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Education Master's and PhD degree programmes Astronomy
Header image Astronomy

Astronomy

Would you like to explore the most fundamental questions in the universe? Or learn about the formation of stars and planets, or the evolution of our Milky Way? Do you want to learn all there is to know about building large telescopes and the data science behind them? A Master's degree in Astronomy is a gateway into a wide world of science and technology.

Students are trained by astronomers from the world-renowned Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, a centre leading in astronomical research on the structure and dynamics of our Milky Way, on the structure and dynamics of galaxies, galaxy formation and evolution, cosmology and large scale structure of the Universe and star and planet formation, and in the design and development of new astronomical instrumentation.

Astronomy research has been carried out at Groningen University since 1883, and Groningen astronomers belong to the top of the world. They have been heavily involved in the construction and use of the Westerbork radio telescope (WSRT). Currently, they play a key role in the development and use of the LOFAR network of radio telescopes and the future Square Kilometer Array, while leading the development of instruments for the upcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in Chile. They also have key roles in space projects, such as leading the developments of the HIFI detector in the Herschel satellite, the data processing center of the upcoming Euclid cosmology satellite, while having a leading role in the Gaia satellite mapping of our Milky Way.

The two-year curriculum of the Master's degree can be tailored according to your own interests and capabilities. The wide range of options include the possibility to focus on observational astronomy, theoretical astronomy, astronomical instrumentation and informatics, as well as data science.

Dutch Astronomy graduates in general, and Kapteyn graduates in particular, have excellent career prospects, within and outside of science. The Master's programme has been frequently voted as a top-degree Astronomy programme in the Netherlands. We have outstanding facilities, and the quality of the lecturers, the research component as well as the preparation for the professional field through e.g. internships are also very good.

To enable students to gain additional experience in business and policy as well as to follow a company internship, the special Master's track 'Science, Business and Policy' has been designed.

Facts & Figures
Degree
MSc in Astronomy
Course type
Master
Duration
24 months (120 ECTS)
Croho code
60200
Language of instruction
English
Start
February, September
Faculty
Science and Engineering
Why study this programme in Groningen?
  • Close connections with ASTRON and SRON
  • Specialization on instrumentation and informatics possible
  • Excellent facilities at your disposal
  • A vibrant international research environment.
  • Our Faculty is the home of Ben Feringa, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and Frits Zernike, a Nobel Prize winner in Physics.
Programme

Curriculum

2-year programme; credits per year: 60 ECTS; most courses are 5 ECTS.

Programme options
Quantum Universe: Theoretical and Observational Astronomy (track)

The Theoretical and Observational Astronomy master is jointly organized with Physics and Mathematics in the Quantum Universe track.

It comprises 60 ECTS of coursework. 20 ECTS are spent on Advanced Astrophysics, and 20 ECTS are spent in joint courses such as General Relativity and Electrodynamics of Radiation Processes. The last 20 ECTS are optional courses.

The research project (Master's thesis) comprises 60 ECTS and is carried out under the supervision of the research groups at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute.

For the complete curriculum, please see: https://ocasys.rug.nl/current/catalog/programme/60200-5902

More information about this option

Quantum Universe: Instrumentation and Informatics (track)

In the Instrumentation and Informatics track, you follow a number of courses aimed at supplying you with skills dealing with astronomical instrumentation and informatics.

The research is split into 40 ECTS worth of Master's research/thesis and 20 ECTS for an industrial research project, as well as 60 ECTS of coursework which includes a substantial component (40 ECTS) of instrumentation and informatics courses. The research work is carried out under the supervision of a staff member from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute (including affiliated staff members from SRON and ASTRON, see below), and often in interaction with his or her research group, resulting in Master's thesis of high international standard.

For the complete curriculum, please see: https://ocasys.rug.nl/current/catalog/programme/60200-5902

More information about this option

Science, Business and Policy (track)

Interested in the business side of science? You can combine this Master's programme with the Science Business & Policy profile. The SBP profile includes a six-month internship as a scientific advisor.

