Observational Astrophysics

Course content

The course should provide the students with a broad overview of observational techniques across the wavelength spectrum without going deep into the details about the astrophysics of specific phenomena – other than to draw in relevant examples throughout the lectures. In this way the intention is that the students acquire the skills to design and see through an observational program including how to extract quantitative results from the data. The course will thus also serve as a solid foundation for other M.Sc. level astronomy courses. Besides the lectures the students will also carry out exercises demonstrating the hands-on work with observational datasets at specific wavelengths.



MSc Programme in Physics

Learning outcome

When the course is finished the student is expected to be able to:

  • Describe the fundamentals of electromagnetic radiation, the equation of radiative transfer and in context of observations of astrophysical objects.

  • Deciding on the proper approach to design, see-through and analyse data from an observational program.

  • Critically read descriptions of observational results from scientific literature and evaluate their significance.

The student should be able account for:

  • the structure of the hydrogen-atom and its spectrum – including the, Balmer series, Lyman series, infrared lines, continuum spectra, radio recombination lines, fine/hyperfine structure.

  • how spectroscopy – both atomic/high energy as well as molecular spectroscopy – can be used as diagnostics of physical and chemical parameters such as densities, temperatures and abundances.

  • the mechanisms of radiation ranging from the high-energy to cold universe.

This course will provide the students with the tools to understand the fundamentals of observational astrophysics serving as a critical foundation for other courses on the M.Sc. level as well as for a master thesis project.

Lectures and hands-on exercises.

See Absalon for final course material. The following is an example of expected course literature.


  • Pierra Léna: “Observational Astrophysics” (Springer; available online)

  • Jonathan Tennyson: “Astronomical Spectroscopy” (World scientific)

  • Donald Osterbrock & Gary Ferland: “Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei” [chapter 5]  (University Science Books)

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 minutes (no preparation time)
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

Same as the ordinary exam

Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 142,5
  • Exercises
  • 21
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • English
  • 206,0


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 2
No limitation – unless you register in the late-registration period (BSc and MSc) or as a credit or single subject student.
Study Board of Physics, Chemistry and Nanoscience
Contracting department
  • The Niels Bohr Institute
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinators
  • Darach Jafar Watson   (6-6a677867696e4674686f34717b346a71)
  • Jes Kristian Jørgensen   (5-6f6a78706f4573676e33707a336970)

Jes K. Jørgensen
Darach. J. Watson
Kasper Heintz

Saved on the 14-02-2024

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