The Evolving Universe

The general-interest course The Evolving Universe offers an introduction in modern astronomy for laymen. The goal of this lecture series is to convey the many fascinating aspects of astronomy to a broad audience of Bachelor students from all faculties. An overview of this course with issues relevant for your planning can be found below.  
The lectures will be given in English.  
The course can be found at Ocasys, Nestor and Progress as 'The Evolving Universe' with code STEHE5. You can sign up for this course on ProgressWWW under:  
"Intekenen RUG" -> "Wiskunde en Natuurwetenschappen" -> "RUG en FWN Minoren" -> "Universitaire Minor (inschrijving)"  


Targeted audience
Location and dates
Overview of lectures and tutorials
Observing at the Blaauw Observatory
Lecture slides

Targeted audience:

This lecture series aims at Bachelor students from all faculties of the University of Groningen, as well as university employees, HOVO-students and the general public. This course is valued at 5 credits (ECTS) and is part of the University Minor "Astronomy through Space and Time" . It may, however, also be included in your curriculum as a stand-alone course but your exam committee should agree. No particular prior knowledge is required to follow this course. The textbook is written in English and the lectures will be given in English as well. Although the use of mathematical formulas will be avoided as much as possible, some conceptual understanding of basic geometry will be advantageous. A simple formula may be introduced on occasion.

The content of this course is too minimal for students of astronomy and physics. They can not include The Evolving Universe in their curriculum and are advised to take regular first-year courses in astronomy. Other students of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (FWN) need to consult their exam committee about whether this course can be part of their curriculum or University Minor . Everybody, however, is welcome to attend the lectures.

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Location and dates:

The 14 lectures will be given both at the Academy Building and on the Zernike campus. On Tuesday evenings, the lectures will be given in the Van der Leeuw room of the Academy building, from 19:00 until 21:00. On Thursday afternoons, the lectures will be given in the Donald Smits room of the CIT Smitsborg on the Zernike campus, from 15:00 until 17:00. Note, however, that there are some exceptions to this schedule. The first lecture will be on Tuesday evening, November 14, 2017.

In addition to the lectures, there will be 6 tutorials. The tutorials will also be given in the Donald Smits room of the CIT Smitsborg, usually on Wednesday afternoon, from 15:00 until 17:00.

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The lectures will be given by Prof. Marc Verheijen of the Kapteyn Institute, the department of astronomy of the University of Groningen. If you have any questions, please send an email, pick up the phone or stop by the office after making an appointment.

Marc A.W. Verheijen
Zernikecomplex, Landleven 12, Postbus 800
9700 AV Groningen
telephone: 050-3634073 (secr.)


The tutorials and homework assignments will be given by two PhD students of astronomy:

Avanti Gogate (avanti[at]
Pooja Bilimogga (pooja[at]

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Overview of the lectures and tutorials:

The lectures will largely follow the text book but more or less attention will be given to additional and selected topics.

November 14
Cosmic distances,
Movie : 'Cosmic Voyage'
M. Verheijen v.d.Leeuwzaal
November 16
Early developments in astronomy,
From a geocentric to a heliocentric world view,
Kepler's laws
M. Verheijen Donald Smitszaal
November 21
The heavens in motion,
Stars and constellations
Celestial coordinates and seasons
M. Verheijen v.d.Leeuwzaal
November 22
Tutorial 1
Gogate & Bilimogga Donald Smitszaal
November 23
Earth and Moon,
Solar and Lunar eclipses,
Calenders and time keeping
M. Verheijen Donald Smitszaal
November 28
Electromagnetic radiation
M. Verheijen v.d.Leeuwzaal
November 29
Tutorial 2 : Instructions for spectroscope asssembly
Gogate & Bilimogga Donald Smitszaal
November 30
Observing techniques
M. Verheijen Donald Smitszaal
December 6
The solar system - I,
Origin and composition,
The terrestial planets
M. Verheijen Donald Smitszaal
December 7
Tutorial 3 : Im 1: Im 2: Im 3:
Gogate & Bilimogga Donald Smitszaal
December 12
The solar system - II,
The Jovian planets and their moons,
asteroids and comets
M. Verheijen v.d.Leeuwzaal
December 13
The Sun,
Properties of the stars
M. Verheijen Donald Smitszaal
December 20
Tutorial 4 : Im 1:
Gogate & Bilimogga Donald Smitszaal
December 21
Interstellar Matter
Star formation
M. Verheijen Donald Smitszaal
January 9
Stellar evolution,
The death of stars
M. Verheijen v.d.Leeuwzaal
January 10
Tutorial 5 Im 4a: Im 4b: Spreadsheet: here
Gogate & Bilimogga Donald Smitszaal
January 11
The Milky Way
M. Verheijen Donald Smitszaal
January 16
M. Verheijen v.d.Leeuwzaal
January 17
Active galaxies,
M. Verheijen Donald Smitszaal
January 18
Tutorial 6
Gogate & Bilimogga Donald Smitszaal
January 23
Questions & videos
M. Verheijen v.d.Leeuwzaal
  January 24 Exam M. Verheijen BB 5161.0165
  April 13 Resit exam M. Verheijen NB 5113.0201

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Observing at the Blaauw Observatory:

The Kapteyn Institute operates an astronomical observatory on top of the Bernoulliborg. Participants in the course The Evolving Universe may have the opportunity to gaze at the beautiful heavens through a telescope themselves, provided the weather conditions are favorable. Observing opportunities will be announced during the lectures, possibly on a short term notice given the rapidly changing weather conditions in The Netherlands. Information about the Blaauw Observatory can be found here.

