Astronomy

Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)

Overview

Are you inspired by the wonders and vastness of the Universe? Do you want to investigate the possibilities of life elsewhere within it? If so, this course is for you. At Kent, you get involved with real space missions from ESA and NASA, and can work on Hubble Telescope data and images from giant telescopes or work with our own new Beacon Observatory.

The School of Physical Sciences is a dynamic multidisciplinary department, achieving national and international excellence in physics, chemistry, and forensic science. We offer a broad training in physics, and provide an ideal preparation for a wide range of careers in the manufacturing and service industries as well as education, the media and the financial sector.

Our degree programme

Astronomy, space science and astrophysics allow us to see the Universe and our place in it. Through studying these subjects, mankind has continually enlarged its horizons and explored the cosmos. The subjects continually evolve and change every year based on discoveries by researchers around the world.

In your first year, you get to grips with the broad knowledge base on which physical science is built, studying astronomy and special relativity, computing skills, mathematics, mechanics, electricity, thermodynamics, laboratory and computational skills.

Your second year covers a broad range of subjects such as the multiwavelength universe and exoplanets, spacecraft design and operations, data analysis in astronomy and planetary science, atomic and nuclear physics, quantum physics, mathematical techniques and electromagnetism and optics.

In your final year, the combination of specialist modules and laboratory work on individual and group projects opens avenues for even deeper exploration: for example, stars, galaxies and the Universe, the Sun, the Earth and Mars, thermal and statistical physics and relativity, optics, and Maxwell’s equations.

Student view

ASSA student Emma Spyrides explains what studying at the University of Kent is like. 

Year in industry

You can take this degree as a four-year programme and spend a year working on a placement. For more details, see Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics with a Year in Industry.

MPhys programme

You also have the option of doing a four-year MPhys programme and working as part of a research group doing cutting-edge work. For details, see Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics.

Study resources

The 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.

You have access to first-class research facilities in new laboratories. These are well equipped for synthetic and analytical techniques ranging from soft organic polymers to nanoparticles to highly sensitive organometallic species.

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.

Extra activities

The School of Physical Sciences is home to an international scientific community of physics and astronomy, chemistry and forensic science students. Numerous formal and informal opportunities for discussion make it easy to participate in the academic life of the School. All students have an academic adviser and we also run a peer mentoring scheme.

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 School also works collaboratively with business partners, which allows you to see how our research influences current practice.

You can also take part in:

  • the School’s Physical Sciences Colloquia, a popular series of talks given by internal and external experts on relevant and current topics
  • the student-run Physics and Space Societies, which organise talks with top industry professionals, practical demonstrations and social events

Professional networks

The School of Physical Sciences also has links with:

  • the Home Office
  • optical laboratories
  • local health authorities
  • aerospace/defence industries
  • software and engineering companies Interpol.

Entry requirements

Choosing Kent as your firm choice for this programme could result in a lower tariff offer than those listed below. Please contact the School for more information at spsadmissions@kent.ac.uk.  

Home/EU students

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. 

Please note that meeting this typical offer/minimum requirement does not guarantee an offer being made.Please also see our general entry requirements.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

  • Certificate

    A level

    BBB, including A level Mathematics at B (not Use of Mathematics)

  • Certificate

    Access to HE Diploma

    The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

    If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

  • Certificate

    BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

    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.

  • Certificate

    International Baccalaureate

    34 points overall or 14 at Higher, including Mathematics 5 at HL or 6 at SL (not Mathematics Studies)

International students

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 are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme. 

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Course structure

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.

Stage 1

Compulsory modules currently include

Introduction to Special Relativity:

Inadequacy of Galilean Transformation; Postulates of Relativity; Lorentz transformation; Time dilation, length contraction and simultaneity; Special relativity paradoxes; Invariant intervals; Momentum and energy in special relativity; Equivalence of mass and energy.

Introduction to Astronomy:

Astronomical coordinate systems and conversions; Positions and motions of stars; Timekeeping systems; Introduction to the distance scale.

