Observational astrophysics uses sophisticated technology to collect and measure electromagnetic and other radiation from beyond the Earth. Modern observatories produce large, complex datasets and extracting the maximum possible information from them requires the expertise of specialists in many fields beyond physics and astronomy, from civil engineers to statisticians and software engineers. This article introduces the essentials of professional astronomical observations to colleagues in allied fields, to provide context and relevant background for both facility construction and data analysis. It covers the path of electromagnetic radiation through telescopes, optics, detectors, and instruments, its transformation through processing into measurements and information, and the use of that information to improve our understanding of the physics of the cosmos and its history.
Review for non-astronomers; comments welcome