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Observational Molecular Astronomy in Galaxies


Admission requirements

Some knowledge in Radiative Processes is required


Molecules pervade the cooler, denser parts of the Universe, in particular the reservoirs of the matter than forms stars and planets, and the gas in the centres of galaxies. These denser, cooler components of cosmic gas contain a significant fraction of the non-stellar baryonic matter in a galaxy and astronomers routinely use molecules to discover and explore these regions: the more complex the chemistry, the more details of the gas the molecules reveal. Hence, molecular line emissions offer astronomers exciting opportunities to learn how galaxies form, evolve and interact with each other.
The course will cover:

  • A brief overview of what drives cosmic chemistry in different types of galaxies

  • Hands-on lectures on how to obtain useful astronomical information from raw telescope data

  • Determination of the suitable molecular tracers for many types of astronomical regions including starburst galaxies, AGNs, dwarf galaxies and high redshift galaxies.

Course objectives

this course aims to provide a background of understanding so that the student can begin to address the following questions:
1) Why are different astronomical regions (outflows, shocks, star-forming clouds, AGNs) best traced in lines from different molecules?
2) Which are the most suitable tracers for studying different types of galaxies?
3) How does the observer convert raw telescope data into astrophysically useful information?
4) How can the most complete physical description be extracted from the data?


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

  • Hands-on classes

Assessment method

Exam (70%) and Assignment (30%)

Reading list

Notes will be provided (partly based on the book "Observational Molecular Astronomy, Williams & Viti, ISBN 978-1-107-01816-7)


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. S. Viti
Teaching Assistants: Margot Leemker, Milou Temmink, Marissa Vlasblom


Soft skills
In this course the students will be trained in:

  • Structural and critical thinking (inc. modular and computational thinking, checking assumptions)

  • Problem solving

  • Presenting papers