2023-2024 / SPAT0068-1

Astrophysical observations


15h Th, 15h Pr, 5d FW

Number of credits

 Master in space sciences (120 ECTS)6 crédits 


Emmanuel Jehin

Language(s) of instruction

English 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 mainly concerns the participation of students from our master 1 or master 2in Space Sciences or from the master AERO, spatial orientation, to a mission of 4 nights of observation at the Oukaimeden Observatory in Morocco where is located the robotic telescope of the STAR Institute of the Liège University. The objective is to carry out a complete observation program in real situation, from the choice of the targets to the preparation of the observations and the acquisition of data on site, to the writing of a report and the presentation of the results. in front of an audience.

A series of lectures will be given before the mission in order to present the characteristics of the telescope and the instruments. We will then proceed to reminders concerning the coordinate and photometric systems used, atlases and catalogs of interesting celestial objects, observation conditions (seeing and airmass) and visibilities, ephemeris programs, etc.

A series of science projects will be proposed: light curves of exoplanets in transit, light curves of asteroids rotation, astrometry of Near Earth Asteroids, light curves of variable stars of various types, HR diagrams of open and globular clusters, color images of nebula and galaxies using filters etc.

The students will then have to write an application form for observing time including a scientific justification and a technical feasibility study, to prepare observation plans, recover data and calibrations, reduce data and analyze them with appropriate softwares.

This mission will generally take place over one week of holiday (cf. after the first exam session) but it could also be organized during another week dedicated to the master program, or during the week of Carnival or Easter holidays.

Students will then reduce their data and present a critical analysis of their work in the form of a scientific paper. A brief presentation of the results will also be given by the students in English.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

To be capable of preparing an observing program, select the targets depending on their visibility, select the filters and exptime based on the goals and the telescope exposure time calculator, prepare the observing schedule and the plans to execute the observations. To reduce and analyse the collected astronomical data with dedicated softwares. To write a scientific paper and to preset in English the results in front of an audience.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills


Planned learning activities and teaching methods

There will be first 4 lectures before the trip for the introduction and reminders about the coordinate systems, photometric systems used in astrophysics and description of the instrument and telescopes available, followed by 4 nights of observation at the Oukaimeden Observatory, reduction and analysis of the collected data in real time using dedicated softwares. After the trip several afternoons will be available to reduce the data, do the photometric measurements, make the light curves and analysis, write the scientific report and the oral presentation of the main results for the exam.

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

The lectures will be provided in class before and after the trip and at the observatory during one week.

Recommended or required readings

Lecture notes will become accessible during the stay

Any session :

- In-person

oral exam

- Remote

oral exam AND written work

- If evaluation in "hybrid"

preferred in-person

Additional information:

The evaluation will essentially be based upon the involvement of the student during the observations at the observatory, the quality of the scientific report (and the results), and its presentation in English with the answers to the questions.

Work placement(s)

A stay of 5 nights at the Observatory of Oukaimeden in Morocco.

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

- A participation of 200 EU per student is requested for the whole week. The University will pay for the rest. The total includes transports to the airports by bus, flight tickets with a low cost company, 5 nights and 3 meals per day.
- An insurance will be contracted for everyone by the University. It is mandatory and 12,5 EU per student and it includes the travel back to Belgium in case of a serious injury.
- We will stay at the Club Alpin Français of the Oukaimeden village located 2 hours from Marrakech (extra beverage are not included).
- A passeport with a valid date is needed.
- The stay will be at high altitude (2850 m) and about 2x 30 min of walk everyday to the observatory. Please inform us before the trip if you have some special health issues.
- Some activies will be planned on site (trail in the mountain, archeological tour, Marrakech tour)
- It is possible to pay in EU on site and VISA / MAstercard is accepted. It is possible to take Moroccan Dirhams at the airport for local purchases.


Emmanuel Jehin (Maître de recherche F.R.S.-FNRS) ejehin@uliege.be

Antoine Thuillier (assistant ULiège): antoine.thuillier@uliege.be

Mathieu Vander Donckt (doctorant ULiege): mathieu.vanderdonckt@uliege.be

Sandrine Sohy (assitante informatique): Sandrine.Sohy@uliege.be

Institut d'Astrophysique et de Géophysique, ULg, Allée du 6 Août 19, Bât. B5c, B-4000 Sart Tilman (Liège) - Tél.: +32 (0)4 3669726


Association of one or more MOOCs

Items online

Lecture notes: Mission of astrophysical observations
Lecture notes will become available via the link indicated below: