Observational Astronomy and Exoplanets - PHYS5070

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Spring Term 5 15 (7.5) Dirk Froebrich checkmark-circle


Aims: To provide a basic but rigorous grounding in observational, computational and theoretical aspects of astrophysics to build on the descriptive course in Stage 1, and to consider evidence for the existence of exoplanets in other Solar Systems.

Telescopes and detectors:
Radio telescopes; detection of radio waves, heterodyne receivers, bolometers; Optical/NIR Telescopes and detectors; basic band gap theory; CCD cameras; bias, dark and flatfield calibration frames and data reduction; Stellar Photometry: Factors affecting signal from a stars; atmospheric absorption and scattering; Filters; UBV system; Colour Index as temperature diagnostic.

Basic stellar properties:
Mass measurements: Kepler's laws; solar system; binary stars; Visual binaries; Eclipsing binaries, Spectroscopic binaries; Introduction to the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram; spectroscopic parallax Introduction to star formation: Molecular clouds; Jeans criterion for collapse; Protostars; T-Tauri stars; Contraction onto the Main Sequence; Heyney and Hayashi Tracks; Stellar spectral classification: Basic stellar properties; back body radiation; stellar spectra; radiative transfer in stellar atmospheres

Stellar Structure:
equation of hydrostatic support; Virial theorem; central pressure; mean temperature; astrophysical time scales; equations of energy generation and transportation; convective vs radiative energy transport;

Extra Solar Planets
Detection Methods; Direct Detection; Radial velocity technique; Transit method; Microlensing and direct imaging; the population of exoplanet systems, Metallicity, Eccentricity, Core Accretion and Gravitational Instability

Introduction to Galaxies; Hubble classification; the Milky Way; Spirals; Dark matter; Ellipticals; Irregulars; luminosity functions; Galaxy Clusters, distributions and physical processes; The Hubble Constant, Evolution, Mergers, Star Formation History; Quasars, Seyferts and Radio Galaxies


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 36
Private study hours: 114
Total study hours: 150


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Take-home Test 1 (10 hrs, 15%)
Take-home Test 2 (10 hrs, 15%)
Examination (2hrs, 70%)

Indicative reading

An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics (Jul 2013), by Bradley W. Carroll and Dale A. Ostlie,
Berry, Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation, Adam Hilger [QB891]
Roos, Introduction to Cosmology, Wiley [QB891]
Cosmological Physics; Peacock, J.A (1999)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of physical laws and principles of astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and their application to diverse areas of physics.
Demonstrate 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.
Identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems in astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
Solve problems in astronomy, astrophysics and space science using appropriate mathematical tools.
Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour within astronomy, astrophysics and space science.
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.
Present and interpret astronomical, astrophysical and space science information graphically.
Make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Solve problems, 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.
Use 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.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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