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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

Soft skills

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

  • Abstract thinking

  • Explaining and analyzing complex and non-intuitive concepts


See Astronomy master schedules

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


Instructions and course material can be found on Brightspace. Registration for Brightspace occurs automatically when students enroll in uSis via uSis by registration for a class activity using a class number

Reading list

  • Lecture notes

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


Register via uSis. More information about signing up for classes and exams can be found here. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to register. For Interest only & Contractual enrolment, please see this website (in Dutch only).

Contact information

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. J. (Joop) Schaye
Teaching assistants: Joey Braspenning, Evgenii Chaikin, Roy Kugel