Cosmology and Interstellar Medium - PH712

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 4)
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7 15 (7.5) DR D Froebrich


PH503, PH507, PH607





Interstellar Medium
The major properties of the Interstellar Medium (ISM) are described. The course will discuss the characteristics of the gaseous and dust components of the ISM, including their distributions throughout the Galaxy, physical and chemical properties, and their influence the star formation process. The excitation of this interstellar material will be examined for the various physical processes which occur in the ISM, including radiative, collisional and shock excitation. The way in which the interstellar material can collapse under the effects of self-gravity to form stars, and their subsequent interaction with the remaining material will be examined. Finally the end stages of stellar evolution will be studied to understand how planetary nebulae and supernova remnants interact with the surrounding ISM.

Extragalactic astrophysics
Review of FRW metric; source counts; cosmological distance ladder; standard candles/rods.
High-z galaxies: fundamental plane; Tully-Fisher; low surface brightness galaxies; luminosity functions and high-z evolution; the Cosmic Star Formation History
Galaxy clusters: the Butcher-Oemler effect; the morphology-density relation; the SZ effect
AGN and black holes: Beaming and superluminal motion; Unified schemes; Black hole demographics; high-z galaxy and quasar absorption and emission lines;


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Lectures and class tests (30 hours).
Total study time 150 hrs (including private study time).


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Coursework 30%, including class tests;
Final exam 70%.

Indicative reading

Dyson & Williams, The Physics of the Interstellar Medium, IOP Publishing ISBN 0 7503 0460 X

  • Peacock, Cosmological Physics, CUP, ISBN 0 521 42270 1
  • Rowan-Robinson, Cosmology, OUP, ISBN 0198518587
  • Bowers & Deeming Astrophysics vol. 2 ISBN 0867200189
  • Carroll, Press & Turner, 1992, Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 30, 499-542

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

  • Learning outcomes

    Knowledge and understanding of aspects of the theory and practice of astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and of those aspects upon which astronomy, astrophysics and space science depends.

  • A systematic understanding of most fundamental laws and principles of physics and of astronomy, astrophysics and space science, along with their application – some of which are at (or are informed by) the forefront of the discipline. 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 using appropriate mathematical tools.
  • An ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.
  • An ability to comment critically on how spacecraft are designed, their principles of operation, and their use to access and explore space, and on how telescopes (operating at various wavelengths) are designed, their principles of operation, and their use in astronomy and astrophysics research.
  • An ability to solve advanced problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools, to translate problems into mathematical statements and apply their knowledge to obtain order of magnitude or more precise solutions as appropriate.
  • An ability to interpret mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena.
  • A working knowledge of a variety of experimental, mathematical and/or computational techniques applicable to current research within physics.
  • An enhanced ability to work within in the astronomy, astrophysics and space science areas that is well matched to the frontiers of knowledge, the science drivers that underpin government funded research and the commercial activity that provides hardware or software solutions to challenging scientific problems in these fields.
  • An ability to present and interpret information graphically.
  • An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.
  • An ability to make use of research articles and other primary sources.
  • Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems; an ability to formulate problems in precise terms and to identify key issues, and the confidence to try different approaches in order to make progress on challenging 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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