2018-2019 / SPAT0054-1

Astrophysics and astrochemistry


15h Th, 5h Pr

Number of credits

 Master in chemistry (120 ECTS)3 crédits 
 Master in geology (120 ECTS)3 crédits 
 Master in chemistry (60 ECTS)3 crédits 
 Master in geology (60 ECTS)3 crédits 


Michaël De Becker

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

This course is mainly built in three parts:
1. The first part introduces several concepts frequently used in astrophysics, and presents various astronomical environments following a rather descriptive approach. This could be considered as a short introduction to astrophysics, in the purpose to understand some basic concepts. The issue of the origin of the chemical elements is also addressed.
2. The second part aims at providing an insight into modern astrochemical studies, insisting on the impact of the astrophysical environment on the processes responsible for the formation and/or destruction of molecules. Gas phase and dust grain surface processes are described and discussed in their appropriate astrophysical context. The issue of the existence of more complex molecules, including potentially prebiotic molecules, is discussed.
3. The third part combines the elements of astrophysics and astrochemistry introduced in the two previous parts. The end of the course consists of the discussion of the evolution of a molecular cloud up to the planetary system stage, with emphasis on the evolution of the physico-chemical conditions of the environment.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

This course aims at providing to the students of the Master in Chemistry and of the Master in Geology an introductory and general view of some aspects of astrophysics, and of processes and phenomena located at the interface between astrophysics and chemistry, in order to favour pluridisciplinary approaches. 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 course constitutes also a good opportunity to realize that:
1. The Earth is an astronomical object, and it is relevant to locate it in its relevant astrophysical context. Our terrestrial environment is indeed intimately related to its previous history and its present context from the astronomical point of view.
2. The domain of application of chemistry is not limited to laboratories, to living cells or to the terrestrial ecosystem, but extends far beyond the limits of our planet.
3. The study of ambitious scientific questions requires often pluridisciplinary approaches.

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.
Complements 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 (15 hours in total), complemented by exercices (5 hours in total) illustrating some aspects of the course content.
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 and slideshows are provided to the students. Lecture notes refer to a detailed bibliography that is adapted to the objectives of the course.
Lecture notes are made available on the e-Campus platform.

Assessment methods and criteria

An oral examination is organized at the end of the year.
The first part of this examination is directly related to the practical exploration of the bibliography (scientific paper to be discussed in relation with the course content), and the second part is more specifically devoted to the content of the theoretical lectures.

Work placement(s)

Organizational remarks

The main part of the course consists of a theoretical description of various aspects of astrophysics and astrochemistry, spiced with examples found in specialized literature. Nevertheless, a few practical applications are also presented across the course in order to illustrate various principles. The practical activities can take the form of simple and informal discussions about a theme in relation with the course.
Complementary information useful for the course is also available on the e-Campus platform.


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