Leiden Observatory In 1633, Leiden University founded an observatory to accommodate â€˜Snellâ€™s quadrantâ€™, a huge device to accurately measure angles on the sky. Still active today, the institute is now the oldest university observatory in the world. Leiden Observatory offers a wide spectrum of research in the field of astronomy, including evolution of galaxies, computer simulations, astrochemistry, exoplanets, astronomical instrumentation and the LOFAR project. Leiden astronomers do not operate within traditional closed research groups, but are strongly motivated to think beyond their own research and cooperate with the other groups.
International cooperation is at the basis of most projects and
many of the staff have an international background. The Obser-
There is an almost endless variety of galaxies and ensembles
vatory has a strong position within the Netherlands and abroad.
of stars, gas and dust. Their properties, structure, origin and
Students are involved in research as soon as possible (already
evolution are major research interests at Leiden Observatory and
in the BSc programme), and many go on to a PhD fellowship in
a wide variety of observational, interpretation and theoretical
Leiden or elsewhere.
study takes place, using state-of-the-art telescopes and computers
Graduate School of Science P.O. Box 9502 2300 RA Leiden www.science.leidenuniv.nl/graduateschool
around the world.
Large scale structure and cosmology Cosmology is concerned with the structure and evolution of the
Interstellar matter and star formation
universe as a whole, including the origin of large scale struc-
As all stars and planets form from cold and dark molecular
ture. Cosmology overlaps with theoretical physics in studying
clouds in interstellar space, interstellar matter and star formation
the properties of space-time and its intimate connection with
are closely connected topics. The physics and chemistry of such
gravitation. At the same time cosmology relies on the study of
clouds, and the processes that lead to the formation of stars of
the distant, younger universe by making direct observations of
low and high mass are studied in particular.
Graduate School of Science
Leiden Observatory Oort Niels Bohrweg 2 2333 CA Leiden www.strw.leidenuniv.nl
Stars and planetary systems
Laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry
Stars are by themselves fascinating topics of study, in particular
Simulating the actual conditions in interstellar and circumstellar
the stars’ variability, evolution and interior structure.
space in completely controlled environments on earth is the aim
Leiden astronomers also study minor planets and comets in the
of Laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry. The researchers
Solar System, as well as playing a growing role in the exciting
combine the analysis of astronomical observations with labora-
field of ‘exoplanets’ circling other stars.
tory experiments. Their state-of-the-art techniques allow them to simulate processes that take millions of years in space in a matter
PhD student Mariska Kriek discovered that the ‘big bang’ caused a huge boom of star birth. Star forma-
A central role in modern astronomical research is played by computational astrophysics. It provides detailed simulations of
tions that are eleven light years away consist mainly
complex astronomical phenomena including radiative transfer,
An essential requirement for successful astronomical research is
of old stars. These formations still look the same as
formation of galaxies or internal dynamical structure of galaxies.
instrumentation. The cost and complexity of today’s telescopes
they did 2.5 billion years after the ‘big bang’ which
These simulations often function as virtual ‘observatories’.
mean that instrumentation is developed in large consortia of
points to the fact that there is not much star birth in
people at institutes around the world.
far away star formations. This led to the conclusion
Leiden Observatory plays an important role in many of these
that new stars formed rapidly when the universe
Dealing with extreme conditions is the main topic of high-energy
consortia in defining, designing, constructing and testing new
was still very young – an unexpected research result
astrophysics, such as the behaviour of matter with typical indi-
instruments, and using them for research.
that caught the attention of many colleges. Existing
vidual particle energies higher than that found on the surface of
theoretical models were re-designed and adapted to
stars. The focus of the research is on physical processes associated
these new findings.
with compact objects such as neutron stars, white dwarfs and black holes.
Graduate School of Science