DTU Space har bidraget til rumteleskopet James Webb, der efter planen opsendes i 2018. (Foto: NASA)

Astrophysics and Atmospheric Physics

The division studies processes in stars, galaxies, planets, the Solar System and the universe as a whole develope instrumentation to observe these objects. We also study the Earth's atmosphere and it's interaction with space.

The Division for Astrophysics and Astomospheric Physics studies exoplanets, physical processes in stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters and the universe as a whole, as well as doing research and development of instrumentation that can be used to observe these objects. We also study our atmosphere, where Earth meets space, and the complex interactions that occur there.

 Research is concentrated in a handful of main areas:

  • Identifying, understanding and characterizing exoplanets with emphasis on terrestrial planets, super-Earths, and sub-Neptunes (find our exoplanet research group here).  
  • Large-scale structure of the universe, including  the creation of galaxies and galaxy clusters.
  • Physical conditions and processes in and around  neutron stars and black holes.    
  • Mapping the Cosmic Microwave Background to understand the Big Bang and early evolution of the Universe.
  • Electrical Discharges in the Upper Atmosphere.
  • Cosmic rays and their effect on the Earth's weather and climate.
  • Space weather and monitoring solar activity.
  • Technological development of x-ray and gamma-ray detectors and instruments, as well as mechanical structures for use in space-based observatories.  


A selection of our current research projects:


TESS: The search for exoplanets

 TESS-missionen skal søge efter planeter, der kredser om særligt klare stjerner. (Illustration: NASA)

DTU Space has established an exoplanet research group that focuses on understanding and characterizing exoplanets with emphasis on terrestrial planets, super-Earths, and sub-Neptunes through two key areas of research: 1) discovery, validation, and precise mass measurements of transiting and non-transiting planets to understand their composition and structure and 2) observation, characterization and modelling of exoplanetary atmospheres. The overall aim of our research is to advance our insight into the diversity and composition of the abundant small planets and to pave the way for biosignature observations. The exoplanet group and other departments at DTU Space are involved in various research projects and missions involving NASA's Tess mission, the James Webb Telescope as well as earth based telescopes. 


INTEGRAL: X-ray images of the universe

Integral (C) NASA

DTU Space led the team that designed and built two x-ray telescopes on the European INTEGRAL satellite. These instruments detect x-rays from deep space including supernova explosions, black hole environments and neutron stars. Investigation of this high-energy radiation gives researchers a glimpse into the universe that can't be seen with the naked eye. The two telescopes can also pinpoint the position of gamma-ray bursts, extremely violent cosmic explosions, the origins of which are still hotly debated. Read more here.


Planck: Light from the creation of the universe  

The European Planck Surveyor Satellite was launched 2009 and has been mapping the cosmic microwave background (CMB) in unprecedented details. This radiation originated from a time 380,000 years after the Big Bang and contains the answers to many of the fundamental questions we have about the universe, for example, its age, its size and its eventual fate. DTU Space has designed the big mirror-system that capture and focus the first light of Universe. Read more here.


NuSTAR: Focusing on high-energy x-ray optics

 Kunstners forestilling af NuSTAR satellitten i rummet

In June 2012 NASA launched the first ever satellite observatory with a focussing mirror system designed for high-energy x-rays. DTU Space has developed the high-energy focussing technique that will be used during this mission to make images of selected areas of the sky, e.g. near black holes, powerful sources in active galaxies and supernova remnants. Read more here.


ASIM: Studying lightning from ISS

ASIM instrument mounted on the International Space Station 

In the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere the sky is occasionally illuminated by huge lightning strikes called sprites. Researchers at DTU Space are uncovering the mechanisms behind these strange events. It is quite difficult to observe sprites from the Earth, and so the NSI team is planning to study them from above the atmosphere, with an advanced instrument that includes and X-ray camera. This instrument, called ASIM (Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor) was launched in 2018 and is now mounted on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station from where it is monitoring the Earth for sprites and related phenomena. Go to our theme page on the ASIM mission.


Allan Hornstrup
Head of Astrophysics and Atmospheric Physics
DTU Space
+45 45 25 97 22