Studies of Astronomy/Astrophysics at the University of Bonn
Astrophysics is one of the three major pillars of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Bonn. This fact, together with a long and successful tradition in the education of astronomy in Bonn, has motivated us to further strengthen the concept of astronomy studies. The opportunity arose with the introduction of the Bachelor/Master studies in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Bonn is ideally suited for studying astrophysics, due to the very broad range of astronomical research conducted at the University and the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, located in the same building as the Argelander-Institut für Astronomie. It covers observational research over essentially all wavelength regimes (radio, infrared, optical, X-ray) as well as theoretical research, and deals with diffuse matter in space and cosmic objects, comprising the Solar System, stars and star clusters, and the interstellar medium to galaxies, clusters of galaxies, quasars and cosmology.
Within the studies of the Bachelor in Physics, astronomy is one of the possible `additional topics' (Wahlpflichtfach). It includes a two-semester introductory course in astronomy, aimed at first-year students. Offering astronomical lectures targeted at students in their first year provides one of the attractive features of the studies of physics in Bonn, and typically more than 100 students attend these courses every year. The first part of this course introduces the basic astronomical concepts and methods, and treats the Solar System, the properties of stars and their evolution, stellar systems, the interstellar medium and the formation of stars. Much of the material of this first course is presented in the book Lehrbuch Astronomie Gymnasiale Oberstufe. The second part discusses extragalactic objects, such as galaxies -- including our own Milky Way, active galactic nuclei and galaxy clusters, and the Universe as a whole, i.e., cosmology. The contents of this second lecture course is written up in the introduction to extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology Einführung in die Extragalaktische Astronomie und Kosmologie by Peter Schneider.
In the last three semesters, a further additional topic can be chosen, astronomy being one of these. Here, the student has the choice between a large number of courses, some of which will be mentioned below in the description of the Master program. The website of the Department of Physics and Astronomy provides more information about the Bachelor of Science in Physics. In general, courses within the Bachelor program will be held in German.
Master of Science in Astrophysics
As one of the few universities in Germany, Bonn has decided to introduce the Master-of-Science-in-Astrophysics-program. We aim at a thorough and broad education of astrophysics during the two years of the Master program. The first year is dedicated to lectures, seminars and lab work, whereas the second year is the research phase, dedicated to the preparation, planning, research and writing of the Master Thesis. The courses within the Master in Astrophysics will be given in English.
The courses are divided into compulsory courses and those which can be chosen freely from a large menu of offers. The compulsory courses in astrophysics are: stars and stellar evolution, cosmology, physics of galaxies, and interstellar medium. Furthermore, a laboratory course, which includes experiments from various branches of physics and astronomy, and a course in theoretical physics (advanced quantum mechanics) are compulsory in the first year of the masters program. Additional lecture courses can be chosen freely from the following (incomplete) list. Radio astronomy: tools, applications, impacts; submillimeter astronomy; introduction to Galactic and extragalactic X-ray astronomy; observational cosmology; optical observations; stellar and solar coronae; gravitational lensing; physics of dense stellar systems; numerical dynamics; dark matter and dark energy explored by radio and X-ray observations; quasars and microquasars; astronomical interferometry and digital image processing. In addition, lecture courses from the Master of Physics program at the University of Bonn can be chosen, such as General Relativity, astro-particle physics and others.
In addition to the lab course (see above), the Master program includes practical training at the Hoher List Observatory which is run by the Argelander-Institut für Astronomie, thus providing an excellent preparation for research in the framework of a Master thesis in observational astronomy.
In the seminar (e.g., on cosmology, radio astronomy, stellar systems), the student will be confronted with original research literature and learn how to read and digest this material and how to present it to his/her peers. In addition, these seminars offer a valuable opportunity to get in contact with the various research groups which may initialize work for the master thesis and beyond.
The master thesis will typically deal with a subject which is part of the research topics of the astronomy groups in Bonn. Given the very broad range of astronomical research conducted in Bonn (see above), the corresponding selection of thesis topics is very broad. Thesis work can be either observational (or data-related) or theoretical, or even contain a synthesis of both. A master thesis is an original research project, and in many cases leads to the write-up of a scientific publication.