Physics with Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)
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Physics reaches from the quark out to the largest of galaxies, and encompasses all the matter and timescales within these extremes while Astrophysics emphasises the underlying physical concepts of the stars and galaxies, which make up the Universe. At Kent you learn from academics making the discoveries that shape our world and play a part in this research yourself.
Our focus is on helping you follow your passion as well as giving you the best possible start to your future. Studying with us gives you the chance to follow your passion and equip yourself with a wide range of skills that will qualify you for a range of career pathways from the growing space industry to finance, manufacturing and technology.
We have a strong focus on your future career and how to get you there, and to ensure you are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in today's job market, our curriculum changes and adapts. You also benefit from our expert careers advice to give you the best possible start when deciding on your future career.
This programme is fully accredited by Institute of Physics (IOP).
Our degree programme
Astrophysics emphasises the underlying physical concepts of the stars and galaxies, which make up the Universe. This provides an understanding of the physical nature of bodies and processes in space and the instruments and techniques used in modern astronomical research.
In your first year, you get to grips with the broad knowledge base on which physical science is built, including electricity and light, mathematics, mechanics, thermodynamics and matter. You also develop your experimental, computational, statistical and analytical skills.
Your second and third years include a broad range of modules such as quantum mechanics, solid state, atomic, nuclear and particle physics, electromagnetism and optics, and mathematical techniques as well as the mulitwavelength universe exoplanets and stars, galaxies and the universe.
Your degree, your way
Our degrees are not only designed to give the best possible start to your career, they are also flexible so that you do the best degree for you. Up until your second year you are able to move between our programmes, including the opportunity to complete a professional placement to put into practice the skills you learnt and make valuable industry contacts. You could also opt for one of our integrated masters courses - gaining an extra qualification. This can be done with one year abroad, or staying at Kent for our MPhys - where in your final year you'll join one of our research groups doing cutting-edge work.
If you do not have the grades or scientific background for direct entry, you can take the Physics Foundation year. Upon successful completion of this year, you are well placed to move onto any of our Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, or Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics degrees.
You have access to first-class research facilities in new laboratories. These are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a full characterisation suite for materials, including:
- three powder diffractometers
- a single crystal diffractometer
- x-ray fluorescence
- instruments to measure magnetic and transport properties
- a Raman spectrometer
- scanning electron microscopes
- optical coherence tomography imaging equipment
- optical spectrum analysers
- two-stage light gas gun for impact studies.
Our Beacon Observatory provides a fully automised system with both optical telescope and radio telescope capability. It includes a 17" astrograph from Plane Wave Instruments with a 4k x 4k CCD and a BVRIHa filter set, as well as a 90-frames-per-second camera.
An excellent student experience
As well as a fascinating course with great opportunities to further your career potential, we work hard to give you the best possible wider student experience.
You will be part of an international scientific community of physics and astronomy, chemistry and forensic science, bioscience and medical and sport science students, as well as being able to join a range of student-led societies and groups.
As well as inspiring you to realise your potential, we are here to support this with excellent in-house student support to assist with pastoral issues and careers experts with specialist knowledge as well as Academic advisors and peer mentors to help with your studies.
You are encouraged to participate in conferences and professional events to build up your knowledge of the science community and enhance your professional development.
The University is a member of the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), which offers a competitive programme of summer internships to Stage 2 and 3 undergraduates.
Our department also has links with:
- the Home Office
- optical laboratories
- local health authorities
- aerospace/defence industries
The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. All applications are assessed on an individual basis but some of our typical requirements are listed below. Students offering qualifications not listed are welcome to contact our Admissions Team for further advice. Please also see our general entry requirements.
BBB, including A level Mathematics at B (not Use of Mathematics)
Access to HE Diploma
The University welcomes applications from Access to Higher Education Diploma candidates for consideration. A typical offer may require you to obtain a proportion of Level 3 credits in relevant subjects at merit grade or above.
The University will consider applicants holding/studying BTEC Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF;OCR) in a relevant Science or Engineering subject at 180 credits or more, on a case by case basis. Please contact us via the enquiries tab for further advice on your individual circumstances.
30 points overall or 14 at HL including HL Maths/Maths Method or HL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches at 5 or SL Maths/Maths Methods at 6 (not Maths Studies/SL Maths: Applications & Interpretations).
