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Origin and Evolution of the Universe


Admission requirements

BSc-level knowledge of mathematics and physics, including classical and quantum mechanics, special relativity, statistical physics, atomic physics, and nuclear physics. At least basic knowledge of astronomy, e.g. the Leiden course "Introduction to astrophysics".


This course introduces the theoretical underpinnings and the observational evidence for modern cosmology.

After reviewing the evidence for the hot Big Bang model, we study the basics of relativistic cosmology and the expansion history. We then discuss the measurement of cosmological parameters, dark matter and dark energy. Next we study the thermal history and physical processes occurring in the early universe, such as inflation, Big Bang nucleosynthesis and recombination.

This course covers the following topics:

  • Cosmic kinematics and dynamics

  • Measurement of cosmological parameters

  • Dark matter

  • Thermal history of the Universe

  • Cosmic microwave background anisotropies

  • Inflation

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course you will be able to describe the current cosmological model and the observational evidence supporting this. Moreover, you will be able to do relevant calculations and read the scientific literature on the topic.

Upon completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Explain the basics of the current cosmological model

  • Use the Friedmann equations to calculate quantities in an expanding Universe

  • Explain how cosmological parameters are measured

  • Discuss the need for non-baryonic dark matter

  • Explain various milestones in the thermal history, including Big Bang nucleosynthesis, neutrino decoupling, recombination and photon decoupling

  • Interpret observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background

  • Explain how inflation solves the problems with the Big Bang model


See Astronomy master schedules

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Assessment method

Reading list

  • Lecture notes

  • Introduction to Cosmology, 2nd edition (B. Ryden), ISBN 9781107154834 (recommended but not required)


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturer: Prof. Dr. J. (Joop) Schaye

Teaching assistants: Joey Braspenning, Evgenii Chaikin, Roi Kugel


Soft skills
In this course, you are trained in the following behavior-oriented skills:

  • Abstract thinking

  • Explaining and analyzing complex and non-intuitive concepts