The Master students in Space Sciences to the discovery of the TRAPPIST-North telescope

Master in Space Sciences


« To have stars in your eyes » is an expression lived literally and figuratively when students of the Master in Space Sciences are asked what they thought of their 5 nights spent observing the sky thanks to the TRAPPIST-Nord telescope. The 17 Master students were indeed able to invest the Oukaimeden Observatory located 50 km south of Marrakech in the mountains of the High Atlas at 2750 m altitude, as part of a research trip with Emmanuel Jehin, researcher and professor in Astrophysics at the University of Liege.


xploited by Cadi Ayyad University, the Oukaimeden Observatory was inaugurated in 2007 within a strategic semi-desert geographical area with 250 clear nights per year. Ideal weather conditions that students enjoyed during their trip organized from March 9 to 14. It is on this exceptional site that the TRAPPIST-Nord telescope is located, the second robotic telescope of the University of Liège (the first is located in Chile). This pair of telescopes is behind the discovery of the exoplanetary TRAPPIST-1 system revealed at a press conference at NASA in February 2017.

ULiège researchers and students have unlimited observation time with TRAPPIST telescopes, which allowed students to spend many hours scanning the sky to observe exoplanets, asteroids and comets, variable stars, nebulae and galaxies, clusters... Everyone had the opportunity to focus on the subject they wanted. In addition to this work of observation, reduction and data analysis, students were able to attend conferences, hike between the mountains and small seasonal streams, observe beautiful sunsets but also taste the local culture and gastronomy.

Five Astrophysics students from Cadi Ayyad University (ULiège partner university in this scientific project) joined them in the field to collaborate on the project and exchange their experiences. The practice of a foreign language is not a barrier for students since most of the Master's courses in Space Sciences are given in English. The results obtained in the field will be presented publicly to the university community a few weeks after their return to Belgium.

Astéroide géocroseur

Legend: Observation of the near-Earth asteroid 2017 VR12 on 15 March at a distance of only three times that of the moon, whose size is estimated at 250m. He moves quickly from left to right in front of the starry background on this animation which lasts 15 minutes in real time.

Copyright : Byttebier Coralie, Chavet Quentin and Jehin Emmanuel

Below, a selection of the testimonies reported by the students about the trip, the training, their course but also life at the University:

Testimony of Alexis Q.

"The University of Liège was the only one in french-speaking Belgium proposing a complete formation in all fields of Space Sciences (Astrophysics, cosmology, planetology, ...). Our teacher gave this course for the first time, yet he managed to well organize our trip and make sure we get results for our projects. We formed a solid group before our departure and, thanks to our collaboration and our stubornness, we finished stronger and accomplished.

This trip brought me experience on the ground, how look like typical work day of a professional astronomer. All was contained during those five days : exploring the sky, learning functionment of the telescope, collecting, reducing and analyzing data, quantifying errors of measurments, and finally presenting our results in front of a public. This is probably the course that better teach me this job.

Astronomy has fascinated me since I was six, when my father offered a book about solar system. Then I grew up and I realized that my passion was real as much as I discovered aspects of this domain, notably by following short internships for teenagers. Space Sciences was the better choice in order to follow my dreams because it contains many interesting phenomena in a huge range of topic. Furthermore, today more than ever, all its mysteries have to be resolved."

Testimony of Lyne V.

"The funniest thing about this trip is that, sometimes, we were working so hard to reduce data that we forgot to enjoy the scenery outside but fortunately, there was always someone (student or teacher) going outside and coming back running to tell us to stop working and go see the sunset or the beautiful sky. The image that I will keep in mind for years is the beautiful night sky full of stars that I had never seen in Belgium because of the light pollution. It was my first time seeing the Milky Way. We can say that we came back with stars in our eyes.

The University of Liège has a good reputation in experimental physics, in mathematics and a Master in Space sciences can be done after the Physics' Bachelor. And finally, the Sart-Tilman is surrounded by trees in every direction.  So many reasons to choose this University.

When I arrived in master, the only constellation I knew was Ursa Major, I had never used a telescope, I didn't knew anything outside our Solar System but now, here I am, enjoying working on spiral galaxies, discovering how stars work, learning to reduce and analyze data. In my opinion, the profile a future Space Science student should be someone who is happy to know that there are so many thing to learn but even more unanswered questions."

Testimony of Vincent B.

"Living as an astronomer for few days was really exciting. We learn to prepear observational plans and analyze the data as well as how to take care of a telescope. Landscapes are wonderful, people are very friendly and the night sky is so beautiful in Morocco. But Moroccan food was really a discover for me, it was so tasty that I'm hungry only by thinking of it !

I was first interested in Engineering and that's why I came here in Liège. But after having finished my bachelor, I realized that I really want to study Space Sciences. Since I was a child I look at the sky at night, wondering what is up there. Morevover, Space is still full of mysteries, just waiting to be discovered ! A perfect environment for someone as curious as I am. Liege is a great city for a student : always in motion, with a lot of places to distract with friends, to do sport or simply to take a breath while walking. I also find that the TEC service is well organized ; you can go to nearly all places directly by bus.

A strong advantage, compared to other masters, is that we can choose freely our full cursus. Some are more related to the Earth, some others to stars and galaxies and even meteorology. In this way, we can really be specialized in one field or choose multidisciplinar courses. The few numbers of students allow us to frequently ask questions to teachers and get the answer relatively quickly."


The Master in Space Sciences


TRAPPIST-North March 18 - Master in Space Sciences

The 17 students of the Master in Space Sciences spent 5 nights observing the sky thanks to the TRAPPIST-Nord telescope located at the Oukaimeden Observatory in Morocco. This video, directed by one of the students, shows the highlights of this research trip organized by Emmanuel Jehin, researcher and professor of Astrophysics.

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