International Foundation Programme
The University will consider applicants holding T level qualifications in subjects closely aligned to the course.
Please contact the School for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.
If you need to increase your level of science/mathematics ready for undergraduate study, we offer a Foundation Year programme which can help boost your previous scientific experience.
Meet our staff in your country
For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.
English Language Requirements
Please see our English language entry requirements web page.
Please note that if you do not meet our English language requirements, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.
Duration: 3 years full-time
The course structure below gives a flavour of the modules and provides details of the content of this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.
At all stages in this programme, the modules listed are compulsory.
This module provides an introduction to astronomy, beginning with our own solar system and extending to objects at the limits of the universe. Straightforward mathematics is used to develop a geometrical optics model for imaging with lenses and mirrors, and this is then used to explore the principles of astronomical telescopes.
This module builds on prior knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry. It will cover key areas of mathematics which are widely used throughout undergraduate university physics. In the first part it will look at functions, series, derivatives and integrals. In the second part it will look at vectors, matrices and complex numbers.
This module builds on the Mathematics I module to develop key mathematical techniques involving multiple independent variables. These include the topics of differential equations, multivariate calculus, non-Cartesian coordinates, and vector calculus that are needed for Physics modules in Stages 2 and 3.
In this module the mathematics of vectors and calculus are used to describe motion, the effects of forces in accordance with Newton's laws, and the relation to momentum and energy. This description is extended to rotational motion, and the force of gravity. In addition, the modern topic of special relativity is introduced.
This module examines key physical phenomena of waves and fields which extend over time and space. The first part presents a mathematical description of oscillations and develops this to a description of wave phenomena. The second part is an introduction to electromagnetism which includes electric and magnetic fields before providing an introduction to the topic of electrical circuits.
This module develops the principles of mechanics to describe mechanical properties of liquids and solids. It also introduces the principles of thermodynamics and uses them to describe properties of gases. The module also introduces the modern description of atoms and molecules based on quantum mechanics.
This module guides students through a series of experiments giving them experience in using laboratory apparatus and equipment. Students will also learn how to accurately record and analyse data in laboratory notebooks and write scientific laboratory reports. The experiments cover subjects found in the Physics degree program and are run parallel with Computing Skills workshops in which students are introduced to the concept of using programming/scripting languages to analyse and report data from their experiments.
This module provides an introduction to quantum mechanics, developing knowledge of wave-functions, the Schrodinger equation, solutions and quantum numbers for important physical properties. Topics include: 2-state systems. Bras and kets. Eigenstates and Eigenvalues; Superposition Principle; Probability Amplitudes; Change of Basis; Operators. The Schrodinger equation. Stationary states. Completeness. Expectation values. Collapse of the wave function. Probability density. Solutions of the Schrodinger equation for simple physical systems with constant potentials: Free particles. Particles in a box. Classically allowed and forbidden regions. Reflection and transmission of particles incident onto a potential barrier. Probability flux. Tunnelling of particles. The simple harmonic oscillator. Atomic vibrations.
This module will build on the general principles of quantum mechanics introduced earlier in the degree and applied them to the description of atoms, starting by the description of the hydrogen atom and covering other topics such as the effect of magnetic fields on an atom or X-ray spectra.
This module looks to introduce a range of important laws and principles relating to the physics of electromagnetism and optics. Students will also learn mathematical techniques to enable the modelling of physical behaviour and apply important theory to a range of electromagnetism and optics scenarios.
This module builds on the brief introduction to astronomy previously taught in earlier stages. Students enhance their knowledge of astrophysics through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles developing a rigorous grounding in observational, computational and theoretical aspects of astrophysics. In particular they study topics such as properties of galaxies and stars and the detection of planets outside the solar system.
In this module students develop their experience of the practical nature of physics, including developing their ability to execute an experiment, and to use programming scripts to process data. Students also develop their skill in analysis of uncertainties, and comparison with theory. The module strengthens students' communication skills and knowledge of, and ability to write, all components of laboratory reports.
This module gives students experience of group work in the context of a physics investigation in an unfamiliar area. The module includes workshops for advice about successful group project work, and culminates in each group producing a report and presentation.
