Topic outline

  • About the course

    The course aims to offer astronomical perspectives to civil engineering, architecture and art, and to explore the influence of astronomy and space sciences on these fields, and to science and culture in general.

    The course is open for all students in the Aalto University. The foci of the course are chosen so as to offer topics relevant for all fields of research in Aalto, in addition to providing the students an opportunity to update their worldview in the large scale.

    Registration is now open (for Aalto students see, others see Open University, and Espoo high school students ask your Kurssitarjotin contact) and it ends after the first lecture . In case there are more interested participants than there are student slots, then participants are chosen based on order of registration.

    Lectures are held in-person in the TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi). The teaching language is English. All material is in English, and will be made available on these pages during the course. For more details, see the following pages:

  • General learning outcomes

    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.

    MyCourses page structure

    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 the description "How the course works" (Preliminary work for Lecture 1).


    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 Varglund,

  • Introduction and cosmic scales

    Date: 10.1.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi)
    Teacher: Joni Tammi

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Understand what the course is about, how it is organised, and what is required for passing the course.
    • Understand what the learning diaries are and how to write them.
    • Appreciate the astronomical and cosmic distances, and assess the role of humankind on a cosmic scale.
    • Recognise some central concepts related to human perspective regarding out place in the universe (such as "the pale blue dot", or "the overview effect").
    • Assess your own starting level, and that of the students in general.

  • Solar system

    Date: 17.1.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi). 
    Teacher: Joni Tammi

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • List and categorise the main solar system components, and describe the principles of their motion.
    • Explain the reason behind Moon phases and Earth's seasons.
    • Explain how Kepler's laws determine and describe the motion of planets around the Sun.
    • Recognise the change in the human-centered worldview during the last millennia.

  • Celestial mechanics from the terrestrial perspective

    Date: 24.1.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi). 
    Teacher: Joni Tammi

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Describe the seasonal variation of the sunrise/set directions and explain its cause.
    • Explain the nature and significance of the celestial poles, the Zodiac, and the ecliptic.
    • Estimate the time and your latitude, and find the cardinal directions by observing the stars (including the Sun during the day).
    • Appreciate the importance of minding the sun with constructions and give examples of using ingenious/terrible results from utilising/ignoring the sun's motion on the sky.
    • Explain the concept behind and effects of daylight savings time.

  • One planet, one sky, one people

    Date: 31.1.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi)
    Teacher: Anne Lähteenmäki

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Appreciate why the sky and the phenomena that happens up there has had such an enormous impact on the humankind and its development.
    • Understand why astronomy has been  -and is! - needed, and to list examples of how it can be used in everyday life.
    • Describe the basic concepts of time measurement and calendars.
    • Consider answers to fundamental questions such as where do we come from and where are we.
    • Be familiar with how ancient cultures exercised astronomy (to be continued in the following lectures).

  • Sancta Terra -projection of heaven on Earth

    Date: 7.2.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi)
    Teacher: Anne Lähteenmäki

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Give examples on how ancient cultures exercised astronomy (continued).
    • Recognise the most significant astronomically aligned ancient buildings and constructions.
    • Explain the principles of why and how many ancient temples and other constructions have been astronomically aligned, and, if necessary, yourself use the sun or the stars to align structures in the cardinal directions.
    • Describe how celestial observations have been interpreted in the past in terms of, for example, politics, warfare, religion, astrology, and eventually, science and mathematics.
    • Grasp the development of the Hellenistic world view that led to the evolution of modern scientific astronomy, and - curiously- imposed a dead end to the very same thing for hundreds of years.

  • Towards scientific astronomy

    Date: 14.2.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi)
    Teacher: Anne Lähteenmäki, Joni Tammi

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Starting from the Hellenistic world view, describe the development of the prevalent cosmological hypotheses and observational astronomy until the end of the 19th century.
    • Put into perspective popular pseudo-scientific practices related to astronomy, and recognise their effects in modern cultures.

  • Evaluation session 1

    Date: 21.2.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi). 
    Teacher: Anne Lähteenmäki, Joni Tammi

    During the exam week, we will have an evaluation-focused session during the lecture slot.