Introduction to Astrophysics and Cosmology:

Stellar luminosity and magnitudes; Magnitude systems; Colour of stars; Stellar spectral classification; Evolution of stars, Hertzsprung-Russell diagram; Cosmological principle; Redshift; Hubble constant; Space expansion.

Find out more about PH304

Derivatives and Integrals: Derivatives of elementary functions, chain rule, product rule, Integrals of elementary functions, Evaluation by substitution, Integration by parts, Area under the graph of a function.

Vectors: Basic properties, linear dependence, scalar and vector products, triple products, vector identities.

Matrices: Matrix representation, systems of equations, products, inverses, determinants, solution of linear systems, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, transformations.

Elementary Functions: Binomial coefficients, expansions and series, Maclaurin series, Taylor series, Exponential functions, Hyperbolic functions, Inverse functions.

Functions of a single variable: Linear and quadratic functions, polynomials, rational functions, limits, infinite series, approximation of functions.

Complex numbers: Quadratic equations, Argand diagram, modulus, Argument, complex exponential, de Moivre's theorem, roots of polynomials.

Find out more about PH311

Differential Equations: Solving differential equations, separable equations, linearity, homogeneity, first and second order equations, particular integrals. Boundary and initial values, auxiliary equations with complex roots, coefficients and terms, examples from physics.

Partial Derivatives: functions of two variables , partial derivatives, directional derivatives, functions many variables, higher derivatives, function of a function, implicit differentiation, differentiation of an integral w.r.t a parameter, Taylor expansions, stationary points.

Elementary multivariate Calculus: the chain rule, Multiple integrals, integrals over rectangles/irregular areas in the plane, change of order of integration.

Polar Coordinates: Cylindrical polar coordinates in two and three dimensions, integrals, spherical coordinates, solid angle.

Introduction to Vector Calculus : Gradients, Divergence, Gauss's theorem, Curl, Stokes' theorem.

Find out more about PH312

Measurement and motion; Dimensional analysis, Motion in one dimension: velocity, acceleration, motion with constant acceleration, Motion in a plane with constant acceleration, projectile motion, uniform circular motion, and Newton's laws of motion.

Work, Energy and Momentum; Work, kinetic energy, power, potential energy, relation between force and potential energy, conservation of energy, application to gravitation and simple pendulum, momentum, conservation of linear momentum, elastic and inelastic collisions.

Rotational Motion; Rotational motion: angular velocity, angular acceleration, rotation with constant angular acceleration, rotational kinetic energy, moment of inertia, calculation of moment of inertia of a rod, disc or plate, torque, angular momentum, relation between torque and angular momentum, conservation of angular momentum.

Concept of field; 1/r2 fields; Gravitational Field; Kepler's Laws, Newton's law of gravitation, Gravitational potential, the gravitational field of a spherical shell by integration.

Oscillations and Mechanical Waves; Vibrations of an elastic spring, simple harmonic motion, energy in SHM, simple pendulum, physical pendulum, damped and driven oscillations, resonance, mechanical waves, periodic waves, their mathematical representation using wave vectors and wave functions, derivation of a wave equation, transverse and longitudinal waves, elastic waves on a string, principle of superposition, interference and formation of standing waves, normal modes and harmonics, sound waves with examples of interference to form beats, and the Doppler Effect. Phase velocity and group velocity.

Find out more about PH321

Properties of Light and Optical Images; Wave nature of light. Reflection, refraction, Snell’s law, total internal reflection, refractive index and dispersion, polarisation. Huygens' principle, geometrical optics including reflection at plane and spherical surfaces, refraction at thin lenses, image formation, ray diagrams, calculation of linear and angular magnification, magnifying glass, telescopes and the microscope.

Electric Field; Discrete charge distributions, charge, conductors, insulators, Coulomb’s law, electric field, electric fields lines, action of electric field on charges, electric field due to a continuous charge distribution, electric potential, computing the electric field from the potential, calculation of potential for continuous charge distribution.

Magnetic Field; Force on a point charge in a magnetic field, motion of a point charge in a magnetic field, mass spectrometer and cyclotron.