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This course will be graded on the basis of homework assignments (see below) and a multiple-choice exam on Wednesday, January 24, from 14:00 until 17:00 in room BB 5161.0165 of the Bernoulliborg. The average grade of the homework assignments counts for 40% of the final grade. The grade of the exam counts for 60% of the final grade.

The exam will test general knowledge, insights and facts about astronomy as conveyed during the lectures. Students of the University of Groningen will receive their grade via ProgRESS. As the text book is more extensive in content than what can be discussed during the lectures, an overview of topics relevant for the exam will be provided (see content to be tested).  

Resit exam:

The resit exam will take place on Friday, April 13, from 14:00 until 17:00 in room NB 5113.0201.

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In previous years, students have indicated that they like to obtain some hands-on experience with the subjects discussed in the lectures instead of writing an essay. To honour this request, there will be 6 tutorials this year, as well as 5 homework assignments to be completed individually. The homework assignments will be graded and their average grade contributes for 40% to the final grade.

The homework assignments will be handed out at the end of the tutorials and need to be handed in before the beginning of the next tutorial. If an assignment is not handed in on time, it will be graded with a 1 and as such contribute to the average grade of the 6 assignments.

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Final grades are managed and distributed through the ProgRESS system. After the grades have been entered in ProgRESS by the Educational Support Center of the FWN faculty, they can be distributed to the grade management systems of the other faculties. The exchange file needs to be actively retrieved by the administrators of your own faculty. As long as this has not been accomplished, your grade will not appear in ProgRESS. Please contact the Educational Support Center of your faculty if the grade does not appear in your ProgRESS account in due time.

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This lecture series follows the text book In Quest of the Universe by Theo Koupelis (7th edition, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, ISBN 978-1-4496-8775-5). This book describes an up-to-date picture of contemporary astronomy and provides access to online educational material. It is available and priced at ~45 euro at the "Study Store". It is not strictly required that you purchase this book. Without access to the book, however, it is highly recommended that you take elaborate and carefull notes during the lectures. Earlier editions or other introductory texts into astronomy may also be useful but alternative titles need to be discussed with the lecturer.

Other useful but older titles are:
Bennett/Donahue/Schneider/Voit: The Cosmic Perspective (Addison Wesley, 1999)
Arny: Explorations - An Introduction to Astronomy (Mosby, 1994)
Goldsmith: The Evolving Universe (Benjamin/Cummings, 1981)
Dixon: Dynamic Astronomy (Prentice Hall, 1984 en 1989).

Attention: the book 'Evoluerend Heelal' is G. Schilling is NOT acceptable for this course.

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Dutch institutes:
Kapteyn Instituut , Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Sterrewacht , Universiteit Leiden
Sterrekundig Instituut "Anton Pannekoek" , Universiteit van Amsterdam
Afdeling Sterrenkunde , Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
ASTRON , Dwingeloo
JIVE , Dwingeloo
NOVA , De Nederlandse Onderzoekschool Voor Astronomie
Astronomical Observatories:
Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes , Roque de Los Muchachos, La Palma, Spain
Mauna Kea Observatories , Hawaii, USA
Paranal , European Southern Observatory, Chile
La Silla , European Southern Observatory, Chile
KPNO , Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona, USA
Calar Alto , Spain
AAO , Anglo-Australian Observatory
WSRT , Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, The Netherlands
VLA , Very Large Array, New Mexico, USA
GMRT , Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope, Pune, India
ATCA , Autralia Telescope Compact Array, Narrabri, Australia
BIMA Observatory , Berkeley-Illinois-Maryland Association, California, USA
OVRO , Owens Valley Radio Observatory, California, USA
Arecibo Observatory , Puerto Rico, USA
Space-based observatories:
Millimeter Planck
Sub-millimeter Herschel
Infra-Red Spitzer
Optical Hubble Space Telescope
Ultra-Violet GALEX
X-rays XMM Newton
Gamma-rays Fermi
Exploration of the solar systems:
Mercury Messenger
Venus Venus Express
Earth-Moon International Space Station
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Mars Exploration Rovers
Mars Express
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Vesta & Ceres Dawn
Jupiter Juno
Saturn Cassini-Huygens
Pluto-Charon New Horizons
Websites with pretty astronomy pictures:
Hubble Heritage Project , Space Telescope Science Institute
Astronomy Picture of the Day , Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA Planetary Photojournal , Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NOAO Image Gallery , National Optical Astronomy Observatory
ESO Top 100 Photo Gallery , European Southern Observatory
HST opnames , Space Telescope Science Institute

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Lecture slides:

Lecture I - Introduction ( web , pdf )
Lecture II - History of Astronomy ( web , pdf )
Lecture III - The heavens in motion ( web , pdf )
Lecture IV - Earth & Moon, eclipses ( web , pdf )
Lecture V - Electromagnetic radiation ( web , pdf )
Lecture VI - Telescopes ( web , pdf )
Lecture VII - The Solar system - I ( web , pdf )
Lecture VIII - The Solar system - II ( web , pdf )
Lecture IX - The Sun, Properties of stars ( web , pdf )
Lecture X - Interstellar Matter, Star formation ( web , pdf )
Lecture XI - Stellar evolution, death of stars ( web , pdf )
Lecture XII - The Milky Way ( web , pdf )
Lecture XIII - Galaxies ( web , pdf )
Lecture XIV - Active Galaxies, Cosmology ( web , pdf )

The most recent and updated slides will be made available after the lecture. The .pdf links point at pdf documents with 6 slides per page that you can view and print at home. These slides summarize the topics and concepts that can be tested at the exam.

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