Astronomy is the study of the physical structure of the universe and of the evolution of its elements, from the solar system to the origins of the Big Bang. Current research in astrophysics involves interactions and comparisons between, on the one hand, measures taken with telescopes set up on the ground or sent up in space probes and, on the other hand, theoretical predictions based on computer-generated models which use the laws of physics and other sciences.



The Department of Astronomy, also called the Geneva Observatory, with its 110 members of staff, is located on two sites: Sauverny, location of the main buildings, and Ecogia, home of the INTEGRAL Science Data Center since 1996. The fifteen colleagues from the Astrophysics Laboratory of the EPFL also work out of Sauverny.

Together, they constitute the largest center for research and education in astrophysics in Switzerland. The activities of the research teams provide a balanced view of current knowledge in astronomy, because they address important themes related to planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe. Furthermore, research in astrophysics requires constant interaction between theoretical research (predictions and modeling) and observations for which the whole of the electromagnetic spectrum must be used (telescopes on the ground and in space). Computerized modeling and technological developments therefore play a key role in the accurate and effective advancement of astrophysics research.

These research groups are closely connected to international astronomical institutions, including the European Southern Observatory (ESO), world leader in astronomy projects from the ground, which is managing and developing three large observatories in Chile, and the European Space Agency (ESA), responsible for european space programs.

The Department of Astronomy actively participates in space missions such as INTEGRAL (gamma rays), COROT (seismology and planet transits), and GAIA (astrometry and photometry), and contributes to the development of instruments for giant telescopes on the ground. In cooperation with the belgian university of Leuven, it constructed two telescopes, installed in Chile in 1998 and in the Canary Islands in 2001, which are equipped with “home-made” instruments, spectrographs, photometers or CCD cameras.




Some highlights of the Department of Astronomy