This module introduces and develops a knowledge of numerical approximations to solve problems in physics, building on the programming skills gained in earlier stages. In addition, it complements the analytical methods students are trained to use and extends the range of tools that they can use in later stages of the degree. This module covers for example how to solve linear equations, how to find eigenvalues and numerical integration and differentiation.
The module will provide a firm grounding in mathematical methods: both for solving differential equations and, through the study of special functions and asymptotic analysis, to determine the properties of solutions.
After taking the classes students should be more fluent and adept at solving and discussing general problems in Physics (and its related disciplines of mathematics and engineering).
There is no formal curriculum for this course, which uses and demands only physical and mathematical concepts with which the students at this level are already familiar.
Problems are presented and solutions discussed in topics spanning several topics in the undergraduate physics curriculum (Mechanics and statics, thermodynamics, and optics, etc).
Problems are also discussed that primarily involve the application of formal logic and reasoning, simple probability, statistics, estimation and linear mathematics.
This module provides an opportunity for students to work in groups to tackle open ended research problems. Project themes vary from industry linked projects to academic research and education/outreach projects. Students develop a variety of presentation skills and team work within the module as well as open ended project work.
Special Relativity: Limits of Newtonian Mechanics, Inertial frames of reference, the Galilean and Lorentz transformations, time dilation and length contraction, invariant quantities under Lorentz transformation, energy momentum 4-vector.
Maxwell's equations: operators of vector calculus, Gauss law of electrostatics and magnetostatics, Faraday's law and Ampere's law, physical meanings and integral and differential forms, dielectrics, the wave equation and solutions, Poynting vector, the Fresnel relations, transmission and reflection at dielectric boundaries.
Modern Optics: Resonant cavities and the laser, optical modes, Polarisation and Jones vector formulation.
Review of zeroth, first, second laws. Quasistatic processes. Functions of state. Extensive and intensive properties. Exact and inexact differentials. Concept of entropy. Heat capacities. Thermodynamic potentials: internal energy, enthalpy, Helmholtz and Gibbs functions. The Maxwell relations. Concept of chemical potential. Applications to simple systems. Joule free expansion. Joule-Kelvin effect. Equilibrium conditions. Phase equilibria, Clausius-Clapeyron equation. The third law of thermodynamics and its consequences – inaccessibility of the absolute zero.
Statistical Concepts and Statistical Basis of Thermodynamics
Basic statistical concepts. Microscopic and macroscopic descriptions of thermodynamic systems. Statistical basis of Thermodynamics. Boltzmann entropy formula. Temperature and pressure. Statistical properties of molecules in a gas. Basic concepts of probability and probability distributions. Counting the number of ways to place objects in boxes. Distinguishable and indistinguishable objects. Stirling approximation(s). Schottkly defect, Spin 1/2 systems. System of harmonic oscillators. Gibbsian Ensembles. Canonical Ensemble. Gibbs entropy formula. Boltzmann distribution. Partition function. Semi-classical approach. Partition function of a single particle. Partition function of N non-interacting particles. Helmholtz free energy. Pauli paramagnetism. Semi Classical Perfect Gas. Equation of state. Entropy of a monatomic gas, Sackur-Tetrode equation. Density of states. Maxwell velocity distribution. Equipartition of Energy. Heat capacities. Grand Canonical Ensemble.
Classical and Quantum Counting of Microstates. Average occupation numbers: Fermi Dirac and Bose Einstein statistics. The Classical Limit. Black Body radiation and perfect photon gas. Planck's law. Einstein theory of solids. Debye theory of solids.
To provide an introduction to solid state physics. To provide foundations for the further study of materials and condensed matter, and details of solid state electronic and opto-electronic devices.
Interaction potential for atoms and ions. Definitions, crystal types. Miller indices. Reciprocal lattice. Diffraction methods.
Dynamics of Vibrations.
Lattice dynamics, phonon dispersion curves, experimental techniques.
Electrons in k-space: metals.
Free electron theory of metals. Density of states. Fermi-Dirac distribution. Band theory of solids - Bloch's theorem. Distinction between metals and insulators. Electrical conductivity according to classical and quantum theory. Hall effect.
Band structure of ideal semiconductor. Density of states and electronic/hole densities in conduction/valence band. Intrinsic carrier density. Doped semiconductors.
