The Radio Sky II: Observational Radio Astronomy

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.

Created by: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

Level: Advanced

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