For the complete curriculum, please see: https://ocasys.rug.nl/current/catalog/programme/60200-5901

More information about this option

Quantum Universe: Data Science and Systems Complexity (track)

As part of this new specialization you must take a number of courses in Data Science.

Modern astronomy deals with big data, and this specialization supplies you with skills which are also highly demanded in other sciences as well as in society and business.

For the complete curriculum, please see: https://ocasys.rug.nl/current/catalog/programme/60200-5902

More information about this option

Study abroad

  • Study abroad is recommended
  • For an average of 20 weeks
  • Maximum of 60 EC

Exchange: All our science and engineering programmes offer study abroad possibilities at a number of partner institutions. Our partners include top-100 universities in Europe (for example in Germany, UK, and Sweden) and in the USA, China, South-East Asia, and South America. Our exchange programmes have a typical duration of one semester and count toward your final degree.

Entry requirements

Transfer options

Transferring from...

Study programmeOrganizationTransition
AstronomyAll Research universities

No additional requirements

More information:

(to be decided by the admissions board)

Study programmeOrganizationTransition
PhysicsUniversity of GroningenNo additional requirements
Applied PhysicsUniversity of GroningenNo additional requirements

Admission requirements

Specific requirementsMore information
previous education

Bachelor's degree in Astronomy; possible admission for a Bachelor's degree in Physics or Applied Physics.

Information about admission possibilities and requirements for students from a Dutch HBO institute is published on: https://www.rug.nl/fse/msc-admission

other admission requirements

BEFORE YOU APPLY Make sure to visit 'MSc Application Procedure' at https://www.rug.nl/fse/msc-admission for all the necessary information about the procedure and admission requirements.

Registration procedure

The Board of Admissions will decide whether you can be admitted to the Master's degree programme.

Please fill out this checklist to describe why you are applying for this Master's degree programme (questions to be addressed are outlined in the form).

Application deadlines

Type of studentDeadlineStart course
Dutch students01 May 202401 September 2024
15 October 202401 February 2025
01 May 202501 September 2025
15 October 202501 February 2026
EU/EEA students01 May 202401 September 2024
15 October 202401 February 2025
01 May 202501 September 2025
15 October 202501 February 2026
non-EU/EEA students01 May 202401 September 2024
15 October 202401 February 2025
01 May 202501 September 2025
15 October 202501 February 2026

Admission requirements

Specific requirementsMore information
previous education

At least a Bachelor's degree in Astronomy; admission is decided on a case by case basis for applicants with at least a Bachelor's degree in Physics or Applied Physics.

This is merely an indication of required background knowledge. The Board of Admissions determines whether the specific contents of your previous degree programme meet the admission requirements.

additional subject

The Admissions Office will advise the Board of Admissions on your application, after which the Board will decide if you meet the admission requirements in terms of general level of previous education and specific background knowledge. Applications are evaluated on a continuous basis. You do not have to wait until the application deadline to apply.

language test

MAKE SURE TO VISIT http://www.rug.nl/fse/programme/admissions/msc/language-requirements for all the necessary information about required language tests and minimum scores.

other admission requirements

BEFORE YOU APPLY Make sure to visit 'MSc Application Procedure' at www.rug.nl/fse/msc-admission for all the necessary information about the procedure and admission requirements.

SCHOLARSHIPS

ASML Scholarship: ASML is one of the world's leading manufacturers of chip-making equipment. The €5000 p/y scholarship is awarded every year to 25 exceptional students, who get the chance to become a Technology Ambassador within their scholarship period. More information can be found here: https://www.asml.com/en/careers/students-graduates/asml-scholarship

Registration procedure

The Board of Admissions will decide whether you can be admitted to the Master's degree programme.

Please fill out this checklist to describe why you are applying for this Master's degree programme (questions to be addressed are outlined in the form).

