2023-2024 / SPAT0065-1

Introduction to Astronomy


20h Th, 10h Pr

Number of credits

 Bachelor in mathematics3 crédits 


Grégor Rauw

Language(s) of instruction

French 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

Astronomy and mathematics share a long common history. Indeed, a number of mathematical tools were developed in the framework of astronomical research and were then extended to other applications. In addition, astronomy and astrophysics benefit from new mathematical theories. This course builds on the synergy between both disciplines. 
The course will develop a series of key topics:

  • Introduction : a brief history of astronomy, the Universe seen from spaceship Earth (day/night cycles, seasons, fixed stars and planets,...).
  • Light, the celestial messenger : rough description of the electromagnetic spectrum, Doppler effect, observational techniques,...
  • Planetary systems : Kepler's laws and their link to gravity, content of the Solar System, exo-planetary systems (methods of detection and characterization,...), formation and evolution of planetary systems.
  • Our cosmic neighbourhood : measuring the distances of stars, the structure of the Galaxy, magnitudes, Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and a rough description of stellar evolution, nebulae and the interstellar medium,...
  • The Universe at large : galaxies (types, clusters,...), large-scale structures, the Big Bang and the standard model, understanding black holes,...
These concepts are illustrated through a series of tutorial sessions where the students discover how geometry, trigonometry, calculus and statistics allow astronomers to understand the properties of the objects that make up the Universe. The questions that are addressed include:

  • What are the masses of celestial bodies?
  • What are the distances of celestial bodies?
  • What are the key properties of exo-planets?
  • How do satellites move in space?

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

Upon completion of this course, the student will master basic knowledge in astronomy and will be able to understand the link between mathematical tools discovered in other courses and basic astronomical techniques.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Knowledge in analytical mechanics (course MECA0479-1 Analytical Mechanics I, or equivalent) and general physics (course PHYS1985-1 General physics I, and PHYS1986-1 General Physics II, or equivalent). Good knowledge of basic mathematical tools.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Several tutotial sessions are organized to illustrate the concepts taught. 

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

Blended learning

Additional information:

The course is delivered in hybrid mode. The majority of the lectures will be delivred face-to-face (if the sanitary conditions allow it). A limited numer of lectures could be delivered through podcasts. The schedule and some practical details (lecture room) are provided to the students at the beginning of the academic year.

Recommended or required readings

Dedicated lecture notes as well as a copy of the slides are provided to the students. Additional information (animations, links to some videos of interest, interactive self-evaluation tools,...) are made available through eCampus. The written documents are in French. 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

written exam ( multiple-choice questionnaire, open-ended questions )

Additional information:

The assessment is done through a written exam consisting of

  • questions about the theory (closed book) including open questions as well as an MCQ.
  • exercises.
Emphasis is put on a deep understanding of the concepts taught.
The exercise part is open book, meaning that the student can use papercopies of the official notes as well as personal notes. The use of electronic devices, tablets or smartphones during the exam is forbidden.

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

Introduction to astronomy
This link connects you the eCampus website of the course.