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Astronomy from Space


Admission requirements

Bachelors degree (or equivalent) in astronomy, physics or mathematics.


The course provides a general overview of space science from an astronomical perspective, so that students can access available space astronomy assets, know what is and how it will be available for scientific utilization, how the writing-of proposal-mechanism works regarding space missions, and know about the interaction with ground based instrumentation.
The course also provides insight in how to participate in discussion, preparation and then implementation of a space project, given that you are part of the astronomical community (active participation in projects, preparation for proposing new space missions, etc.).
The course also describes the development of a space mission. It provides insight on how to focus your career into the field of space astronomy (including the ‘agency side’) from a scientific viewpoint. This concerns exoplanetology as the scientific ‘model’ that the description of space missions in general is based on. Stellar physics, particularly how to retrieve fundamental stellar parameters (e.g. mass, radius, age, etc.) with the required precision to have an impact on essentially all aspects of astrophysics but especially in the field of exoplanetology is taught in detail. The course also a number of recent and future space missions, addressing a number of other fields in astrophysics.. The relevant missions (e.g. XMM Integral, Herschel, JWST, EUCLID, PLATO, Darwin, Terrestrial planet Finder, TPF) are described in some detail.
The course consists of the following elements, not necessarily in this order:

  • Introduction

  • Why observe from space? The planet Earth environment (atmosphere including chemical composition, physical conditions, ionosphere, particle environment). Balloon astronomy, sounding rockets and launchers to deep space. Definition of a space project (scientific idea, scientific objectives, scientific requirements, general technical solution).

  • The orbital mechanics of binary stars, exoplanets and space craft is described. How do you determine exoplanetary parameters? What we know about stellar parameters today is almost exclusively from studies of binaries? What orbit does your spacecraft need vs what orbit can it achieve?

  • Fundamental Physics from Space! Gravitational wave astronomy, the origin of the Universe, dark matter and dark energy space missions may be necessary to fully investigate these aspects.

  • Astronomical objectives of IR and Submm space missions Specific IR and Submm satellite missions (e.g. IRAS, ISO, Spitzer, Herschel & Planck, JWST): Satellite design, instrument design and realised instrumentation, science topics, trends, future (interferometry).

  • Exoplanets from space. The scientific issues. Understanding the relation between star and planet – stellar physics vs planetary physics. Detection techniques from space. Asteroseismology. Habitable exoplanets. The future.

  • The building of a Space Astronomy Mission using exoplanetary missions as examples: The role and tasks of the scientist in assessment, technical implementation and scientific implementation. NOTE: these two last topics take up about 1/2 of the course.

  • A special seminar with discussion on the different ways of reaching space with your equipment/problem. The space agencies (ESA & NASA) are providing space access at the moment, but this will not always be so. The future is important in this course because a) The timeline for space projects is usually 10-20 years, and b) because it is going to be YOU who form the future and it will be what you make of it.

  • Available space resources and using them for your science. Preparing observing proposals. Handling data. Organisation of consortia.

Course objectives

The main objective of the course is to get a general overview of space science from an astronomical perspective.
Upon completion of the course you will be able to:

  • Provide general knowledge of the space oriented community (e.g. ESA and NASA).

  • Give examples of successful space missions (ISO, Herschel and Planck, CoRoT and Kepler).

  • Access available and coming space astronomy assets. You should know what is and will be available for scientific utilisation in the next 10-year period, with specific attention to space missions dealing with exoplanetology.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the interplay between ground-based and space-based instruments.

  • Explain the background and evolution of the scientific case for a space mission, and, how this scientific case is turned into specific instrumental requirements, and finally, how these can be implemented in the space environment.

Soft skills

In this course, students will be trained in the following behaviour-oriented skills:

  • Problem solving (recognizing and analyzing problems, solution-oriented thinking)

  • Analytical skills (analytical thinking, abstraction, evidence)

  • Structured thinking (structure, modulated thinking, computational thinking, programming)

  • Complex ICT-skills (data analysis, programming, simulations, complex ICT applications)

  • Project management (planning, scope, boundaries, result-orientation)

  • Written communication (writing skills, reporting, summarizing)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)

  • Creative thinking (resourcefulness, curiosity, thinking out of the box)


See Astronomy master schedules

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Exercise classes

Assessment method

Written exam, see the Astronomy master examination schedules.


Brightspace will be used to communicate with students and to share lecture slides, homework assignments, and any extra materials. You must enroll on uSis before the first lecture. To have access, you need a student ULCN account.

Reading list

Lecture notes made available after each lesson, papers from the literature handed out during lessons.


Via uSis. More information about signing up for your classes can be found here. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Lecturer: Prof.dr. M. (Malcolm) Fridlund
Assistant: To be announced