Course Overview

This Masters will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the technology used in modern astronomical observatories through taught courses and a research project. It will prepare students to effectively carry out PhDs in either the development of new astronomical instrumentation or in the use of data and images from these facilities. A combination of core modules on astronomical instrumentation, as well as transferable skills and specific engineering modules in technologies such as computing, electronics and control will also enhance the employability of graduates of this Masters.

Click for more information on the MSc Astronomical Instrumentation.

Applications and Selections

Who Teaches this Course

Staff members of The Centre for Astronomy and the Applied Optics group, both under the School of Physics.

 

Requirements and Assessment

Key Facts

Entry Requirements

2.1 Degree or higher in Physics or relevant Engineering field(level 8). Students with a 2.1 grade from year 3 of the BSc or BEng programme at NUI Galway will be given a provisional offer of a place on the programme. Students from other Universities with similar grades in similar Science or Engineering disciplines will also be given a provisional offer. 

Additional Requirements

Duration

1 year

Next start date

1 September 2018

A Level Grades ()

Average intake

5–10

Closing Date

Please refer to the review/closing date webpage.

Next start date

1 September 2018

NFQ level

Mode of study

ECTS weighting

Award

CAO

PAC code

GYR25 / GYR26

Course Outline

The 12 month programme will have a research project (60 ECTS) and taught components (30 ECTS). The taught component will consist of 30 credits of core modules specifically related to astronomical instrumentation. The remaining 30 credits correspond to modules in transferable skills (10 credits) plus Engineering modules relevant to astronomical instrumentation and astrophysics modules.

Modules for 2017-18

Curriculum information relates to the current academic year (in most cases).
Course and module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Glossary of Terms

Credits
You must earn a defined number of credits (aka ECTS) to complete each year of your course. You do this by taking all of its required modules as well as the correct number of optional modules to obtain that year's total number of credits.
Optional
A module you may choose to study.
Required
A module that you must study if you choose this course (or subject).
Semester
Most courses have 2 semesters (aka terms) per year.

Year 1 (90 Credits)

Required PH5114: Modern Observational Astronomy


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 5

In this module the student will become familiar with the latest research from across observational astronomy.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Develop familiarity with and understanding of current astronomical research.
  2. Be able to comprehend a recent astronomical research publication and present a clear summary to peers and academics.
Assessments
  • Continuous Assessment (80%)
  • Oral, Audio Visual or Practical Assessment (20%)
The above information outlines module PH5114: "Modern Observational Astronomy" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required PH5113: Advanced Astronomical Instrumentation


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 10

Consists of a Lecture course and an Instrument Design workshop. The lecture course will cover modern instrumentation techniques across the EM spectrum, plus gravitational wave and subatomic particle detection. The workshop will train participants in the specification, design and documentation of an instrument suitable for modern ground or space based observatories.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Understand the principles of astronomical instrumentation for imaging, spectroscopy, photometry and polarimetry.
  2. Be familiar with modern instruments on major ground and space-based observatories, across the electromagnetic spectrum and including gravitational wave and sub-atomic particle detection.
  3. Understand the physics and operating principles of the detectors employed in modern astronomy as well as their limitations.
  4. Be able to carry out image processing of astronomical images in order to measure signals, and to detect and characterise objects.
  5. Be able to design an instrument suitable for a modern observatory, and to document and defend the design in a design review.
Assessments
    Teachers
    Reading List
    1. "Observational Astrophysics" by Pierre Lena, Daniel Rouan, Francois Lebrun, Francois Mignard, Didier Pelat
      ISBN: 9783642218.
      Publisher: Springer
    2. "The design and construction of large optical telescopes" by Pierre Bely
      ISBN: 0387955127.
      Publisher: Springer
    The above information outlines module PH5113: "Advanced Astronomical Instrumentation" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Required PH506: Principles of Optical Design & Image Formation


    Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    Assessments
    • Continuous Assessment (100%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module PH506: "Principles of Optical Design & Image Formation" and is valid from 2014 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional BES519: Scientific Writing


