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Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN's)


Admission requirements

Bachelor in Astronomy or equivalent


Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) are extremely energetic objects that reside in the centres of galaxies. Often they are so luminous that they outshine their entire hosting galaxy. They can emit light over the entire electromagnetic spectrum enabling us to witness dramatic signatures of a wide variety of activities, ranging from radio jets that can be hundreds of times larger than galaxies to the observed heated accretion ring close to the black hole of our own galaxy. In this lecture series, AGN and their impact will be discussed in considerable detail.

Topics that will be addressed include:

  • observational results and the resulting taxonomy

  • the physics of the various AGN building blocks

  • their origin and time evolution

  • their role in the formation of galaxies

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will not only have a good understanding of the role AGN are playing in modern astrophysics but also have obtained a good feeling for the open questions in this field. The aim is to provide a solid background to be able to carry out research at the master or PhD level.

Upon completion of this course, you will

  • be able to interpret observations at virtually the whole electromagnetic spectrum of AGN

  • have a good apprehension of how the basic physical properties of AGN building blocks are determined

  • be familiar with the various scenarios for the formation of the first AGN

  • understand how AGN evolve and ideas on what might be driving this evolution

  • be acquainted with ideas on how AGN impact the formation of galaxies and methods that numerical simulations have employed to take this into account


See Astronomy master schedule

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have successfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go to the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Pleas note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Written exam: 70%

  • Four homework assignments: 30%

Reading list

  • Lecture notes


As a student, you are responsible for registering on time, i.e. 14 days before the start of the course. This can be done via Mystudymap. You do this twice a year: once for the courses you want to take in semester 1 and once for the courses you want to take in semester 2. Please note: late registration is not possible.

Registration for courses in the first semester is possible from July; registration for courses in the second semester is possible from December. First-year bachelor students are registered for semester 1 by the faculty student administration; they do not have to do this themselves. For more information, see this page.

In addition, it is mandatory for all students, including first-year bachelor students, to register for exams. This can be done up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the exam or up to five calendar days in case of a retake exam. You cannot participate in the exam or retake without a valid registration in My Studymap.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturer: Prof. H.J.A. Rottgering


Soft skills
In this course, you are trained in the following behaviour-oriented skills:

  • Abstract thinking

  • Explaining and analyzing complex and non-intuitive concepts