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Origin and Evolution of the Universe


Admission requirements

Leiden Astronomy Bachelor's courses Galaxies and Cosmology and Radiative Processes.


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

After you learn what evidence exists for the hot Big Bang model, you study the basics of relativistic cosmology. We then discuss the physical processes occurring in the early universe, such as inflation, Big Bang nucleosynthesis and recombination. Finally, you will study the origin of large-scale structure, and use this to interpret the observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background. During the exercise classes, you will apply the material covered in the lectures in more involved calculations.

This course covers the following topics:

  • Relativistic cosmology (Friedmann equation, distances, basic parameters)

  • Thermal history of the Universe

  • Inflation

  • Big Bang nucleosynthesis

  • Recombination

  • Basics of structure formation

  • Interpretation of the Cosmic Microwave Background

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 make basic 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 basic quantities in an expanding Universe

  • Explain the problems with the Big Bang models

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

  • Explain the basics of Big Bang nucleosynthesis

  • Interpret observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background

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


Blackboard is not used for this course.

Reading list

Optional, not required because the lecture notes will be made available as well:

  • An Introduction to Modern Cosmology (A. Liddle), ISBN 9780470848357 (basic introduction to cosmology)

  • Introduction to Cosmology (B. Ryden), ISBN 9781292039718 (somewhat more substantial)

  • Cosmology: The Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structure (P. Coles and F. Lucchin), ISBN 9780471489092 (more advanced topics)


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: Dr. R.J. (Rychard) Bouwens
Assistant: Anna De Graaff