Application deadlines

Type of studentDeadlineStart course
Dutch students01 May 202401 September 2024
15 October 202401 February 2025
01 May 202501 September 2025
15 October 202501 February 2026
EU/EEA students01 May 202401 September 2024
15 October 202401 February 2025
01 May 202501 September 2025
15 October 202501 February 2026
non-EU/EEA students01 May 202401 September 2024
15 October 202401 February 2025
01 May 202501 September 2025
15 October 202501 February 2026
Tuition fees
NationalityYearFeeProgramme form
EU/EEA2023-2024€ 2314full-time
non-EU/EEA2023-2024€ 20700full-time
EU/EEA2024-2025€ 2530full-time
non-EU/EEA2024-2025€ 24200full-time

Practical information for:

After your studies

Job prospects

The Groningen Master's degree programme aims to give students the best opportunity to take part in major European or global astronomical research projects, PhD programmes, and professions involving astronomical instrumentation and informatics.

While the Master’s programme in Astronomy is primarily designed to train researchers, a substantial number of graduates successfully find employment in the public or private sector. Astronomy graduates are well-trained problem solvers, skilled professionally not only in astronomy but also in physics, mathematics, IT and computing science.

Job examples

  • PhD research position
  • Participate in astronomical research projects
  • Professions dealing with astronomical instrumentation and informatics
Research

Close Connections with two Major Astronomical Foundations

The research work is carried out within one of the research groups of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, under the supervision of a staff astronomer. Kapteyn staff are involved in observational and theoretical research dealing with:

  • Active Galactic Nuclei and Quasars
  • Cosmology and the Large Scale Structure of the Universe
  • Formation, Evolution and Structure of Galaxies
  • High-energy Astrophysics: Neutron Stars and Black Holes
  • Instrumentation
  • Star and Planet formation and the Interstellar Medium of Galaxies
  • Virtual Observatory and Astronomical Datacenters

The Kapteyn Astronomical Institute uses the most advanced instrumentation on the ground and in space, as well as the most advanced computing facilities. Kapteyn staff are involved in the operation as well as planning and construction of major astronomical instrumentation efforts, again on the ground and in space. Master students at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute work in research groups which are currently shaping 21st-century astronomy and astrophysics. The Kapteyn Institute has close connections with the two major national foundations dealing with astronomical instrumentation: ASTRON and SRON.

ASTRON, the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy, provides front-line observation facilities for Dutch astronomers and astronomers worldwide across a broad range of frequencies and technologies. ASTRON operates the Westerbork Radio Synthesis Telescope, one of the largest in the world, and offers a strong technology development programme, encompassing both innovative instrumentation for existing telescopes and new technologies for future facilities. The latter include the new, revolutionary low-frequency array LOFAR and the APERTIF antenna array, which will be operated by ASTRON together with the University of Groningen. ASTRON and its facilities are within a one-hour drive from Groningen.

SRON is the national centre of expertise for the development and exploitation of satellite instruments for astrophysical and earth oriented research. The low energy astrophysics branch of SRON (infrared and submillimeter instrumentation and techniques) is hosted by the University of Groningen. Scientific discoveries and instrumentation development go hand in hand as a result of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute-SRON Groningen connections (IRAS, ISO, Herschel Space Observatory, just to mention a few successful missions). In short, the combination offered by the University of Groningen and the ASTRON and SRON Institutes is unique in the world.

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Contact

  • newsletter (Sign up for our monthly newsletter!)
  • Academic Advisors FSE (For questions regarding the programme)
  • studyscience@rug.nl Study Science (For students who are interested in a Campus Tour or who have other general questions)
    Email: studyscience rug.nl
  • 
						Testimonial of Nynke Visser

    The Master's in Astronomy definitely gives me plenty of options for a range of different career paths

    – Nynke Visser
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    In the Master’s programme in Astronomy, I really get a chance to dive deeper into certain topics I find interesting and to look more closely at astronomy specifically, rather than the basic physics and mathematics that are on the surface of a subject. What I enjoy most about the programme is the amount of freedom you get in selecting your courses. There are four mandatory courses you have to follow, but most of the degree involves free selection. I chose the Theoretical and Observational Astronomy (TOA) track. My favourite course was an observational one where we got to use the Isaac Newton Telescope in La Palma.