Electric current and Direct current circuits, electric current, resistivity, resistance and Ohm’s Law, electromotive force, ideal voltage and current sources, energy and power in electric circuits, theory of metallic conduction, resistors in series and in parallel, Kirchhoff’s rules and their application to mesh analysis, electrical measuring instruments for potential difference and current, potential divider and Wheatstone’s bridge circuits, power transfer theorem, transient current analysis in RC, RL, LC and LRC circuits using differential equations.

Alternating Current Circuits; Phasor and complex number notation introduced for alternating current circuit analysis, reactance and complex impedance for Capacitance and Inductance, application to LRC series and parallel circuits. Series and parallel resonance, AC potential dividers and filter circuits, Thevenin's theorem, AC bridge circuits to measure inductance and capacitance, mutual inductance, the transformer and its simple applications.

Find out more about PH322

Static Equilibrium, Elasticity and fluids; Elasticity: stress, strain, Hooke's law, Young's modulus, shear modulus, forces between atoms or molecules, intermolecular potential energy curve, equilibrium separation, Morse and 6-12 potentials, microscopic interpretation of elasticity, relation between Young's modulus and parameters of the interatomic potential energy curve, the nature of interatomic forces, the ionic bond, calculation of the energy to separate the ions in an ionic crystal, viscosity of fluids, Poiseuille's law, Stokes' law.

Thermodynamics; Thermal equilibrium, temperature scales, thermal expansion of solids, relation between thermal expansion and the interatomic potential energy curve, the transfer of thermal energy: conduction, convection, radiation, the ideal-gas law, Boltzmann's constant, Avogadro's number, the universal gas constant. The kinetic theory of gases, pressure of a gas, molecular interpretation of temperature, molecular speeds, mean free path, specific heat, molar specific heat. The equipartition theorem, degrees of freedom. Heat capacities of monatomic and diatomic gases and of solids. Internal energy of a thermodynamic system, the first law of thermodynamics, work and the PV diagram of a gas., work done in an isothermal expansion of an ideal gas. Molar heat capacities of gases at constant pressure and at constant volume and the relation between them. Adiabatic processes for an ideal gas. Heat engines and the Kelvin statement of the second law of thermodynamics, efficiency of a heat engine. Refrigerators and the Clausius statement of the second law of thermodynamics. Equivalence of the Kelvin and Clausius statements. The Carnot cycle, the Kelvin temperature scale.

Atoms; The nuclear atom, Rutherford scattering and the nucleus, Bohr model of the atom, energy level calculation and atom spectra, spectral series for H atom. Limitation of Bohr theory. Photoelectric Effect. Blackbody Radiation. Compton scattering. X-ray diffraction. De Broglie hypothesis. Electron diffraction. Introduction to wavefunctions, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Find out more about PH323

Standard Lectures:

How Physical Sciences are taught at Kent.

Library use. Bibliographic database searches.

Error analysis and data presentation. Types of errors; combining errors; Normal distribution; Poisson distribution; graphs – linear and logarithmic.

Probability and Statistics. Probability distributions, laws of probability, permutations and combinations, mean and variance.

Academic integrity and report writing skills.

Laboratory experiments:

A number of experiments in weekly sessions; some of the experiments require two consecutive weeks to complete.

Experiments introduce students to test equipment, data processing and interpretation and cover subjects found in the Physics degree program which include the following topics:

Mechanics, Astronomy/Astrophysics, statistical and probability analysis, numerical simulations, electric circuits and Thermodynamics.

Computing Skills:

Introduction to the concept of programming/scripting languages. Introduction to operating systems: including text editors, the directory system, basic utilities and the edit-compile-run cycle.

Introduction to the use of variables, constants, arrays and different data types; iteration and conditional branching.

Modular design: Use of programming subroutines and functions. Simple input/output, such as the use of format statements for reading and writing, File handling, including practical read/write of data files.

Producing graphical representation of data, including histograms. Interpolating data and fitting functions.

Programming to solve physical problems.

Introduction to typesetting formal scientific documents.

