Hands-on Astronomy

Hands-on Astronomy

Course Code:

Course Name: Hands-on Astronomy

Credits: 2.0

Level: Undergraduate

Pre-requisite: Computer Skills and Programming Basics

Lecture Time: 30 periods

Instructors: JIANG Xiaojun and WU Zhenyu

Course Description

This course engages students in acquainting with the starry sky, using astronomical software, assembling and operating astronomical telescopes, visiting observation station(s), and personally completing the basic processes of astronomical observation, photography and data processing. This course enables students to be familiar with astronomical observation tools and methods, and further understand how to summarize the basic laws of celestial bodies from observations. This course requires students to have the basics of data analysis, programming skills, and teamwork skills.

Topics and Schedule

  1. Basic Knowledge of Astronomical Observations (6 periods)

1.1 History, Current status and prospects of Astronomical Observation (2 periods)

1.2 Main uses and important achievements of optical telescopes (2 periods)

1.3 Astronomical site-test, terminal and data processing (2 periods)

2. Telescope Operation and Astronomical Observation Practice (12 periods)

2.1 The concept of the celestial sphere and commonly used star software (2 periods)

2.2 Familiar with stars and constellations (2 periods)

2.3 The principle, assembly and operation of telescopes (2 periods)

2.4 Visual observation, taking digital pictures of the moon and planets (2 periods)

2.5 Understanding how astronomers generalize the basic laws of celestial movement through observations (2 periods)

2.6 Explanation of special astronomical phenomena and astrophotography (2 periods)

3. Telescope tour and observation practice (3 Times, 12 periods)

3.1 Visiting professional astronomical observing equipment at Xinglong Observatory (4 periods)

3.2 Grouping night observations (4 periods)

3.3 Visual observation and shooting of deep sky objects (Nebula, Star Cluster, etc.) (4 periods)

Note: Three primary astronomical observations and data-processing training

Teaching methods

Classroom lectures (6 periods), campus observations (12 periods), and internships at Xinglong Observatory (12 periods) are interspersed. IDL, Python, IRAF and other data processing and analysis software will be used.


The grades include project assignments (4 times, 40%), classroom performances (30%) and examination (30%). Upon completion of the course and passing the assessment, the “Qualification Certificate of Primary Astronomical Observation and Data Processing Training” certified by Xinglong Observatory will be awarded.


Self-edited handouts



Instructor Profile

JIANG Xiaojun

Director of Xinglong observatory, professor. He is a member of the council of the China Astronomy Society, and a deputy chief scientist of the scientific application system of the quantum science experimental satellite. His main fields of research are astronomical techniques and methods, and observational study of seismology. He has hosted more than 20 national-level technique and research projects. He has published more than 60 papers, including 40 SCI papers, with more than 700 citations.

WU Zhenyu

Deputy director of Xinglong observatory (and stationmaster), professor. In 1999 and 2002, he obtained MS and Ph.D. from Shanghai Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences. From 2002 to 2004, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Astronomical Observatories in BATC survey team. His research interests include polychromatic photometry of open clusters in the Milky Way, kinematic and dynamic evolution of clusters, open clusters and Galactic structures, and search for exoplanets in young star clusters. A total of nearly 90 SCI papers were published in related fields, with nearly 800 citations.