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EPFLx: The Radio Sky II: Observational Radio Astronomy

This course covers the principles and practices of radio astronomical observations, in particular with modern interferometers. Topics range from radio telescope technology to the measurement equation to radio interferometric calibration and imaging.

7 weeks
6–7 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

There is one session available:

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Starts Dec 6

About this course

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The first part of the course introduces the different types of telescope technologies available to astronomers, with a particular focus on single-dish radio telescopes and radio interferometers. Optical, UV, X-ray, Gamma, neutrino, and gravitational wave telescopes will also be briefly covered, as well as a foray into Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

We, then, dive deep into the principles of observational radio astronomy, covering the observables (flux, luminosity, brightness temperature), and the instrumentation (the radiometer equation, sensitivity calculations). Next, we describe various radio telescope technologies, as well as time-domain radio astronomy (pulsars, transients, Fast Radio Bursts). Finally, we look at different radio astronomy observatories around the world and compare their capabilities.

The rest of the course is dedicated to radio interferometric imaging. We introduce the Fourier transform and the van Cittert-Zernike theorem, and discuss the principles of aperture synthesis imaging (visibilities, sampling, point spread functions, deconvolution). We drill down into the radio-interferometer measurement equation (RIME), and use that to derive the principles of interferometric calibration and self-calibration. We also look at practical data reduction techniques, covering data inspection, flagging, basic calibration, and imaging, as well as the practical details of writing observational proposals.

The course includes a discussion of the future Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, its challenges, and projected scientific capabilities.

At a glance

  • Institution: EPFLx
  • Subject: Physics
  • Level: Advanced
  • Prerequisites:
    • Undergraduate: algebra, basic mathematics, and physics concepts
    • Basic computer science
    • MOOC: The Radio Sky I
  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Data Reduction, Deconvolution, Fourier Transform, Flux (React.js), Astronomy, Instrumentation, Drilldown, Calibration

What you'll learn

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  • Types of telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum
  • Single-dish radio telescopes and radio interferometers
  • Basics of neutrino and gravitational wave astronomy
  • Basics of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
  • Fundamental radio astronomy observables
  • Principles of radio telescopes, radiometer equation
  • Diversity of radio telescope technologies and observatories
  • Observing pulsars, transients, and other time-domain radio astronomy
  • Principles of aperture synthesis imaging; Fourier theory
  • Visibility function, sampling, PSF, deconvolution
  • The radio interferometer measurement equation (RIME)
  • Calibration and self-calibration of radio interferometers
  • Practical data reduction, calibration, and imaging
  • Developing observational proposals for radio observatories
  • Week 1: Study of the telescope technology, focusing on optical and radio telescopes - first part.
  • Week 2: Study of the telescope technology, focusing on optical and radio telescopes - second part.
  • Week 3: Introduction to observational radio astronomy, analyzing the main units of measure and the radio telescope principles.
  • Week 4: Presentation of the ground rules of imaging using an interferometric array. Study of the Fourier transform, the sampling, and the van Cittert Zernike theorem.
  • Week 5: Examination of the cycle of radio interferometric data, from visibilities to images - first part.
  • Week 6: Examination of the cycle of radio interferometric data, from visibilities to images - second part.

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.

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