    Semester 1 | Credits: 5

    Based largely on a peer-review exercise, this module aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the process of scientific publication. Topics include journal author guidelines, review article types, how to write a good review article, how to produce a critique of a review article, how to write to a journal editor and to respond to reviewer comments. Other apsects discussed include open access publishing, paper authorship, the ethics of publication, predatory journals

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Recognise and explain scientific writing
    2. Describe the structure of different kinds of scientific papers
    3. Summarise the different steps in the publication process
    4. Explain the aims, principles and limiations of the peer review process
    5. Produce a well-written critique of a mini-review paper
    6. Respond to peer reviews and write a letter to a journal editor
    7. Produce a well-written mini-review on a specialist topic
    8. Define what is meant by 'journal impact factor' (IF)
    9. Use Journal IFs and other journal information, to select appropriate journals for paper submission
    Assessments
    • Department-based Assessment (100%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module BES519: "Scientific Writing" and is valid from 2015 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional PH502: Scientific Programming Concepts


    Semester 1 | Credits: 5

    Assessments
    • Continuous Assessment (100%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module PH502: "Scientific Programming Concepts" and is valid from 2014 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional GS536: Communication & Outreach


    Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    The student should only register for this module in the academic year that they intend to complete the module. This module aims to give students the opportunity to understand the relevance and impact of research in society and to communicate research to diverse audiences, including non-specialists. Students will be given an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the social context of research. Students are expected to engage in activities to improve their communication skills, such as workshops and training courses. A key goal of this module is to challenge the student with the task of promoting the themes of their discipline/School/College and communicating technically complex and/or advanced concepts to non-specialist audiences. Detailed learning outcomes for this module should be developed by the supervisor taking into account the suite of online training materials available and the suite of communication opportunities and outreach activities available. Students must complete a report: • describing in detail the training undertaken, • outlining their engagement in practical outreach activities , • providing evidence of their effectiveness (for example audience feedback reports) and • including any outputs, such as presentations or demonstrations.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Communicate complex research topics to non-specialist audiences.
    2. Engage with community through active participation.
    3. Appreciate the role of research in society.
    Assessments
    • Department-based Assessment (100%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module GS536: "Communication & Outreach" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional ME516: Advanced Mechanics of Materials


    Semester 1 | Credits: 5

    This module is concerned with advanced mechanics of materials with a view to engineering design for structural integrity. Attention is focussed on elasticity, plasticity, creep and fracture mechanics, with application to multiaxial design against fatigue, fracture, creep, creep-fatigue interaction and plastic failure. Mini-projects will focus on applied computational mechanics of materials.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Derive multiaxial strain tensor from three-dimensional displacement field, including large deformation theory
    2. Design for multiaxial plasticity in advanced mechanical applications
    3. Undertake multiaxial creep design for high temperature applications
    4. Predict multiaxial high and low cycle fatigue life
    5. Develop non-linear computational mechanics models for mechanical design
    6. Carry out three-dimensional transformation of stress and strain tensors for multiaxial applications
    Assessments
    • Written Assessment (70%)
    • Continuous Assessment (30%)
    Teachers
    Reading List
    1. "Advanced Mechanics of Materials" by Boresi, AP, Schmidt, RJ, and Sidebottom, OM
      Publisher: Wiley and Sons
    2. "Introduction to Computational Plasticity" by Dunne, F and Petrinic, N,
      Publisher: Oxford Univ Press
    3. "Engineering Materials 1: An Introduction to Properties, Applications and Design" by Ashby, MF and Jones, DRH
      Publisher: Cambridge University Press, Elsevier
    4. "Fatigue of materials" by Suresh, S
      Publisher: Cambridge Univ Press
    5. "Design for Creep" by Penny, RK and Marriott, DL
      Publisher: Chapman and Hall
    6. "Mechanics of Engineering Materials" by Benham, Crawford and Armstrong
      Publisher: Pearson Prentice Hall
    The above information outlines module ME516: "Advanced Mechanics of Materials" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional EE342: Analogue Systems Design II


