2023-2024 / SPAT0069-1

Radio astrophysics


25h 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 second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

This course allows students to acquire basic concepts of radio observations and radio astrophysical phenomena. First, the course starts with a brief history of the development of radio astronomy. The second part consists of a more in-depth discussion of the physical processes relevant for radio astrophysics (mainly continuum radiative processes), with emphasis on the scientific information accessible through observations. The third part of the course includes an introduction to observational techniques and a brief description of existing and forthcoming radio observatories. Finally, the last part is made of a discussion of several case studies providing a more practical approach to emphasize the interest of radio observations in modern astrophysics. This part addresses among other topics extragalactic sources, stars of various masses, supernova remnants, pulsars, planetary radio emission, the radio detection of cosmic rays, active galactic nuclei and radio galaxies, or even the new class of transient events called Fast Radio Bursts.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

The outcomes of this course consist in:

  • acquiring an overview of astrophysical topics where radio observations are relevant
  • developing a scientific culture complementary with that provided by other teaching activities of the Master in Space Sciences
  • being able to establish a clear connection between physical processes in astrophysics and measured quantities accessible by radio observations
  • knowing the main principles on which observational radio astronomy is based
  • getting familiar with antenna and receiver concepts, specific to the field of radio astronomy
  • being able to identify whether/how radio observations could provide relevant information for many science topics addressed in the context of the Master in Space Sciences

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

No particluar prerequisite beside the conditions for admission to the Master in Space Sciences.

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. Learning supports in English are made available to students via the eCampus platform.

The practical part includes various activities:

  • revision and critical discussions of some theoretical parts of the course, on the basis of exercises
  • discussion of science cases relevant to radio astrophysics
  • multiple choice questionnaires used for self-evaluation purposes (IN/OUT questionnaire)
  • a hands-on session on a virtual radio observatory for the study of pulsars

The teaching methods applied to this course are intended to favor active learning by the students. For instance, all the content of the lecture notes is not commented in details during the theoretical lectures. Rather, students are invited to explore some details in the notes through a learning grid made of a list of theoretical questions that will be discussed in the class room. On the other hand, complementary supports (movies, various documents...) available on eCampus help students to explore the content of the course following a more 'e-learning oriented' approach. Science topics where physical (and technical) aspects are applied are explored following a case study approach, supported by an abundant scientific bibliography.

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

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

The course is organized in theoretical lectures, complemented by practical activities, for a total of 35 hours.

Recommended or required readings

Lecture notes written in english including the main content of the course are provided to the students. These notes constitute the mandatory support to prepare for the exam.
The exploration of the supplementary material made available on the eCampus platform is also highly recommended.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

oral exam

Additional information:

A oral examination is organized in the May-June session. It consists of:

  • a brief multiple choice questionnaire related to the theoretical and practical parts of the course
  • one purely theoretical question selected from a list communicated beforehand to students
  • an open question on a science topic discussed in the course
Students have 45 minutes to prepare their answers. Students then discuss their answers orally for maximum 45 minutes.


Work placement(s)

Not applicable.

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

Lectures are organized according to the planning of the Master in Space Sciences communicated to students. Minor changes with respect to the initial schedule can occur, upon agreement between the students and the teacher.

The total is 35 hours of teaching, including both theoretical and practical aspects.


Michaël De Becker

Phone: 04/3669717

E-mail: Michael.DeBecker@uliege.be

Office: Institut d'Astrophysique et Géophysique, Building B5c, 1st floor, office 1/8

Association of one or more MOOCs