Find out more about PH370

Stage 2

Compulsory modules currently include

Revision of classical descriptions of matter as particles, and electromagnetic radiation as waves.

Some key experiments in the history of quantum mechanics. The concept of wave-particle duality.

The wavefunction. Probability density. The Schrodinger equation. Stationary states.

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 as a model for atomic vibrations.

Revision of classical descriptions of rotation. Rotation in three dimensions as a model for molecular rotation.

The Coulomb potential as a model for the hydrogen atom. The quantum numbers l, m and n. The wavefunctions of the hydrogen atom.

Physical observables represented by operators. Eigenfunctions and eigenvalues. Expectation values. Time independent perturbation theory.

Find out more about PH502

Atomic Physics

Review of previous stages in the development of quantum theory with application to atomic physics; Atomic processes and the excitation of atoms; Electric dipole selection rules; atom in magnetic field; normal Zeeman effect; Stern Gerlach experiment; Spin hypothesis; Addition of orbital and spin angular moments; Lande factor; Anomalous Zeeman effect; Complex atoms; Periodic table; General Pauli principle and electron antisymmetry; Alkali atoms; ls and jj coupling; X-rays. Lamb-shift and hyperfinestructure (if time).

Nuclear Physics

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.

Find out more about PH503

SYLLABUS

Electromagnetism

Vectors: Review of Grad, Div & Curl; and other operations

Electrostatics: Coulomb's Law, electric field and potential, Gauss's Law in integral and differential form; the electric dipole, forces and torques.

Isotropic dielectrics: Polarization; Gauss's Law in dielectrics; electric displacement and susceptibility; capacitors; energy of systems of charges; energy density of an electrostatic field; stresses; boundary conditions on field vectors.

Poisson and Laplace equations.

Electrostatic images: Point charge and plane; point and sphere, line charges.

Magnetic field: Field of current element or moving charge; Div B; magnetic dipole moment, forces and torques; Ampere's circuital law.

Magnetization: Susceptibility and permeability; boundary conditions on field vectors; fields of simple circuits.

Electromagnetic induction: Lenz’s law, inductance, magnetic energy and energy density;

Optics

Field equations: Maxwell's equations; the E.M. wave equation in free space.

Irradiance: E.M. waves in complex notation.

Polarisation: mathematical description of linear, circular and elliptical states; unpolarised and partially polarised light; production of polarised light; the Jones vector.

Interference: Classes of interferometers – wavefront splitting, amplitude splitting. Basic concepts including coherence.

Diffraction: Introduction to scalar diffraction theory: diffraction at a single slit, diffraction grating.

Find out more about PH504

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

SYLLABUS:

Observing the Universe

Telescopes and detectors, and their use to make observations across the electromagnetic spectrum. Basic Definitions: Magnitudes, solid angle, intensity, flux density, absolute magnitude, parsec, distance modulus, bolometric magnitude, spectroscopic parallax, Hertzsprung-Russel diagram, Stellar Photometry: Factors affecting signal from a star. Detectors: Examples, Responsive Quantum Efficiency, CCD cameras. Filters, UBV system, Colour Index as temperature diagnostic.

Extra Solar Planets

The evidence for extrasolar planets will be presented and reviewed. The implications for the development and evolution of Solar Systems will be discussed.

Astrophysics

Basic stellar properties, stellar spectra. Formation and Evolution of stars. Stellar structure: description of stellar structure and evolution models, including star and planet formation. Stellar motions: Space velocity, proper motion, radial velocity, Local Standard of Rest, parallax. Degenerate matter: concept of degenerate pressure, properties of white dwarfs, Chandrasekhar limit, neutron stars, pulsars, Synchrotron radiation, Schwarzschild radius, black holes, stellar remnants in binary systems.

Find out more about PH507

Aims:

(1) To provide a basic understanding of the major subsystems of a spacecraft system.

(2) To provide basic frameworks for understanding of spacecraft trajectory and orbits, including interplanetary orbits, launch phase and attitude control.

(3) To provide an awareness of the basic ideas of how space is a business/commercial opportunity and some of the management tools required in business.

SYLLABUS:

Low Earth Orbit Environment

The vacuum, radiation etc environment that a spacecraft encounters in Low Earth Orbit is introduced and its effect on spacecraft materials discussed.

Spacecraft systems

A basic introduction to spacecraft and their environment. Covers Spacecraft structures and materials, thermal control, power systems, attitude control systems, the rocket equation and propulsion.

Project management

This discusses: the evolving framework in which world-wide public and private sector space activities are conceived, funded and implemented. The basics of business planning and management.

Orbital mechanics for spacecraft

Students will find out how basic Celestial Mechanics relates to the real world of satellite/spacecraft missions. Following an overview of the effects of the Earth’s environment on a satellite, the basic equations-of-motion are outlined in order to pursue an understanding of the causes and effects of orbit perturbations. A description is given of different types of orbit and methods are outlined for the determination and prediction of satellite and planetary orbits. Launch phase is also considered, and the module concludes with an assessment of Mission Analysis problems such as choice of orbit, use of ground stations, satellite station-keeping and orbit lifetimes.

Find out more about PH508

SYLLABUS:

This module focuses on the use of data processing and analysis techniques as applied to astronomical data from telescopes. Students will learn how telescopes and CCD cameras work, to process astronomical images and spectra and apply a range of data analysis techniques using multiple software packages. Students will also engage in the scientific interpretation of images and spectra of astronomical objects.

  • Use of Virtual Observatories for accessing astronomical databases and applying analysis tools to the data files retrieved (with particular emphasis on the Aladdin system); astronomical image formats.

  • Astrometry: Measuring coordinates of celestial objects from images.

  • Photometry: Determining magnitudes of variable stars and/or solar system bodies.

  • Spectroscopy: Determining spectral properties of variable stars and/or solar system bodies.

  • Image Analysis and Enhancement with AIP: Quantifying digital imagery in more detail than Aladdin, and applying a range of techniques (primarily through the use of image operators and convolution kernels).

    Find out more about PH512

  • SYLLABUS:

    Most practicing physicists at some point will be required to perform experiments and take measurements. This module, through a series of experiments, seeks to allow students to become familiar with some more complex apparatus and give them the opportunity to learn the art of accurate recording and analysis of data. This data has to be put in the context of the theoretical background and an estimate of the accuracy made. Keeping of an accurate, intelligible laboratory notebook is most important. Three 3 week experiments are performed. The remaining period is allocated to some additional activities to develop communication skills.

    Find out more about PH520

    Most physically interesting problems are governed by ordinary, or partial differential equations. It is examples of such equations that provide the motivation for the material covered in this module, and there is a strong emphasis on physical applications throughout. The aim of the module is to 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. The following topics will be covered: Ordinary differential equations: method of Frobenius, general linear second order differential equation. Special functions: Bessel, Legendre, Hermite, Laguerre and Chebyshev functions, orthogonal functions, gamma function, applications of special functions. Partial differential equations; linear second order partial differential equations; Laplace equation, diffusion equation, wave equation, Schrödinger’s equation; Method of separation of variables. Fourier series: application to the solution of partial differential equations. Fourier Transforms: Basic properties and Parseval’s theorem.

    Find out more about PH588

    Stage 3

    Compulsory modules currently include

    The introductory workshops cover the general objectives of the module and a presentation of the specific topics available in the current year (students are explicitly encouraged to offer alternate topics provided they are able to secure the agreement of the module convenor). Additional workshops provide opportunities to discuss and share ideas, and to introduce what is needed within a successful presentation (the presentations are filmed, and the resulting DVD used for detailed feedback and for other purposes provided that the informed written consent of all group members is forthcoming). There is a distinct ‘role play’ element to the conduct of the module. Students may be given the opportunity to define their own groupings provided that there is overall agreement within the peer group, but the convenor will retain the right to define both the overall parameters (e.g. the number of students to be in each group) and the final assignment of students into groups if that proves to be necessary. Students then make a choice of topic and elect their group project manager. The groups arrange their own regular meetings, which will be minuted; the supervisor may be present at these sessions. The group will produce a word-processed report on the work undertaken; it will also present the work in appropriate ‘public’ forms (a poster and a talk). The report will include a statement on the group’s project methodology, presented in the context of their initial draft work plan and tasks assignment, as well as a statement describing the individual contributions to the group’s aims and objectives.

