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Astronomy from Space


Admission requirements

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


In this course we will explore how space observatories contribute to answering the big questions which currently dominate astronomy. We will discover what makes space a uniquely powerful base from where to observe the near and far Universe. We will cover a wide range of space observatories in the recent past, current and future timeframes and the data that is available from them, and we will dive into some examples in more depth. The course will also describe the typical development of a space mission, and will discuss the features that we have to take into account when designing and using space-based observatories across the electromagnetic spectrum. We will learn to make some basic calculations relevant to mission design. The approach will be thematic and cover a wide wavelength spectrum.
The course consists of the following elements, not necessarily in this order:

  • Introduction to the course. Why observe from space? A bit of history… Balloon astronomy, sounding rockets and launchers to deep space. Introduction to the big questions addressed by astronomy from space.

  • Cosmology from space. The Universe at large scales. Observing the early Universe. Cosmic Microwave Background, galaxy surveys, deep observations of individual very distant objects…

  • Observing near and distant Galaxies (normal, starburst, AGN, quasars…).

  • Observing the Milky Way.

  • Observing exoplanets from space. Exobiology.

  • Exploring the Solar system: Sun, Sun-planet interactions, planetary missions.

  • Detectors and payloads (high energies, uv/optical, IR/FIR, submm/radio; gravitational waves)

  • Astronomical space mission design aspects: setting requirements, engineering principles, operations principles, mission development lifecycle, agencies, proposal preparation, …

Course objectives

The main objective of the course is to provide a general overview of the role and use of space-based observatories for astronomy today.
Upon completion of the course you will:

  • have general knowledge of astronomy-oriented space-based topics, actors, and projects.

  • have more specific understanding of some successful space missions, and of plans for future facilities.

  • be aware of available and coming space astronomy assets (data) and in general terms of what they are useful for.

  • have some understanding of the key technical issues that enable successful space astronomy missions, and of how these projects are developed and operated.

Soft skills

In this course, students will exercise the following behaviour-oriented skills:

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

  • Analytical skills (analytical thinking, abstraction, evidence)

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

  • Communication (writing and oral skills, reporting, summarizing)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, checking assumptions)

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


See Schedules bachelor Astronomy

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.
See Astronomy master schedules

Mode of instruction

The course will be based on 8 2-hr lectures, including 2-3 invited lectures by selected space astronomy mission specialists. There will also be exercise classes to cover some practical elements.

Assessment method

Written exam, see Examination schedule bachelor Astronomy


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, references to papers from the literature will be 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

Lecturers: Prof.Dr. J (Jan).A. Tauber and Prof.dr. M. (Malcolm) Fridlund