Last Update: Febr. 26, 2024
Heidelberg – a centre of excellence in astronomy
Heidelberg offers an ideal environment for higher education in astronomy and physics as the city harbours one of the largest centres for teaching and research in Germany, comprising several major institutes. The Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg (ZAH) joins the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut (ARI), the Institut für Theoretische Astrophysik (ITA), and the Landessternwarte Königstuhl (LSW). The Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA) and Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik (MPIK) as well as the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) are primarily internationally renowned research institutes, and staff there also contributes to teaching and student supervision at all levels. The mission of the House of Astronomy (HdA) is public outreach, teacher training, and promoting exchange between scientists. Other institutes within the university are also involved - directly or indirectly - in fundamental astrophysical research. These include the Institut für Theoretische Physik (ITP) which looks at (among other things) dark energy or quantum gravity, the Physikalisches Institut (PI), and the Kirchhoff Institut für Physik (KIP), where the fundamental building blocks of the universe are studied. Together, these institutes make Heidelberg a ideal and dynamic place to study astronomy, and for prospective astronomers to start their career.
Astronomy within the physics curriculum
Astronomers need a thorough grounding in astronomy, so the road to a successful education in astronomy takes you through physics. The physics degree programmes in Heidelberg generally start in the winter semester (October). Students are selected based on their application, which must be received by about 15 July for a start in the summer term and about January 15 for a start in the winter term. A full list of dates and complete information about the application procedure can be found on the website of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Astronomy is the science of the physical principles and the origin of the universe as a whole. To achieve this, Astronomers observe the universe using not only the entire electromagnetic spectrum but also cosmic rays, neutrinos, and – hopefully soon – gravitational waves. To interpret these data scientifically, astronomy makes use of practically all areas of physics, including classical mechanics, nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, hydrodynamics, and gravity. For this reason, astronomy is part of the physics curriculum, rather than a separate discipline.
The modular Bachelor's and Master's programmes at Heidelberg University allow students to include astronomy already in the early stages of their studies. The Astronomy Study Guide below may provide you an overview on our B.Sc. and M.Sc. physics degree and how astronomy is embedded within these programmes. This guide is based on the official regulations of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
For any further questions concerning your studies of Astronomy at Heidelberg University please contact our study consultat apl. Prof. Dr. Andreas Koch, Tel. +49-(0)6221-54-1827, andreas.koch(at)uni-heidelberg.de. His office is located at the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut, Mönchhofstr. 12-14, 69117 Heidelberg.