Data Analysis Techniques in Astronomy and Planetary Science - PH512

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 2)
Spring 5 15 (7.5) PROF S Lowry checkmark-circle



This module focuses on the use of data processing and analysis techniques as applied to astronomical data from telescopes. Students will learn how telescopes and CCD cameras work, to process astronomical images and spectra and apply a range of data analysis techniques using multiple software packages. Students will also engage in the scientific interpretation of images and spectra of astronomical objects.

  • Use of Virtual Observatories for accessing astronomical databases and applying analysis tools to the data files retrieved (with particular emphasis on the Aladdin system); astronomical image formats.
  • Astrometry: Measuring coordinates of celestial objects from images.
  • Photometry: Determining magnitudes of variable stars and/or solar system bodies.
  • Spectroscopy: Determining spectral properties of variable stars and/or solar system bodies.
  • Image Analysis and Enhancement with AIP: Quantifying digital imagery in more detail than Aladdin, and applying a range of techniques (primarily through the use of image operators and convolution kernels).


    This module appears in the following module collections.

    Contact hours

    36 contact hours including console sessions.
    This module is expected to occupy 150 total study hours, including the contact hours above.


    This is not available as a wild module.

    Method of assessment

    100% coursework including weekly console exercises and various assignments.

    Indicative reading

    The Handbook of Astronomical Image Processing (
    (Copies will be provided for in-lab use during course.)

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge and understanding of aspects of the theory and practice of astronomy, and of those aspects upon which astronomy depends.
  • Competent use of appropriate C&IT packages/systems for the analysis of data and the retrieval of appropriate information.
  • An ability to present and interpret astronomical information graphically.
  • An ability to communicate scientific information, in particular to produce clear and accurate scientific reports.
  • An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.
  • Students will become able to: use the web to access and process astronomical data available on the internet, enhance digital and astronomical images, learn how to use astronomical image processing packages, carry out searches of astronomical databases on the web, and develop familiarity with the topics covered in the course by use of computer exercises to illustrate them.
  • Develop key skills for employment, learning to access data, the internet and data libraries, and development of practical skills in data collection and processing. The course is also aimed in part at promoting independent thinking when handling practical problems with astronomy data.
  • Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems; an ability to formulate problems in precise terms and to identify key issues, and the confidence to try different approaches in order to make progress on challenging problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
  • Investigative skills in the context of independent investigation including the use of textbooks and other available literature, databases, and the interaction with colleagues to extract important information.
  • Communication skills in the area of dealing with surprising ideas and difficult concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts and presenting complex information in a clear and concise manner. C&IT skills are an important element to this.
  • Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.
  • Personal skills – the ability to work independently, to use initiative, to organise oneself to meet deadlines.


    1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
    2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
    3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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