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Undergraduate Courses 2017

Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)



Kent runs a fantastic programme for students who are inspired by the wonders and vastness of the universe. In this course, there are opportunities to investigate the possibilities of life elsewhere in the universe. You get involved with real space missions from ESA and NASA, and can work on Hubble Telescope data and images from giant telescopes.

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.

Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences, practised by most of the world's ancient civilisations, and one of the most modern, relying for many recent discoveries on high technology and the space programme.

It is an observational science that provides our view of the vast ranges of scales of space, time and physical conditions in the Universe. Astrophysics emphasises the underlying physical concepts of the stars and galaxies, which make up the universe, providing an understanding of the physical nature of bodies and processes in space and the instruments and techniques used in modern astronomical research.

Space is often referred to as the final frontier of exploration by mankind. Space exploration and observations depend to a large extent on satellites and other forms of space probes. Designers of space equipment need a good understanding of physics and astrophysics, together with specialised engineering skills.

Think Kent video series

Dr Stephen Lowry, Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Kent, and a member of the science team for the OSIRIS optical camera instrument on board ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, examines what the mission has revealed about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the formation of the solar system.

Independent rankings

Physics at Kent was ranked 5th for graduate prospects in The Guardian University Guide 2017. Of those graduating in 2015 with a degree in physics or astronomy, 88% of Kent students were in work or further study within six months, according to the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey*.

*conducted by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) 

Course structure

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take ‘wild’ modules from other programmes offered by the University in order that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas of interest to you or that may further enhance your employability.

Stage 1

Possible modules may include:

PH300 - Mathematics (30 credits)

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.

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.

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.

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 , directional derivatives, function of a function, Taylor expansions, stationary points.

Differentials and Integrals: perfect differential, chain rule, multiple integrals, integrals over areas, change of order of integration.

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

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

Credits: 30 credits (15 ECTS credits).

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PH302 - Computing Skills (15 credits)

Introduction to the concept of programming languages, and to Fortran 90 in particular.

Introduction to the UNIX operating system: including text editors, the directory system, basic utilities, the edit-compile-run cycle.

Introduction to Fortran 90, including the use of variables, constants, arrays and the different Fortran data types; iteration (do-loops) and conditional branching (if statements).

Modular design : subroutines and functions, the intrinsic functions.

Simple input/output, such as the use of format statements for reading and writing, File handling, including the Fortran open and close statements, practical read/write of data files. The handling of character variables.

Programming to solve physical/chemistry problems.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH304 - Astrophysics, Space Science and Cosmology (15 credits)

Introduction to Special Relativity and Cosmology

The distance scale; Redshif;, Hubble constant; Feynmann light clock and time dilation; Lorentz constraction and simultaneity derived with light ray signals; Lerentz transformation and invariant interval; Light cones; Special relativistic paradoxes; Cosmological principle; Space expansion and concept of critical density, closed, open and flat universe; The problem of missing matter.

Introduction to, Planetary and Space Science

Solar system; Theory of orbital dynamics; Kepler’s Laws; Earth-moon system; Tidal force and the consequent phenomena; Rocket equation; Basic components of spacecraft.

Introduction to Astronomy

Astronomical coordinate systems; Positions and motions of stars; Stellar luminosity and magnitudes; Magnitude systems and the color of stars; Lluminosity; Stellar temperatures; luminosity and radi;. Stellar spectral classification; Line strength and formation. Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, mass-Luminosity relation.

Introduction to Particle Physics

Discovery of elementary particles. The concept of four different forces and fields in classical and quantum physics; Introduction to virtual particles and discovery of different particles for different type of interaction forces; Standard model of particles.

Introduction to Space Science

Rocket equation. Basic components of spacecraft.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH321 - Mechanics (15 credits)

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.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH322 - Electricity and Light (15 credits)

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.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH323 - Thermodynamics and Matter (15 credits)

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. Molecules. Solids and Liquids.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PS370 - Skills for Physicists (15 credits)

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 choice of experiments in weekly sessions. Some of the experiments require two consecutive sessions to complete.