    This midterm evaluation session, and the second one at the end of the course, replace part of the final exam. During the session we will go deeper into writing and reading learning diaries, and you also get general feedback for the first learning diary entry.

    Participation is compulsory for completing the course. If you cannot make it to the evaluation session for a good reason, you can fill the requirement by completing the compensating assignment below.

    [Preliminary work and compensating assignment become available a week before the session.]

  • Date: 28.2.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium - 1017, Maarintie 8, Otaniemi
    Teacher: Joni Tammi

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Recognise central paradigm shifts in the scientific and astronomical worldviews in the 19-20th centuries.
    • Describe the main physical processes working in stars.
    • Outline the life cycle of stars and explain the role of supernovae in the development of life in the Universe.
    • Recognise the concepts of redshift and doppler shift in the cosmological context, and explain how they relate to expansion of the Universe.
  • The excursion the Helsinki Observatory takes place on 28.2.2023 18:00-20:00. 


    Registration is required. Register using the link below.

    Purpose of the excursion

    The observatory / museum contains exhibitions dealing with the development of astronomy over the last centuries. In addition to seeing the astronomical architecture (purpose-built for observations), you have the chance to see the actual observing tools (including but not limited to the main telescopes), as well as astronomy-themed art, and a planetarium show.

    Those interested in the historical and architectural aspects, should check out the material shared below.

    Practical details


    We divide into groups, with one having the tour in English and the rest in Finnish.

    The guided tours start at 18:00, so everyone needs to arrive at 17:45 to have time for practical things (clothes should be left in the cloak room).

    Please note that we will meet at the observatory, not in Otaniemi. For directions, see below.


    The admission and the tours on Thursday are paid by the course.

    If you cannot make it on Thursday, you can visit the place by yourself during the same week and the next. The Observatory is open from Thursday to Sunday (detailed opening hours here). The ticket counter has the list of course participants, and your admission will be paid by the course. 

    Note, however, that if you go there alone, you will not be able to visit the telescope towers or the planetarium, nor will you have a guided tour.

    Getting there

    The address of the Observatory is Kopernikuksentie 1, Helsinki. We will meet in the inner yard, in front of the main entrance.

    For commuting directions, try, e.g., Reittiopas.

    If you arrive by car, note that there are no dedicated parking lots for visitors. If you need to park your car, reserve enough time for that as well.

  • Astronomy in the 21st century

    Date: 7.3.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium - 1017, Maarintie 8, Otaniemi
    Teacher: Joni Tammi

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Explain the similarities and differences between different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum and their use in astronomy.
    • Describe the direction of the development of observing tools and methods in modern astronomy.
    • Recognise the concept of "multi-messenger astronomy", and give examples of studying the Universe with means other than light and other electromagnetic waves.
  • Astronomy in art and popular culture

    Date: 14.3.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium (Maarintie 8, Otaniemi)

    Teacher: Anne Lähteenmäki

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Bring up examples of astronomy-themed art.
    • Appreciate different viewpoints to astronomy and its effect on culture and society.

  • Cosmological view of the world

    Date: NEW DATE! 21.3.2023 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium - 1017, Maarintie 8, Otaniemi;
    Teacher: Joni Tammi

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Appreciate the spatial scales of the Universe and name the main components of the standard cosmological theory.
    • Explain the meaning of 4-dimensional spacetime and the difference between the classical (Newton) and modern (Einstein) concepts of space and gravity.
    • Understand the role of the theory of relativity in modern astronomy and cosmology and describe some of the basic differences between relativity and "common sense physics".
    • Outline the features of the standard cosmological theory ("The Big bang theory").
    • Explain the origin of the Cosmic Microwave Background and recognise its role in the recent cosmological advances and discoveries.

    Note: this lecture was initially "Lecture 11".

  • Future & open questions

    Date: NEW DATE! 28.3.2023, 14:15 - 16:00
    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium - 1017, Maarintie 8, Otaniemi;
    Teacher: Joni Tammi, Anne Lähteenmäki

    Various topics and discussion on themes from and related to topics touched on the course, such as:

    • Supermassive black holes
    • Working with astronomy and space in your own field
    • Etc

    Note: Originally this was Lecture 12.