    Semester 1 | Credits: 5

    This is a second-tier course in Analog Systems Design. Aims: This module introduces you to more complex aspects of analog systems design. We consider multi-stage amplifiers and a range of non-linear circuits. An introduction to the Miller effect and high-frequency transistor circuit design is also given. Objectives: By the end of the module you should be able to understand how to design a multistage transistor amplifier and the advantages and trades-offs associated with such designs. You should also understand how operational amplifiers can be configured for non-linear operation. You should also gain an understanding of hysteresis effects and be able to design Schmitt Trigger circuits including an astable multivibrator. Power efficiency of various amplifier configurations is also covered and fundamental RF circuits such as the Cascode amplifier are analyzed. By the end of this module you should be able to understand the various transistor sub-circuts which comprise a basic 741 op-amp.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Recognise and/or apply different circuit topologies to implement a variety of analogue functions
    2. Design multi-component transistor circuits to meet specified operational parameters.
    3. Use linearised models of components to analyse the nominal/or idealised behaviour of circuits
    4. Analyze the power efficiency of circuits and/or design circuits to meet specified power efficiency criteria.
    5. Design and/or apply non-linear circuit elements to implement various analogue functions.
    Assessments
    • Written Assessment (60%)
    • Continuous Assessment (40%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module EE342: "Analogue Systems Design II" and is valid from 2015 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional EE445: Digital Signal Processing


    Semester 1 | Credits: 5

    Syllabus Outline: Discrete-time systems, time-domain analysis. The z-Transform. Frequency-domain analysis, the Fourier Transform. Digital filter structures and implementation. Spectral analysis with the DFT, practical considerations. Digital filter design: IIR, FIR, window methods, use of analogue prototypes.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Analyse a discrete-time system through calculation of its time-domain properties; in particular, calculate its impulse response, or the system output to any arbitrary input signal.
    2. Describe signals and systems in terms of their z-transforms, and use appropriate techniques to analyse and manipulate them.
    3. Determine the characteristics of a signal or system in the frequency domain, by means of the Fourier Transform, and determine the frequency content in the signal.
    4. Given a discrete-time system description, determine an appropriate structure for implementation (e.g. cascade, parallel), and carry out system design.
    5. Analyse and design specialised digital filters, including notch filters, resonators and oscillators.
    6. Choose appropriate parameters for spectral analysis using the DFT, across a number of applications.
    7. Analyse the computational requirments of time-domain and frequency-domain approaches to implementing digital filters.
    8. Given a required digital filter specification, choose an appropriate design procedure from a number of alternatives, carry out this procedure to determine the required filter transfer function, and verify that the specification has been met.
    Assessments
    • Written Assessment (80%)
    • Continuous Assessment (20%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module EE445: "Digital Signal Processing" and is valid from 2015 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional BME402: Computational Methods in Engineering Analysis


    Semester 1 | Credits: 10

    Course in computational methods (finite elements and computational fluid dynamics) for engineers.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Develop the finite element equations from a potential energy or other functional statement governing the process.
    2. Develop suitable interpolation functions for the formulation of one-dimensional, two-dimensional and axi-symmetric elements.
    3. Apply finite element solution techniques to problems in solid mechanics.
    4. Demonstrate a knowledge of the implementation of the finite element method in a computer programme.
    5. Demonstrate an ability to model and solve a range of practical problems, using the Abaqus software suite, covering the areas of elasticity, plasticity, contact and heat conduction.
    6. Make use of finite element techniques in other project and design exercises.
    7. Develop the finite volume equations for mass, energy and momentum conservation.
    8. Select suitable boundary conditions, discretisation techniques and solution methods for 2D and 3D steady and transient problems.
    9. Apply computational fluid dynamics (CFD) solution techniques to problems in thermofluids systems.
    10. Demonstrate a knowledge of the implementation of CFD methods in a computer programme.
    11. Demonstrate an ability to model and solve a range of practical problems, using the ANSYS CFD software suite, covering the areas of single-phase flow, mixing, convection heat transfer and diffusion.
    12. Make use of CFD techniques in other project and design exercises.
    Assessments
    • Written Assessment (60%)
    • Continuous Assessment (40%)
    Teachers
    Reading List
    1. "Essential Texts: Finite Element Analysis - Theory and Practice. M.J. Fagan, Longman Computational Methods for Fluid Dynamics. Ferziger & Peric, Springer Recommended Text: The Finite Element Method - Vols 1&2. Zienkiewicz and Taylor, McGraw-Hill" by n/a
    The above information outlines module BME402: "Computational Methods in Engineering Analysis" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional EE352: Linear Control Systems