Definitions of dia, para, ferromagnetism. Magnetic moments. General treatment of paramagnetism, Curie's law. Introduction to ferromagnetism.
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
equations of state for an ideal multiple chemical component star; degenerated stars, Nuclear reactions: PPI, PPII, PPIII chains; CNO cycle, Triple-alpha process; elemental abundances; energy transportation inside a star; derivation of the approximate opacity and energy generation models as function of density, temperature and chemical components; Solar neutrino problem; polytropic models applied to the equations of stars; Lane-Emden equation; Chandrasekhar mass; the Eddington Luminosity and the upper limit of mass; detailed stellar models; Post main sequence evolution of solar mass stars; Red Giants; White Dwarfs; Neutron Stars; Degenerate matter; properties of white dwarfs; Chandrasekhar limit; neutron stars; pulsars; Supernovae
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; Einstein Rings, black holes, gravitational waves; Brief survey of the universe; Olbers paradox, Cosmology, principles, FRW Metric, Laws of Motion & Distances, Friedmann equation, Scale Factor, Fluid equation, The Hubble Parameter, Critical Density parameter, Cosmological Constant parameter, Radiation-Matter-Dark Energy phases; The CMB, Temperature Horizons. Monopoles. Flatness problem. Hubble sphere, Inflation, Anisotropies, Polarisation Baryon Acoustic Oscillations, Secondary anisotropies; Baryosynthesis, Nucleosynthesis, Dark Matter observations, Lensing, Bullet Cluster, Dark Matter candidates, Cosmic Distance Ladder, Redshifts Galaxy surveys; Acceleration equation, Deceleration equation, Supernova as standard candles, Dark Energy, Einstein Field equations, Coincidence problem, The Cosmic Dark Ages & AGN Reionisation, High-z galaxies
To provide experience in laboratory based experimentation, data recording and analysis and drawing of conclusions.
To develop report writing skills for scientific material.
To develop the ability to undertake investigations where, as part of the exercise, the goals and methods have to be defined by the investigator.
To develop skills in literature searches and reviews.
The module has two parts: Laboratory experiments and a mini-project. For half the term the students will work in pairs on a series of 3 two-week experiments. A report will be written by each student for each experiment.
Gamma ray spectroscopy.
Mini-projects. For half the term, the students will work in pairs on a mini-project. These will be more open-ended tasks than the experiments, with only brief introductions stating the topic to be investigated with an emphasis on independent learning. A report will be written by each student on their project.
This module will introduce students to basic concepts in nuclear and particle physics, and will provide an understanding of how the principles of quantum mechanics are used to describe matter at sub-atomic length scales. The following concepts will be covered:
* Properties of nuclei: Rutherford scattering. Size, mass and binding energy, stability, spin and parity.
* Nuclear Forces: properties of the deuteron, magnetic dipole moment, spin-dependent forces.
* Nuclear Models: Semi-empirical mass formula M(A, Z), stability, binding energy B(A, Z)/A. Shell model, magic numbers, spin-orbit interaction, shell closure effects.
* Alpha and Beta decay: Energetics and stability, the positron, neutrino and anti-neutrino.
* Nuclear Reactions: Q-value. Fission and fusion reactions, chain reactions and nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons, solar energy and the helium cycle.
* Experimental methods in Nuclear and Particle Physics (Accelerators, detectors, analysis methods, case studies will be given).
* Discovery of elementary particles and the standard model of particles
* Leptons, quarks and vector bosons
* The concept of four different forces and fields in classical and quantum physics; mediation of forces via virtual particles, Feynman Diagrams
* Relativistic Kinematics
* Relativistic Quantum Mechanics and Prediction of Antiparticles
* Symmetries and Conservation Laws
* Hadron flavours, isospin, strangeness and the quark model
* Weak Interactions, W and Z bosons
The 2022/23 annual tuition fees for this course are:
- Home full-time £9,250
- EU full-time £15,900
- International full-time £21,200
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.*
Your fee status
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.
General additional costs
Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.
We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.Search scholarships
Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details.
You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.
Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.
The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence
At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence.
The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of A*AA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.
