Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


After the course the student can describe the physical background behind the basic celestial phenomena and knows how to take the movement of the Sun and the stars into account in engineering, design and architectural projects. The student recognises the astronomical nature of various historical and architecturally and otherwise significant constructions, ranging from the Stonehenge to sundials and modern observatories. She is able to describe the basics of the current scientific worldview and understands how it has been built over the millennia, and has basic knowledge of the interplay between astronomy and arts, as well as the influence on society and culture in general. 

Credits: 3

Schedule: 12.01.2021 - 13.04.2021

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022): Anne Lähteenmäki, Joni Tammi

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Anne Lähteenmäki, Joni Tammi

Contact information for the course (valid 16.12.2020-21.12.2112):


Joni Tammi, Ph.D., 
Aalto University Metsähovi Radio Observatory;

Anne Lähteenmäki, prof., D.Sc. (Tech.)
Aalto University Metsähovi Radio Observatory & Department of Electronics and Nanoengineering;

Course assistant

Irene Bjö

CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teaching language: English

Languages of study attainment: English


  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Basic astronomical concepts; influence of astronomy and space sciences to history, civil engineering, architecture and art, and to science and culture in general. For further studies the course ELEC-E4530 Radio astronomy is recommended.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    After the course the student should be able to:

    1. Characterise the major mileposts in the development of the modern astronomical world-view, both from the modern and the contemporary perspectives.
    2. Relate celestial events (including the everyday phenomena) to their astronomical and physical origin, and have the basic vocabulary for seeking more information for further studies and applications.
    3. Recognise the astronomical background of various constructions (ranging from the Stonehenge to sundials and modern observatories), including non-physical constructs like the calendar.
    4. Illustrate the influence and interplay of astronomy and the society (culture, religion, arts, etc.) in the past as well as today.
    5. Put into cosmological perspective (a) our place in the universe, (b) the scientific and technological development and future challenges in the fields related to astronomy and space research, (c) and the development and limits of the modern worldview.
    6. Become aware of their strengths and weaknesses in learning, and gain experience in self- and peer assessment, and giving feedback.
    The material and assignments are structured for each week separately. In particular, all assignments related to a specific week can be found under that week's page. Weekly pages are made available one at a time, with preliminary work (to be done before the lecture of that week) coming available a week before the lecture, and after-the-lecture work coming available after each lecture. See also "How the course works".

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Assessment methods: The course consists of lectures, homework, learning diaries, peer assessment, and excursion.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Grading is based on weekly assignments (50 % of the grade) and learning diaries (writing your own [35 %] as well as assessing and giving feedback to others [15 %]).

    There is no exam.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Lectures (30 h), assignments (32 h), and the learning diary (20 h).

  • Applies in this implementation:

    The three-credit course work consists of

    • twelve lectures, each with
      • preliminary work (reading an article, watching a video, etc.) and
      • assignments (short essay, questionnaire, reading, etc., with deadline at the end of the week),
    • two evaluation sessions during the exam weeks, with no lecture but other activities, and
    • four learning diary submissions (LD), with specific deadlines, and
    • participation in peer and self assessment for three LDs.
    • There may be an option for an excursion outside, for visiting the Helsinki Observatory museum on your own time. This is to be confirmed, and depends on covid-19 restrictions.


Study Material
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Online material provided during the course.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Material consists of online material provided during the course.


Details on the schedule
  • Applies in this implementation:

    Course timeline is shown below. Changes are possible.

    Final deadline for all course-related work is Tuesday 20.4.2021 at 23:55.

    L  DateTopicThemeLD DL
    Introduction and cosmic scales
      Background, basic celestial mechanics2.2.
    19.1.Solar system
    Celestial mechanics from the ...
    2.2.One planet, one sky, one people  Ancient astronomy, from myths to science23.2.
    9.2."Sancta terra"
    16.2.Towards scientific astronomy
    23.2.  Evaluation session   [submit the 2nd LD only after this one]
    2.3.The past 100 years  Modern astronomy, astrobiology23.3.
    9.3.Astrobiology (by Esko Valtaoja)
    16.3.Astronomy in the 21st century
    1023.3.Cosmological view of the world   Cosmology, astronomy in society, 13.4.
    1130.3.Astronomy in culture
    126.4.Future, open questions
    13.4.Evaluation session (online, reserve 2 hours for this during the day)