  • Astrobiology and Life in the Universe

    Date: POSTPONED TO 4.4.2023, 14:15 - 16:00

    Location: TU1 Saab Auditorium - 1017, Maarintie 8, Otaniemi
    Guest lecturer: Professor emeritus Esko Valtaoja

    Learning outcomes of the week

    After this week, you should be able to:

    • Appreciate how far we have advanced in our understanding life from the cosmic perspective.
    • Understand what is being done and planned for the search of life elsewhere in the universe.
    • Grasp the importance and the implications of life as a cosmic phenomenon for our religion, philosophy, culture, etc.

    Note: Originally this lecture was "Lecture 10"

  • Final evaluation session tasks

    N.B. The final evaluation session assignments and tasks open after the last lecture and close on Tue 18.4.2022 at 23:55.

    There are three tasks to complete:

    1. Peer-review of the last learning diary (AVotW Learning Diary 4)
    2. Assignment: "Your astronomical view of the world" - essay (below)
    3. Fill the "Course feedback questionnaire" (link below)

    Also, the last learning diary will move from "submission phase" to "evaluation phase" at 14:15 on Friday 14.4., so you can do the peer-assessment during the afternoon to have everything finished by the end of that day.

    You can also use this time to check you have returned all assignments (except for compensating assignment for ES1 if you were present), and complete all possibly missing coursework during that day. 

    After this, please remember to read the feedback given to your LD4 (available after the deadline 25.4.), and then you're done!

    Missing assignments

    If you cannot submit your work via MyCourses, send email with details to .

  • All participants write a learning diary throughout the course.

    The learning diary is submitted for assessment and feedback four times during the course. Each "learning diary assignment", listed below, has its own deadline. All four entries are required for completion of the course.

    After the first learning diary, the last three are also read and assessed by other students, who also give feedback to the author. This way, each student gets many times more feedback and comments than they would get if only teachers read their diary. More importantly, the students, reading others' reflection and thoughts, have access to several different ways of approaching and thinking about the course topics. Instead of just hearing the teachers' perspective, they get to see things from several different points of view. Finally, they get experience in giving constructive feedback.

    In addition to the actual assignments, instructions and further materials about the learning diaries will be available on this page.

    Note regarding the format: PDF only
    Write the learning diary on your computer using a word processor of you choosing, and only submit the final version of the learning diary.

    The accepted formats for the submission are online text (i.e. copy-paste text from the word-processor to the text box), or filetypes TXT, RTF, and PDF.

    If your learning diary contains pictures, then the safest thing is to convert it to PDF. Most word processing software has the option to "save as PDF", "export to PDF", "convert to PDF", etc., and there are also free online converters (e.g. here).

    Do not submit Word or iWork Pages documents, because the reader may not be able to open them.

    1. learning diary deadline: Tuesday 31.1. at 14:15
    2. learning diary deadline: Tuesday 28.2. at 14:15; peer-assessment deadline: Tuesday 7.3. 14.3. at 14:15 
    3. learning diary deadline: Tuesday 21.3. at 14:15; peer-assessment deadline: Tuesday 28.3. at 14:15
    4. learning diary deadline: Friday 14.4. at 14:15; peer-assessment deadline: Tuesday 25.4. at 14:15
      (Notice extended deadlines due to Easter weekend)

    After the learning diary submission deadline, the submitted learning diaries are automatically sent for assessment, and it is not possible to add late learning diaries to the workflow. Thus: set your own deadline at least a day or two earlier. We want to emphasise this: the LD deadlines are hard deadlines. Any learning diary submitted after this deadline will not be included in the peer-assessment and, thus, cannot get any points. In other words, missing the deadline will mean grade 0 for the learning diary part. If you know you will be late and have a good reason for that, contact the teachers ( as early as possible.

    For the learning diaries 2-4 the students have one week (until next lecture) for peer assessment. Each students reads, grades, and gives feedback to four learning diaries. Depending on the quality of the feedback, peer-assessment makes up to two points toward the final score/grade.

    The links for submitting and assessing learning diaries open one week before the deadline.