Matthew Kenworthy

Detection of Light 2019

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

For office hours there are two one-hour sessions available:

  • Mondays from 13:30 to 14:30
  • Thursdays from 13:30 to 14:30

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:

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:

  • Electronic Imaging in Astronomy: Detectors and Instrumentation (2nd Edition) by Ian S. McLean;
  • Introduction to Solid State Physics (8th Edition) by Charles Kittel
  • Observational Astrophysics by P. Lena, Francoise Lebrun & Francois Mignard;


Date Lecture Homework
01 Feb 2019 Organisation and Solid State Week 1
08 Feb 2019 No lecture - Dies
15 Feb 2019 Instrinsic Photoconductors and Noise Week 2
22 Feb 2019 Extrinsic Photoconductors Week 3
01 Mar 2019 IR Arrays and CCDs Week 4
08 Mar 2019 Bolometers Part I Week 5
15 Mar 2019 Bolometers Part II Week 6
22 Mar 2019 Heterodyne Detectors Week 7
28 Mar 2019 Other Detectors and Technologies No homework
05 Apr 2019 Exam Room HL414 13:30 to 16:30

Example Exam from 2018

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
May 24th Naidu Bezawada Infrared Systems in Astronomy