August 9, 2021 – August 22, 2021 all-day Europe/Copenhagen Timezone

Course Description for the Danish Summer Course in Observational Astrophysics at the Nordic Optical Telescope 2021

Course Description for the Danish Summer Course in Observational Astrophysics at the Nordic Optical Telescope 2021

The course is a master level course placed during two weeks in August 2021. The purpose of the summer course is to make the students familiar with basic elements of modern observational astrophysics and the heart of the course is an observing trip to the Nordic Optical Telescope at which we during five nights in August will carry out an observational program. Three of the nights are the three Alfosc/NBI guaranteed nights and the remaining nights should be approved by the NOT OPC.

The participants will be from the four Danish Universities Southern Danish University (SDU), Danish Technical University (DTU), Copenhagen University (KU), Aarhus University (AU). The total number of students will be maximum 16.

Corona-related restrictions

We expect the course to take place on La Palma. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we will have to take any government-imposed restrictions into account.  If, contrary to expectations, we cannot travel to La Palma, the course will be held as an online course, with all participants meeting in Copenhagen or Aarhus.

Science case for the Course

The course is not directly motivated by a specific science case. Rather, the motivation for the course is that we need to give the new generation hands-on experience and training on how to use modern instrumentation and telescopes. Nevertheless, the course has resulted in publications over the years. This is because projects are often suggested by researchers in the Nordic countries who have interesting small projects in mind. An example is the discovery of a sextuply lensed quasar (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2015ApJ…813…67D). Also, every year the students classify a large number of newly discovered supernovae, which also leads to publications with the students as co-authors (see, e.g., http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2018ATel11961….1F  for an example). Moreover, data from the summer school has been used for a number of BSc. theses and for other teaching purposes (e.g., measurement of galaxy rotation curves has been used for a large number of 1st year projects at the NBI).

Structure of the Course

The course has three elements: 1) a preparation phase, 2) the actual observations at the telescope, and 3) a data reduction, report writing and mini-conference phase.

The course will last two weeks in August and the mini-conference will be in October.

Objective of the Course

The objective of the course is to give the students an introduction to the central elements in preparation, execution and data reduction relating observations at a modern astrophysical observatory.


phase 1: application for observing time, astronomical instruments, preparation of observing runs (target visibility, finding charts, signal-to-noise considerations).

phase 2: execution of astrophysical observations at the Nordic Optical Telescope. When possible we will also visit other telescopes on Roque del los Muchachos (e.g., the Swedish solar telescope, the Isaac Newton Group telescopes or the Spanish GTC).

phase 3: reduction and presentation of data.


The student will after having passed the course be able to:

– Apply for observing time (although there is no guarantee that time will be granted)

– Prepare an observing run. This includes determining when a given target can be observed during the year and on a given night, how long the target should be observed to reach a specified signal-to-noise ratio, establishing which calibration data are needed, and interact with the observatory staff about which instrumental setup is needed for the run.

– Carry out astrophysical observations in an efficient and careful manner

– Extract the astrophysically relevant information from a dataset and write up a report presenting the conclusions in a clear and comprehensive manner

Qualifications and selection

Basic knowledge of astronomy corresponding to an introductory astronomy course is expected. It is also a strong advantage to have prior knowledge about programming in python and to have some basic knowledge about astronomical data types such as FITS images, long-slit spectra and/or echelle spectra.

To be selected for the course the student must:

– Send a written application (1-page maximum, free format) to Ole J. Knudsen (ojk@phys.au.dk) where it is described:

– Why participation is wished and needed, interest, thesis work.

– Whether continued astronomy studies are intended

– Attach grade sheet

DEADLINE: 22 February 2021

The final acceptance to the course will be based on the prior experience and motivated application.

You will get feedback on your application 1 March at the latest.


The course is passed by active participation and an oral presentation at a ‘mini’-workshop held at one of the participating universities.