Teaching and assessment
Teaching is by lectures, practical classes, tutorials and workshops. You have an average of nine one-hour lectures, one or two days of practical or project work and a number of workshops each week. The practical modules include specific study skills in physics and general communication skills.
Assessment is by written examinations at the end of each year and by continuous assessment of practical classes and other written assignments. Your final degree result is made up of a combined mark from the Stage 2 and 3 assessments with a 40/60 weighting.
For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours. The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules. Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.
Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules. Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.
The programme aims to:
- Foster an enthusiasm for physics by exploring the ways in which it is core to our understanding of nature and fundamental to many other scientific disciplines.
- Develop an appreciation of the importance of astrophysics and its role in understanding how our universe came about and how it continues to exist and develop.
- Enhance an appreciation of the application of physics in different contexts.
- Foster an enthusiasm for astrophysics and an appreciation of its application in current research.
- Involve students in a stimulating and satisfying experience of learning within a research-led environment.
- Motivate and support a wide range of students in their endeavours to realise their academic potential.
- Provide students with a balanced foundation of physics knowledge and practical skills and an understanding of scientific methodology.
- Enable students to undertake and report on an experimental and/or theoretical investigation.
- Develop in students a range of transferable skills of general value.
- Enable students to apply their skills and understanding to the solution of theoretical and practical problems.
- Provide students with a knowledge base that allows them to progress into more specialised areas of physics and space science, or into multi-disciplinary areas involving physical principles.
- Generate in students an appreciation of the importance of physics in the industrial, economic, environmental and social contexts.
Knowledge and understanding
You gain knowledge and understanding in physical laws and principles, as well as their applications. The areas covered include:
- Classical and quantum mechanics.
- Statistical physics and thermodynamics.
- Wave phenomena and the properties of matter as fundamental aspects.
- Nuclear and particle physics.
- Condensed matter physics.
- Plasmas and fluids.
You also gain an understanding of the theory and practice of astrophysics, and of those aspects upon which it depends – a knowledge of key physics, the use of electronic data processing and analysis, and modern day mathematical and computational tools.
You gain intellectual skills in how to:
- Identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems and make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
- Solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
- Execute an experiment or investigation, analyse the results and draw valid conclusions.
- Evaluate the level of uncertainty in experimental results and compare the results to expected outcomes, theoretical predictions or published data in order to evaluate their significance.
- Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical phenomena.
- Comment critically on how telescopes (operating at various wavelengths) are designed, their principles of operation, and their use in astronomy and astrophysics research.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- The use of communications and IT packages for the retrieval of information and analysis of data.
- How to present and interpret information graphically.
- How to communicate scientific information, in particular to produce clear and accurate scientific reports.
- The use of laboratory apparatus and techniques, including aspects of health and safety
- The systematic and reliable recording of experimental data.
- An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing your own learning.
You gain transferable skills in:
- Problem-solving, including the ability to formulate problems in precise terms, identify key issues and have the confidence to try different approaches.
- Independent investigative skills including the use of textbooks, other literature, databases and interaction with colleagues.
- Communication skills when dealing with surprising ideas and difficult concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts and presenting complex information in a clear and concise manner.
- Analytical skills, including the ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, construct logical arguments, use technical language correctly and pay attention to detail.
- Personal skills including the ability to work independently, use initiative, organise your time to meet deadlines and interact constructively with other people.
Of final-year Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics students who completed the National Student Survey 2021, 91% were satisfied with the overall quality of their course.
Kent Physics graduates have an excellent employment record with recent graduates going on to work for employers:
- Defence Science and Technology
- Rolls Royce
You graduate with an excellent grounding in scientific knowledge and extensive laboratory experience. In addition, you also develop the key transferable skills sought by employers, such as:
- excellent communication skills
- work independently or as part of a team
- the ability to solve problems and think analytically
- time management.
You can also enhance your degree studies by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering.
Help finding a job
The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service which can give you advice on how to:
- apply for jobs
- write a good CV
- perform well in interviews.
The experience you have gained in your placement year will be attractive to employers, putting you in a good position as you look for full-time employment.
Fully accredited by the Institute of Physics.
Apply for Physics with Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)
This course page is for the 2022/23 academic year. Please visit the current online prospectus for a list of undergraduate courses we offer.
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