2023-2024 / SPAT0009-1

High-energy astrophysics


25h Th, 5h Pr

Number of credits

 Master in space sciences (120 ECTS)3 crédits 


Grégor Rauw

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

Thanks to spaceborne observatories, new spectral windows have become available to the astrophysicists. This course deals with high-energy astrophysics in the X-ray and gamma-ray domains.

We start by an introduction to the microscopic processes that generate and absorb X-ray or gamma-ray radiation in the Universe: bremsstrahlung, (inverse) Compton scattering, black body emission, photoelectric absorption, Auger effect, radioactive decays,... Then, we discuss various models that are used to fit the observed high-energy spectra. The properties of many different X-ray or gamma-ray sources are described: coronal sources (our Sun, cool stars), supernova remnants, X-ray pulsars, X-ray binaries, hot stars, clusters of galaxies, quasars, active galactic nuclei, gamma-ray bursts... We also describe the instrumentations (telescopes and detectors) used in high-energy astrophysics and provide an overview of the most recent missions (ROSAT, ASCA, Chandra, XMM-Newton, INTEGRAL, Swift, NuSTAR...). The particular aspects of data reduction in these energy domains are introduced and during a hands-on session, the students themselves reduce and analyse a set of X-ray data.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

The aim of this course is to familiarize students with the specific context and techniques of high-energy astrophysics. By the end of this course, the students will be able to read and understand scientific publications on this topic and to carry out their own analysis of X-ray observations of the sky.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Good knowledge of mathematics, physics, classical mechanics and some knowledge of special relativity.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

A hands-on session (3 hrs) is organized where students reduce X-ray spectra themselves. Attendance of this session is a condition for admittance to the exam.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Blended learning

Additional information:

The lectures are usually scheduled as 3h/week over 10 weeks during the first semester. The hands-on session is organized towards the end of the first semester.
Most of the lectures will take place face-to-face (if the sanitary conditions allow so), but some could be delivered as podcasts.

Recommended or required readings

The lecture notes and slideshow are provided in English as pdf files via the eCampus on-line course.

All these documents are made available exclusively for a strictly personal and private use, and shall not be shared with a third party. Furthermore, it is forbidden to submit these documents to an artificial intelligence or to an artificial intelligence-powered language model. This restriction equally holds if the goal of such a submission would be to generate a summary for personal use.


Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

oral exam

Additional information:

Oral exam: the students present a personal work consisting of the analysis of a scientific publication dealing with observations in the high-energy astrophysics domain. The evaluation emphasizes the understanding of the course and the ability to use the concepts and the techniques that have been taught. To successfully pass the exam, students have to learn and understand the course.

Admittance to the exam is subject to the student having attended the hands-on session.

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course



Prof. Gregor Rauw Institut d'Astrophysique et Géophysique, Bât. B5c Allée du 6 Août, 19c 4000 Liège
Tel. +32-(0)4 366 9740 e-mail: g.rauw@uliege.be

Association of one or more MOOCs

Items online

High-Energy Astrophysics
Link to the online course under eCampus.