    I am currently working on my Master’s thesis about Earth-like exoplanets. I am trying to generalize what we know about the carbon and water cycle on Earth in order to make assumptions about exoplanets. For example, we are looking into the effect of plate tectonics or the amount of ice on the partial pressure of carbon in the atmosphere.

    As for my future plans, I am still unsure about what I want to do after my Master’s. I could go and work at a data science company or continue in the world of academia by doing a PhD, but my passion lies in education and science communication. The Master’s in Astronomy definitely gives me plenty of options for a range of different career paths.

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  • 
						Testimonial of Dagmar Rozendal

    The most valuable thing I learned by now is that you can learn a lot from seeing how other people work

    – Dagmar Rozendal
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    I did the Bachelor's programme Astronomy in Groningen, with the educational minor in my third year to become a mathematics teacher. Currently, I am doing the Master’s programme Astronomy, with the Data Science track. I've always enjoyed the programming part of the bachelor programme, and the Data Science track would be able to give me more knowledge on the different aspects of the whole data science world, and perhaps a way to make my job of it later. For me, it was a logical step to continue with Astronomy in the master's as I liked my bachelor’s programme, and also did not want to leave Groningen yet. Thus far this master's programme is what I expected it to be, significantly harder than the bachelor's programme, but also with more interesting, focused courses in Astronomy. I am currently taking the Particle Physics Phenomenology course, which is more physics (as in the name), Star and Planet Formation, and the La Palma course. This last course is an observational course where you go to La Palma to work with the Isaac Newton Telescope, which should be a lot of fun!

    My next career step is to perhaps find an internship to get some more hands-on experience in data science. As there is no internship within the Data Science track I will have to find it outside of the programme, but I do think that my master's thesis would give me some insights into where to go next. The most valuable thing I learned by now is that you can learn a lot from seeing how other people work, albeit your friends, a professor, or a random person on the internet; it is always nice to see different approaches to problems and learn from that. At the moment I am mostly looking forward to finishing my last exam, it is nice to learn new stuff but at some point, I prefer doing that without having an exam attached to it ;)

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  • 
						Testimonial of Yfke Bethlehem

    I have the greatest interest in observational astronomy

    – Yfke Bethlehem
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    Before starting my Master's, I followed a Bachelor programme in Astronomy as well. After doing the Bachelor, I wanted to continue in Astronomy, so choosing the Master was a logical choice. The Kapteyn Institute for Astronomy has a great environment and good atmosphere, so I liked to continue my studies here in Groningen. The programme here has a lot of courses to choose from. I was already familiar with the environment of Astronomy in Groningen due to the bachelor’s programme, but taking both programmes into account, I would say it is quite clear what kind of courses you should be expecting (mathematics/physics/programming) and the level that is needed for it. I chose the “Theoretical & Observational Astronomy” track over the “Data Science” and “Instrumentation & Informatics” tracks. This is mostly because I have the greatest interest in observational astronomy. I am also interested in data science, but I still prefer to learn more about it by just following some optional courses. I am currently taking the courses “Star and Planet Formation” and “La Palma Observation Trip”. The course Star and Planet Formation consists of different lectures going in depth of different subtopics with the physics behind it, while we go through problem sets in the tutorials. The course La Palma Observation Trip is quite interesting as this course is more of a practical focused course, where we go to La Palma to observe with the Isaac Newton Telescope.

    Right now, I look most forward to doing my Master thesis and spending an entire year going in depth on a project with the help of a supervisor. As for the future, I would love to pursue a PhD in Astronomy.

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Study associations

Sirius A

Sirius A is the study association for astronomy in Groningen, the Netherlands. Astronomy in Groningen is taught at the Kapteyn Institute and is part of the University of Groningen.
Besides aiding you in your study, Sirius A informs you on future career prospects, promotes social bonding between you and your fellow students by many events and gives you the opportunity to participate in voluntary work and explore your qualities. Furthermore, Sirius A is always open for cooperation. Please contact us if you have any questions or queries.
https://sirius.astro.rug.nl/
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