are polarization cameras being used today to ensure the wavefront quality of the James Webb Space Telescope?
Polarimetry no What are the commonalities and differences between astronomical polarimetry and earth-based (and other industry, biomedical, etc) polarimetry?
Polarimetry no Look into nano-antennae based detectors that intrinsically measure polarization during observations. How can they be constructed? What are some of the challenges that need to be overcome?