2018-2019 / SPAT0020-2



30h Th, 10h Pr

Number of credits

 Master in space sciences (120 ECTS)4 crédits 


Michaël De Becker

Language(s) of instruction

English language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

Progress made in the past years allowed us to clarify our vision of interstellar and circumstellar chemistry. To date, the number of firmly identified molecules in the interstellar medium is more than 170, thanks to the development of observational instrumentation. Significant progress is expected in this field in the forthcoming years thanks to the advent of large observatories such as ALMA. The processes responsible for the formation of these chemical species, along with their potential filiation, are the subject of many studies.
This course aims at providing an insight into these studies, and into the underlying physical chemistry required to understand them. General notions of chemistry, including elements of organic chemistry, are set out in an astrophysical context, insisting on the impact of the astrophysical environment on the processes responsible for the formation and/or destruction of these molecules. The influence of factors essential for astrochemistry such as cosmic-rays and radiation is especially commented. The issue of the existence of more complex molecules and of potentially prebiotic molecules is discussed. The main methods of spectroscopic identification of molecules in different spectral domains are also briefly discussed.
The evolution of astrophysical environments is also discussed, with emphasis on the effect of this evolution on molecular populations. In particular, the evolution of a molecular cloud up to the formation of a planetary system is discussed, and the prebiotic conditions of the Earth are commented.
Throughout the course, the astrophysical context will be systematically emphasized. Despite the fact astrochemistry deals mainly with physico-chemical processes, the astrophysical foundations of this course constitute a leading component.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

First, this course aims at providing the students with an introductory and general view of processes and phenomena located at the interface between astrophysics and chemistry.This objective concerns mainly the knowledge of these processes and their understanding on adequate physical bases.
Another important objective is to introduce the students of the Master in Space Sciences to the basics required to access to the specialized literature in astrochemistry. This introduction is therefore expected to provide the students with the necessary autonomy to improve their knowledge of this field by themselves, either for research or personal interest purpose. This objective concerns the application of knowledge and the understanding of concepts, along with a part of synthesis and analysis of information.
Finally, the most ambitious objective is to rise the students up to a level where they can integrate several concepts coming from a priori distinct scientific disciplines. This course constitutes therefore an introduction to pluridisciplinary approaches, which are of increasing importance in modern sciences. This objective pushes further the development of higher level skills such as the capacity of pluridisciplinary synthesis. Such skills are of leading importance to address ambitious scientific questions such as the study of the evolution of prebiotic conditions and the investigation of the origin of life in the Universe.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

No particular prerequisite.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

The theoretical part is organized in lectures illustrated by detailed lecture notes and by slideshows commented by the lecturer.
The practical part of the course consists in individual or collective exercies realized under the supervision of the lecturer. These exercises require an active participation of students, and are partly based on scientific papers that are directly related to the theme of the course. The latter point is in direct relation with one of the main objectives of the course.
A self-evaluation multiple choice questionnaire is also organized and the beginning and at the end of the course (IN/OUT questionnaire).
Learning modules and tests related to the content of the course are also made available to students on the e-Campus platform.

Mode of delivery (face-to-face ; distance-learning)

The course is organized in theoretical lectures (30 hours in total), complemented by exercises (10 hours in total) illustrating some aspects of the course content.
The course is complemented by learning modules and tests accessible via the e-Campus platform. The exploration of these complements is mandatory.
The presence of students is requested for both theoretical and practical lectures.

Recommended or required readings

Lecture notes written in english including the main content of the course will be provided to the students via the e-Campus platform. These lecture notes refer to a detailed bibliography that is adapted to the objectives of the course.

Assessment methods and criteria

An oral examination is organized at the end of the year. The first part of this examination is based on a scientific paper selected by the students, and the second part is more specifically devoted to the content of the theoretical lectures.
The assessment methods are clarified both in the e-Campus space dedicated to the course and during the lectures. 

Work placement(s)

Organizational remarks

The main part of the course consists of a theoretical description of various aspects of astrochemistry, spiced with examples found in specialized literature. Practical applications are presented after the development of the required knowledge in the theoretical part.
Lectures are organized following the schedule made available to students, with some potential adjustments adapted to the availability of students.


Michaël De Becker
Phone: 04/3669717
E-mail: debecker@astro.ulg.ac.be
Office: Institut d'Astrophysique et Géophysique, Building B5c, 1st floor, office 1/8