Astrophysics is a branch of theoretical physics


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Faculty of Physics and Astronomy



Studied astronomy in Heidelberg

Heidelberg is one of the few major centers for astronomical research and teaching in Germany. In addition to the University's Center for Astronomy (ZAH), which combines the Astronomical Computing Institute (ARI), the Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (ITA) and the State Observatory (LSW), there are the Max Planck Institutes for Astronomy (MPIA) and Nuclear Physics (MPIK). Accordingly, the University of Heidelberg offers a wide and varied course program of astronomical and astrophysical courses, which is supplemented and enriched by changing current seminars and special lectures on the research areas of the Heidelberg astronomical institutes.

In Heidelberg, like almost everywhere in Germany, astronomy is not an independent bachelor's or master's degree. This is because astronomy and astrophysics can hardly be operated successfully without physical knowledge, so a thorough physical education is essential. Therefore, astronomical training is almost always combined with physical training.

With the changeover to the Bachelor-Master system, astronomical and astrophysical courses are offered in the form of modules, some of which combine content-related events. For each module, you can earn credit points by passing exams, which can be credited towards your Bachelor's or Master's in physics.

Astronomy is taught in Heidelberg in the form of introductory and advanced modules. A first introductory module, the Introduction to Astronomy, consists of the lectures Introduction to Astronomy I and II with exercises and an astronomical internship. It introduces the phenomenology of astronomy from star and planetary systems to cosmology and offers an insight into astronomical observation. The second introductory module, Theoretical Astrophysics, builds on the basic lectures in theoretical physics and introduces concepts and methods that cannot be discussed there, but are particularly important for astrophysics. These include radiation theory, hydrodynamics, plasma physics and stellar dynamics.

The astronomical training is supplemented by the following six advanced modules: the lecture Observation Methods, combined with the second part of the practical course, the lectures Stellar Astronomy and Astrophysics, Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology, each supplemented by a seminar, and finally two advanced practical courses in which numerical methods and statistical methods are discussed and applied. In addition, various special lectures and seminars on topics from current research are offered.

The Bachelor-Master system enables you to enrich your physics studies with astronomical modules at an early stage. Since the training in theoretical physics begins in the first semester, it makes sense to begin with the introduction to astronomy in the third semester. In the fifth semester, all the necessary foundations can be laid to complete the theoretical astrophysics before the bachelor's degree. Then an astronomical or astrophysical bachelor thesis is also useful. In the master’s program, you can then already attend some advanced modules, which create an excellent basis for a master’s thesis in astronomy or astrophysics and possibly an astronomical doctoral program.
Of course, it also makes sense to attend astronomical modules in the physics course if you don't want to specialize in astronomy and astrophysics. You can complete the astronomical introductory modules according to your interests to complement your bachelor's or master's degree. If you are particularly interested in theoretical physics, it can make sense to attend the Theoretical Astrophysics module without the introduction to astronomy.


You can find more information about studying physics in Heidelberg here.

After completing your master's degree, you can enroll in the astronomy doctoral program if you are aiming for a doctorate on an astronomical or astrophysical topic. You must be admitted to doctoral studies beforehand, which the doctoral committee decides based on the doctoral regulations. Then we recommend that you apply for the newly established Graduate School of Fundamental Physics, whose astronomical branch is closely linked to the two Max Planck Institutes for Astronomy and through the International Max Planck Research School on Astronomy and Cosmic Physics (IMPRS-A) related to nuclear physics.


You can find more information about the graduate programs on the homepage of the "Heidelberg Graduate School" of Fundamental Physics (

Information about the staff and the current areas of activity of the institutes can be found on the websites listed below.


Heidelberg astronomical institutes and their fields of work


In Heidelberg, there are opportunities to write a thesis in theoretical or practical astronomy - bachelor, master, diploma thesis in physics (astrophysics) or dissertation in astronomy - at the following institutes with the aforementioned focal points:

Center for Astronomy (ZAH)
The ZAH is an amalgamation of two former state research institutions and a university institute:

Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics
Albert-Überle-Strasse 2
69120 Heidelberg

  • Cosmology and structure formation;
  • Star formation;
  • Astrochemistry and physics of planets;
  • Star atmospheres and cosmic radiation fields.

Astronomical Computing Institute
Mönchhofstrasse 12-14
69120 Heidelberg

  • Astrometry;
  • Stellar dynamics;
  • Galaxy evolution;
  • Gravitational lenses and extrasolar planets;
  • Cosmology.

State observatory
69117 Heidelberg

  • Extragalactic Astrophysics and Active Galaxies;
  • High energy astrophysics;
  • Instrumentation.

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
Königstuhl 17, Tel .: 528–1
with Calar Alto Observatory in southern Spain
Areas of work:

  • Development of observation methods and instruments for terrestrial and extraterrestrial astronomy
  • Studies of interplanetary and interstellar matter
  • Star formation areas and infrared objects
  • extragalactic systems
  • active galaxies (mainly through observations with the Calar Alto telescopes).

Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics
Dept. Kosmosphysik, Saupfercheckweg 1, Tel .: 516–1
Areas of work:

  • Interstellar Medium Theory
  • extragalactic astrophysics
  • Quasars, cosmic rays, interstellar dust, C60 molecules
  • solar neutrinos
  • interplanetary dust
  • Rings of planets
  • Comets
  • Meteorites.



Information on Bachelor and Master can be found here.


Enrollment in the main subject of astronomy (study objective: doctorate) is only possible with simultaneous enrollment in the major subject physics. As an exception, another suitable course of study (e.g. mathematics) can take the place of the physics course.

Subject combinations

The possible subject combinations result from the subject catalog

Study and Examination Regulations

Doctoral Regulations (dated September 22, 2006)
Teaching Examination Regulations (LPO)

Examination Board

The respective examination board or examination office is responsible for crediting, recognition and examination questions. For more information, please contact the relevant academic advisory service.


For studying at Heidelberg University, fees are charged at the beginning of each semester.

Academic advice

Prof. Dr. Ralf Klessen
Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics
Albert-Ueberle-Str. 2
69120 Heidelberg
Tel. 06221 / 54-8978
Consultation hours by appointment

Prof. Dr. Stefan Wagner
State observatory, Königstuhl
69117 Heidelberg
Tel. 06221 / 54-1712
Consultation hours by appointment


Dean's office of the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy
In Neuenheimer Feld 226, 2nd floor north
D-69120 Heidelberg


Tel .: +49 (0) 6221-54-19600
Tel .: Examination Office: +49 (0) 6221-54-4124
Fax: +49 (0) 6221-54-9347
Email: [email protected]
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