    The project themes vary widely depending on student preferences/interests, but for example could fall in one of the following general categories:

    o linked specifically to the goals of a suitable industrial partner;

    o off-campus interactions, such as working with a school physics group or small business in the local area;

    o the production of an instruction booklet, teaching aid or video aimed at a pre-define audience;

    o a design project for a piece of instrumentation or a computational code;

    o a survey or analysis of a physics-centred contemporary issue of scientific, social, political or ethical interest or concern;

    o the input of physics to interdisciplinary issues such as those associated with environmental or conservation science.

    Find out more about PH603

    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.

    Find out more about PH604

    1. Thermodynamics

    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.

    2. 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.

    3. Quantum Statistics

    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.

    Find out more about PH605

    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.

    SYLLABUS

    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.

    Galaxies

  • 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.

    Find out more about PH607

  • Aims:

    To understand the nature of the solar activities, emissions and its properties, and its effects on the Earth’s atmosphere and the near-Earth space within which spacecraft operate.

    To have a familiarity with the modes of operation of remote sensing and communications satellites, understanding their function and how their instruments work

    To be familiar with the current space missions to Mars and their impact on our understanding of that planet.

    Solar Terrestrial physics

    The sun: Overall structure, magnetic field and solar activities.

    Interactions with Earth: plasma physics, solar wind, Earth’s magnetic field.

    Ionospheric physics. Terrestrial physics: Earth’s energy balance, Atmosphere. Environmental effects.

    Remote Sensing

    Modes of operation of remote sensing satellite instruments: radio, microwave, visual and infrared instruments. Basic uses of the instruments. Digital image processing, structure of digital images, image-processing overview, information extraction. environmental applications: UV radiation and Ozone concentration, climate and weather.

    Martian Science

    An overview of recent and future Mars space missions and their scientific aims. Discussions of the new data concerning Mars and the changing picture of Mars that is currently emerging.

    Find out more about PH608

    In Stage 1 and Stage 2, students frequently apply analytical methods to physical problem solving. This module provides a foundation in numerical approximations to analytical methods – these techniques are essential for solving problems by computer. The following topics are covered: Linear equations, zeros and roots, least squares & linear regression, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, errors and finite differences, linear programming, interpolation and plotting functions, numerical integration, , numerical differentiation, solutions to ordinary differential equations using numerical methods.

    Find out more about PH611

    Aims:

  • 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.

    Experiments include:

  • Solar cells

  • NMR

  • Hall effect

  • Gamma ray spectroscopy

  • X-ray diffraction

  • Optical 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.

    Find out more about PH617

  • Fees

    The 2020/21 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

    • Home/EU full-time £9250
    • International full-time £19800

    For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

    Full-time tuition fees for Home and EU undergraduates are £9,250.

    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.

    Additional costs

    General additional costs

    Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

    Funding

    University funding

    Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

    Government funding

    You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

    Scholarships

    General scholarships

    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 AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages

    The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either mathematics or a modern foreign language. Please review the eligibility criteria.

    Teaching and assessment

    Teaching is by lecture, laboratory sessions, and project and console classes. You have approximately nine lectures a week, plus one day of practical work. In addition, you have reading and coursework and practical reports to prepare.

    Assessment is by written examination at the end of each year, plus continuous assessment of written coursework. Practical work is examined by continuous assessment.

    Contact Hours

    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.

