The research of the Leiden Observatory can be clustered within three areas: Galaxy evolution, Star and planet formation and High energy astrophysics.
Research at Leiden Observatory spans the full width of modern astrophysical enquiry. It is based on observation, theory, simulation, and experiment. Two broad clusters characterize the ongoing research. Within each theme, researchers carry out their personal and specialized research programme. The two clusters are: Galaxies and the structures in which they are embedded and Exoplanets, and the formation of stars and planets.
Galaxies and the structures in which they are embedded
Researchers at Leiden Observatory study the fundamental physics - the basic properties, materials and forces that create structure in the Universe. Which processes collect matter into galaxies and gas into stars? With the use of powerful telescopes and advanced calculations and computer simulations, the astronomers seek to understand the origin, structure and evolution of galaxies in general, and the Milky Way in particular. Through these structures they try to uncover the unknown physics of dark matter and dark energy that takes up 95% of the Universe.
Exoplanets, and the formation of stars and planets
At Leiden Observatory, researchers investigate the origin of stars and their planetary systems. They detect and characterize planets around other stars (exoplanets) and study how stars and planets form, for instance by following molecules from interstellar clouds to nascent planetary systems. In this way they address questions about the origin of life and the possibilities of life existing on other planets than Earth. In other words, is Earth unique?
The institute houses a number of facilities which support these themes:
Research into the history of science in general and astronomy in particular is carried out by the History of Science group.