Topic 5

Exploring the Universe  

Exploring the Universe  

Space missions allow exploring the Solar System, including our Sun, and beyond. Questions like the habitability of Mars in the past, or the possibility of life within the icy moons of the gas giant planets in our solar system, are intriguing humankind. Asteroids provide information on the building blocks of our Solar System. Furthermore, there might be habitable planets outside of our solar system, so-called exoplanets. Our Universe is vast, and its origin and evolution are fascinating.


  • Space weather and solar physics

  • Asteroids, moons, planets

  • Exoplanets

  • Cosmology

Recorded Topic 5 Presentations


Katrien Kolenberg 

Katrien Kolenberg is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Antwerp and the VUB, as well as STE(A)M coordinator and currently Flemish ESERO (European Space Education Resource Office) coordinator at the KU Leuven.  Her research lies in the field of stellar astrophysics, particularly variable stars and asteroseismology.  Katrien is passionate about scientific research, astronomy for development, and innovative/artistic science communication and education worldwide. She has received international awards for both scientific accomplishments and science communication.


Véronique Dehant

Head of service - ROB & Professor UCLouvain

Véronique Dehant works at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, where she is Responsible for the Operational Directorate “Reference Systems and Planetary Science”. She is also Extraordinary Professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain. She is Academician (Royal Academy of Belgium; Science class) since 2010 and was awarded with several prizes, including the Descartes Prize of the European Union in 2003. In 2015, she has obtained a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant, with the project RotaNut: Rotation and Nutation of a wobbly Earth. She is Principal Investigator of the experience LaRa (Lander Radioscience) selected for the ExoMars 2020 mission. 


Carl-Henrik Dahlqvist

Carl-Henrik Dahlqvist holds a Master's degree in Business Engineering from the Université catholique de Louvain (LSM). After having worked 2 years for SWIFT as a financial analyst, he decided to go back to university to pursue a Ph.D. in Finance in co-supervision between the Université catholique de Louvain (LSM) and the Université de Namur where he was also a teaching assistant in Finance. He decided, a few years later, to transform his passion for Astronomy and space into a possible career. In 2014, he started, on top of his Ph.D. in Econophysics, a 2 years preparatory program for the M.Sc. in Particle Physics and Cosmology. After having completed this MSc in Particle Physics and Cosmology and received his PhD in Economics from the Université de Namur  (CeReFiM) and the Université catholique de Louvain (LFIN), he started in October 2018, a second PhD fellowship in exoplanet imaging at the STAR Institute at the Department of Astrophysics and Geophysics in collaboration with the Montefiore Institute of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of the Université de Liège. His current interests lie in Exoplanets Detection, High Contrast Imaging, Optics, Solar physics, Spaces and Planetary Sciences and Satellite Conception and Operational Management

Exoplanets and the search for life beyond our solar system


Michael Gillon

FNRS Senior Research Associate at the University of Liege

After studies in biochemistry (Master) and astrophysics (PhD) at Liège from 1998 to 2006, Michael Gillon embarked in a scientific career in the field of exoplanets to which he has brought many significant results. Notably, he led the detection of the fascinating TRAPPIST-1 system composed of seven Earth-sized planets -some of them potentially habitable- in orbit a nearby tiny star.

Understanding the formation and evolution of the solar system thanks to meteorites

Vincianne Debaille

FNRS Senior Research

Vinciane Debaille is a geologist by training, and more particularly a geochemist specialized in the chemical composition of rocks to date them and understand how they formed. She is particularly interested in the study of meteorites of different origins, coming from asteroids, but also from the Moon and Mars. She participated in several meteorite collection missions in Antarctica.

Our Universe: a 13.8 billion years old enigma

Maerten Baes

Professor of Astrophysics at Ghent University

Maarten Baes obtained his PhD in 2001, he subsequently worked in the UK and in Chile, and since 2005 he is professor of astrophysics at Ghent University. His research interests include interstellar matter, galaxy evolution and infrared astronomy. He uses supercomputer simulations as well as astronomical observations from ground-based and space observatories for his research. He has coauthored more than 300 publications and has supervised 15 PhD thesis and more than 50 master theses. He teaches various astronomy courses at the bachelor and master level at Ghent University, and regularly contributes to outreach activities all over the country.

The sun in a microchip: understanding the Sun and its impact on the Earth using computer modelling

Giovanni Lapenta 

Professor of space weather at the KULeuven

Giovanni is Professor of space weather at the KULeuven and  expert in space science, plasmas, high performance computing, artificial intelligence and nuclear engineering. He is an expert in space science, plasmas, high performance computing, artificial intelligence and nuclear engineering. While the areas might look broad and separated, instead, Giovanni's research has brought them together in a number of applications, lately mostly focusing on space science and engineering and on fusion energy. Giovanni is the author of more than 250 peer reviewed papers and recipient of the RD100 Prize.