Stars, Galaxies and the Universe - PH607

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) PROF MD Smith







Aims: To provide, in combination with PH507, a balanced and rigorous course in Astrophysics for B.Sc. Physics with Astrophysics students, while forming a basis of the more extensive M.Phys. modules.

Physics of Stars
  • Review of hydrostatic and thermal equilibrium, use to calculate stellar properties. Virial theorem and timescales. Radiative equilibrium, radiation and conduction, energy sources. Fission and fusion. Nucleosynthesis: PPI, PPII, PPIII chains; CNO cycle, Triple-alpha process; elemental abundances; Solar neutrino problem. Post main sequence evolution. Convection; conditions for convective instability. Convective vs radiative energy transport for stars of different mass. Stellar structure equations and description of techniques for solutions. Formation and properties of binary stars.
  • Our galaxy. Hubble classification of galaxies. Luminosity functions. Distribution of galaxies in space. Mass and dynamics of galaxies. Interpretation of spiral and elliptical galaxies. Dark Matter. Active galaxies, quasars; observational properties.
  • General Relativity and Cosmology
    Inadequacy of Newton's Laws of Gravitation, principle of Equivalence, non-Euclidian geometry. Curved surfaces. Schwarzschild solution; Gravitational redshift, the bending of light and gravitational lenses; black holes. Brief survey of the universe. Robertson-Walker metric, field equations for cosmological and critical density. Friedmann models. The early universe. Dark Energy.
  • Details

    This module appears in:

    Contact hours

    26 lectures + 2 workshops. This module is expected to occupy 150 total study hours, including the contact hours above.


    This is not available as a wild module.

    Method of assessment

    Coursework assessment 30%, including class tests; Exam (Length 2 hours) 70%.

    Preliminary reading

    Recommended Texts:

  • Carroll & Ostlie, Modern Astrophysics, Addison Wesley
    Background reading:
  • Bohm-Vitense, Volume 3; Stellar Structure and Evolution, Cambridge University Press
  • Taylor, The stars: Their structure and Evolution, Cambridge University Press
  • Berry, Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation, Adam Hilger
  • Roos, Introduction to Cosmology, Wiley

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

  • Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge and understanding of physical laws and principles of astrophysics, and their application to diverse areas of physics.
  • An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  • An ability to solve problems in physics involving stars and galaxies using appropriate mathematical tools.
  • An ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour of stars and galaxies and the universe.
  • An ability to present and interpret information about stars and galaxies graphically.
  • An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources about astrophysics as part of managing their own learning.
  • Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
  • Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.

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