    Programme aims

    The programme aims to:

    • Instil a sense of enthusiasm for physics through an understanding of the role of the discipline at the core of our intellectual understanding of all aspects of nature and as the foundation of many of the pure and applied sciences.
    • Provide knowledge of its application in different contexts in an intellectually stimulating research-led environment.
    • Provide 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 the ability to to apply skills, knowledge and understanding in physics to the solution of theoretical and practical problems in physics.
    • Provide a knowledge and skills base from which students can proceed to further studies in specialised areas of physics or multi-disciplinary areas involving physical principles.
    • Generate an appreciation of the importance of physics in industrial, economic, environmental and social contexts.
    • Instil and/or enhance in you a sense of enthusiasm for astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and an appreciation of its application in current research.
    • Generate an appreciation of the importance of astronomy, astrophysics and space science and its role in understanding how the universe in which we live came about and how it continues to exist and develop.
    • Provide a grounding in space systems and technology, and the overlap between the science and commercial drivers in the aerospace industry.
    • Motivate and support a wide range of students in their endeavours to realise their academic potential.

    Learning outcomes

    Knowledge and understanding

    You gain knowledge and understanding of:

    • Physical laws and principles, and their application to diverse areas of physics including: electromagnetism, classical and quantum mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics, wave phenomena and the properties of matter as fundamental aspects, with additional material from nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter physics, materials, plasmas and fluids.
    • Aspects of the theory and practice of astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and of those aspects upon which they depend, including a knowledge of key physics, the use of electronic data processing and analysis, and modern day mathematical and computational tools.

    Intellectual skills

    You gain the following intellectual abilities:

    • Identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
    • The ability to solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
    • Execute and analyse critically the results of an experiment or investigation and draw valid conclusions, evaluate the level of uncertainty in these results and compare them with expected outcomes, theoretical predictions or with published data to evaluate the significance of their results in this context.
    • Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.
    • 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.

    Subject-specific skills

    You gain subject-specific skills in the following:

    • Competent use of C&IT packages/systems for the analysis of data and information retrieval.
    • The ability to present and interpret information graphically.
    • Communicate scientific information and produce clear, accurate scientific reports.
    • Familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.
    • The systematic and reliable recording of experimental data.
    • Use appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing your own learning.

    Transferable skills

    You gain transferable skills in the following:

    • Problem solving and the confidence to try different approaches to make progress on challenging problems and numeracy.
    • Investigative ability including the use of textbooks and other literature, databases, and interaction with colleagues.
    • Communication, such as dealing with surprising ideas and difficult concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts and presenting complex information in a clear and concise manner.
    • Analytical abilities, in particular attention to detail, to manipulate precise and intricate ideas to construct logical arguments and use technical language correctly.
    • The ability to work independently, to use initiative, meet deadlines and interact constructively with other people.

    Teaching Excellence Framework

    All University of Kent courses are regulated by the Office for Students.

    Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

    Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

    Independent rankings

    Physics and Astronomy at Kent scored 89% overall in The Complete University Guide 2021.

    Over 90% of Physics and Astronomy graduates who responded to the most recent national survey of graduate destinations were in work or further study within six months (DLHE, 2017).

    Careers

    Graduate destinations

    Kent Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics graduates have an excellent employment record with recent graduates going on to work for employers:

    • Airbus
    • The Met Office
    • Defence Engineering and Science Group (MoD)
    • BAE

    Career-enhancing skills

    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.

    Professional recognition

    Recognised by the Institute of Physics.

    Apply for Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)

    Full-time applicants

    Full-time applicants (including international applicants) should apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) system. If you need help or advice on your application, you should speak with your careers adviser or contact UCAS Customer Contact Centre. 

    The institution code number for the University of Kent is K24, and the code name is KENT.

    Application deadlines

    See the UCAS website for an outline of the UCAS process and application deadlines. 

    If you are applying for courses based at Medway, you should add the campus code K in Section 3(d).

    Apply through UCAS

    Contact us

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    International student enquiries

    Enquire online

    T: +44 (0)1227 823254
    E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk

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    Discover Uni is designed to support prospective students in deciding whether, where and what to study. The site replaces Unistats from September 2019.

    Discover Uni is jointly owned by the Office for Students, the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Scottish Funding Council.

    It includes:

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    • Information about courses
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    Find out more about the Unistats dataset on the Higher Education Statistics Agency website.