    Semester 1 | Credits: 5

    Fundamental module on control systems, including a range of analysis techniques.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Use a polar plot to determine the level of stability of a closed-loop system from open-loop test/model data.
    2. Use a Nichols Chart as an aid in control system design and analysis.
    3. Use the Root-Locus method in the design of controllers.
    4. Sketch control system step responses from closed-loop pole-zero maps.
    5. Apply appropriate design strategies to meet basic performance specifications.
    6. Choose appropriate controller settings to meet performance specifications.
    Assessments
    • Written Assessment (70%)
    • Continuous Assessment (30%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module EE352: "Linear Control Systems" and is valid from 2015 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional PH222: Astrophysical Concepts


    Semester 1 | Credits: 5

    Major astrophysical concepts and processes such as radiation, dynamics and gravity are presented. These concepts are illustrated by wide ranging examples from stars and planets to nebulae, galaxies and black holes
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. define terms and explain concepts relating to the physical principles covered by this module’s syllabus
    2. describe the physical laws that connect terms and concepts covered by this module’s syllabus and, where appropriate, derive the mathematical relationships between those terms and concepts.
    3. outline applications to real-world situations of the physical principles covered by this module’s syllabus
    4. analyze physical situations using concepts, laws and techniques learned in this module
    5. identify and apply pertinent physics concepts, and appropriate mathematical techniques, to solve physics problems related to the content of this module’s syllabus.
    Assessments
    • Written Assessment (80%)
    • Continuous Assessment (20%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module PH222: "Astrophysical Concepts" and is valid from 2015 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional GS507: Statistical Methods for Research


    Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    The course is restricted to research students who have not previously taken any university level statistics course, and who have permission from their supervisors to take the course. The module aims to give researchers the opportunity to master elementary statistics using only basic algebra. It is an elementary probability and statistics course designed for researchers who have no previous probability or statistics course taken at university level. Emphasis is on understanding basic statistical ideas, the importance of good design, the choice of suitable statistical models for the analysis of data, and the strength and limitations of various inferential procedures. While the topics presented are very often applied in research projects, the material taught in this course is essentially a stepping stone and necessary starting point for the understanding and implementation of more advanced statistical models that the researcher is likely to find appropriate. The course covers the following topics. Experiments and Observational Studies: Sources of variability; types of data; principles of statistical design of experiments; some particular designs Probability: The role of probability theory in modelling random phenomena and in statistical decision making; sample spaces and events; some basic probability formulae and discrete distributions; normal distributions; the distribution of the sample mean when sampling from a normal distribution; the Central Limit Theorem with applications including normal approximations to binomial distributions. Data summarisation and presentation: Numerical measures of location and spread for both ungrouped and grouped data; graphical methods including histograms, stem-and-leaf and box plots. Statistical Inference: Explanation of statistics through practical examples of its applications. Concepts of point and interval estimation; concepts in hypothesis testing including Type I and Type II errors and power; confidence intervals and hypothesis tests in one- and two-sample problems; the analysis of enumerative data, including chi-squared goodness-of-fit and contingency table tests; correlation and linear regression analysis, including inferences about the intercept and slope parameters, and prediction. Note: The course will also include more advanced topics like multiple linear regression, logistic regression, polytomous and ordinal regression, and analysis of various experimental designs. However, these topics will not be examined and their inclusion is primarily to enable students to decide if they would desire to participate later in an anticipated more advanced statistical course should their research require these more advanced techniques.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Understand and identify sources of variation in experimental data and the steps involved in design of experiments
    2. Summarise data numerically and graphically
    3. Understand the ideas underlying interval estimation and hypothesis testing, including p-value and power of tests
    4. Identify and perform suitable one and two-sample statistical inference procedures
    5. Perform basic enumerative data analysis
    6. Understand correlation and conduct analysis for simple linear regression models
    7. Detect violations of assumptions underlying certain statistical procedures, perform diagnostics and suggest remedial measures
    8. Implement descriptive and inferential statistical procedures using SPSS software
    Assessments
    • Department-based Assessment (100%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module GS507: "Statistical Methods for Research" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional PH504: High Performance Computing and Parallel Programming


    Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    Assessments
    • Continuous Assessment (100%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module PH504: "High Performance Computing and Parallel Programming" and is valid from 2014 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional BME501: Advanced Finite Element Methods


    Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    The module will educate students in the use of linear and non-linear finite element methods that are most relevant to problems and systems encountered in both fundamental and applied research in biomedical and mechanical engineering.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Explain the structure of a linear finite element boundary value problem solution algorithm and its implementation in a computer programme.
    2. Explain the structure of non-linear finite element solution algorithms and their programming implementations, distinguishing between implicit and explicit methods.
    3. Distinguish between direct and element-by-element solution methods.
    4. Implement linear and non-linear constitutive laws in implicit and explicit finite element software.
    5. Deal with the formulation and solution of multi-physics problems.
    Assessments
    • Continuous Assessment (100%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module BME501: "Advanced Finite Element Methods" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional EE4100: Digital Control Systems


    Semester 2 | Credits: 5


    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Design a phase-lead compensator to achieve defined performance specifications. [POa, POb, POc]
    2. Analyse the performance of a phase-lead compensator vs. required specifications. [POa, POb]
    3. Model all components of a digital control system in the z-domain. [POa]
    4. Map pole and zero locations from the z-plane to the s-plane and thereby predict the closed-loop performance of a digital system. [POa, POb]
    5. Analyse the response of a digital control system vs. an equivalent analog one and explain differences caused by frequency folding effects or the presence of zeros. [POa, POb]
    6. Apply one of various emulation techniques to design a digital controller from an equivalent analog design, including the choice of a suitable sampling interval. [POa, POc]
    Assessments
    • Written Assessment (70%)
    • Continuous Assessment (30%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module EE4100: "Digital Control Systems" and is valid from 2015 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional PH362: Stellar Astrophysics


    Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    A comprehensive model for stellar structure and evolution is developed and used to understand star formation, evolution and destruction and the properties of extrasolar planets.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. define terms and explain concepts relating to the physical principles covered by this module’s syllabus
    2. describe the physical laws that connect terms and concepts covered by this module’s syllabus and, where appropriate, derive the mathematical relationships between those terms and concepts.
    3. outline applications to real-world situations of the physical principles covered by this module’s syllabus
    4. analyze physical situations using concepts, laws and techniques learned in this module
    5. identify and apply pertinent physics concepts, and appropriate mathematical techniques, to solve physics problems related to the content of this module’s syllabus.
    Assessments
    • Written Assessment (100%)
    Teachers
    The above information outlines module PH362: "Stellar Astrophysics" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Why Choose This Course?

    Career Opportunities

    This Masters will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the technology used in modern astronomical observatories. As such graduates of the proposed MSc programme will in demand by national and international technological industries as well as by research institutes, observatories and University research groups. The combination of advanced modules and a research project leading to a thesis will also effectively bridge the gap between undergraduate study and a PhD.

    Who’s Suited to This Course

    Learning Outcomes

     

    Work Placement

    Study Abroad

    Related Student Organisations

    Course Fees

    Fees: EU

    €6,800 p.a. 2017/18

    Fees: Tuition

    Fees: Student levy

    Fees: Non EU

    €13,750 p.a. 2017/18
    Further information on postgraduate funding opportunities and scholarships can be found here

    Find out More

    Dr Nicholas Devaney,
    School of Physics.
    T: +353 91 495 188
    E: nicholas.devaney@nuigalway.ie