Experimental and Multi-messenger Astrophysics

Period of duration of course
Course info
Number of course hours
Number of hours of lecturers of reference
Number of hours of supplementary teaching

Type of exam

Oral exam and seminars


Courses from the Bachelor in Physics


We will present some of the techniques used nowadays to observe the Universe on different scales and epochs. The thermal history of the Universe will be introduced, together with several investigation methods related to the study of the cosmic microwave background, signature of the "Recombination era" that drives the Universe in the so-called "Dark ages". We will discuss the end of this epoch, as set by the "Cosmic reionization" process. In particular, we will study (i) how we can constrain the end of this process by means of absorption spectra towards luminous and distant sources; (ii) what are the main sources responsible for the reionization of the Universe (namely galaxies and accreting black holes).

We will then discuss observational techniques used to identify and characterize the first galaxies and quasars formed after the Big Bang. Special emphasis will be devoted to multi-wavelength observational data obtained with current state-of-the-art observatories (HST, ALMA and Chandra), including specific hands-on sessions on real data.

We will describe how  high-resolution spectroscopy of quasars and gamma-ray bursts in the wavelength range from the ultraviolet to the near-infrared can be used to study the distribution and abundance of ionized, neutral and also molecolar gas in the inter and circum-galactic medium at high redshift (z>~2). Furthermore, we will present the formation of chemical elements from primordial to stellar nucleosynthesis and how the observational study of their distribution and abundance in the diffuse gas can constrain galay formation and evolution processes.  

The third and final part of the course will deal with non-thermal emission from astrophysical sources and with the multi-messenger astronomy.  It will introduce the observational techniques to detect non-thermal emission, astrophysical neutrinos, and gravitational waves. Recent observational results will be interpreted in the framework of existing models for the production and emission of the high-energy neutrino and gamma-rays. Open questions in the field will be briefly highlighted. 

Educational aims

- Provide a general picture of the observational methods used in Cosmology, Astrophysics and multi-messenger Astronomy.

- Provide a basic theoretical background for understanding the physical processes behind the observed phenomena. 

- Develop data analysis skills through tutorials and exercises. 

- Stimulate the students to study open questions at the forefront of astrophysical research through the most advanced observational techniques.

Bibliographical references

Bibliographic references will be given during the lessons, based on single articles, reviewes or chapters of books. 

General references on the first part of the course:

  Stephen Serjeant, "Observational Cosmology", Cambridge University Press

  Malcolm S. Longair, "Galaxy formation", Springer

  Bruce T. Draine, "Physics of the Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium", Princeton Series in Astrophysics

  Avery A. Meiksin, "The Physics of the Intergalactic Medium", 2009, Review of Modern Physics, vol. 81, p. 1405 (arXiv:0711.3358)

Becker, Bolton and Lidz, "Reionization and high-redshift galaxies: the view from quasar absorption lines", 2015, PASA 32, 45 (arXiv:1510.03368)
Peroux & Howk, "The Cosmic Baryon and Metal Cycle", 2020, ARA&A 58, 363 (arXiv:2011.01935)

General references and readings on the second part of the course:

  Hale Bradt, "Astrophysical processes", Cambridge University Press (an all-around manual; specifically useful chapters 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 4.5)

  Maurizio Spurio, "Particles and Astrophysics: a multi-messenger approach", Springer