Choice of (among others): Deduction of a law, Wind tunnel, Probability distributions, Geometrical optics on the magnetic board, Computer–aided study of electrical and electronic circuits, Heat engines, Waves, Firing projectiles with the model catapult, mechanical simulation of stabbing action, etc.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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Stage 2

Possible modules may include:

PH502 - Quantum Physics (15 credits)

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.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH503 - Atomic and Nuclear Physics (15 credits)

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.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH504 - Electromagnetism and Optics (15 credits)



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;


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.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH507 - The Multiwavelength Universe and Exoplanets (15 credits)

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.


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.


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.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH508 - Spacecraft Design and Operations (15 credits)


(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.


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.

Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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PH512 - Data Analysis Techniques in Astronomy and Planetary Science (15 credits)


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).

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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  • PH520 - Physics Laboratory A (15 credits)


    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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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    PH588 - Mathematical Techniques for Physical Sciences (15 credits)

    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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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    Stage 3

    Possible modules may include:

    PH603 - Physics Group Project (15 credits)

    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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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    PH604 - Relativity Optics and Maxwell's Equations (15 credits)

    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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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    PH605 - Thermal and Statistical Physics (15 credits)

    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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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    PH607 - Stars, Galaxies and the Universe (15 credits)

    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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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  • PH608 - The Sun, The Earth and Mars (15 credits)


    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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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    PH611 - Numerical and Computational Methods (15 credits)

    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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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    PH617 - Physics Project Laboratory (15 credits)


  • 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.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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  • PH618 - Image Processing (15 credits)

    Introduction to Matlab

    • Image representation,

    • Image formation,

    • Grey-scale transformation,

    • Enhancement and extraction of image content,

    • Fourier transforms and the frequency domain,

    • Image restoration, geometrical transformations,

    • Morphology and morphological transformations,

    • Feature extraction,

    • Segmentation.

    Credits: 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits).

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    Teaching & 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.

    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.


    Our students go into areas such as research and development, technical management, computing, software design, the media and teaching. Many also go on to postgraduate study.

    Professional recognition

    Recognised by the Institute of Physics.

    Entry requirements

    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 the Admissions Office for further advice. It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.

    Qualification Typical offer/minimum requirement
    A level

    BBB including A level Mathematics and Physics at BB (not Use of Mathematics), including the practical endorsement of any science qualifications taken

    Access to HE Diploma

    The University of Kent will not necessarily make conditional offers to all access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. If an offer is made candidates will be required 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.

    BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

    The University will consider applicants holding BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF;OCR) on a case by case basis please contact us via the enquiries tab for further advice on your individual circumstances.

    International Baccalaureate

    34 overall and 16 at Higher including Physics 5 at HL or 6 at SL and Mathematics 5 at HL or 6 at SL (not Mathematics Studies)

    International students

    The University receives applications from over 140 different nationalities and consequently will consider applications from prospective students offering a wide range of international qualifications. Our International Development Office will be happy to advise prospective students on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about our country-specific requirements.

    Please note that if you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes through Kent International Pathways.

    Qualification Typical offer/minimum requirement
    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 through Kent International Pathways.

    General entry requirements

    Please also see our general entry requirements.


    University funding

    Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. Our funding opportunities for 2017 entry have not been finalised but will be updated on our funding page in due course.

    Government funding

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

    The Government has confirmed that EU students applying for university places in the 2017 to 2018 academic year will still have access to student funding support for the duration of their course.


    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 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.

    Enquire or order a prospectus


    Read our student profiles


    Related schools


    T: +44 (0)1227 827272


    The 2017/18 tuition fees for this programme are:

    UK/EU Overseas
    Full-time £9250 £16480

    The Government has announced changes to allow undergraduate tuition fees to rise in line with inflation from 2017/18.

    The University of Kent intends to increase its regulated full-time tuition fees for all Home and EU undergraduates starting in September 2017 from £9,000 to £9,250. This is subject to us satisfying the Government's Teaching Excellence Framework and the access regulator's requirements. The equivalent part-time fees for these courses will also rise by 2.8%.

    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.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

    Key Information Sets

    The Key Information Set (KIS) data is compiled by UNISTATS and draws from a variety of sources which includes the National Student Survey and the Higher Education Statistical Agency. The data for assessment and contact hours is compiled from the most populous modules (to the total of 120 credits for an academic session) for this particular degree programme. Depending on module selection, there may be some variation between the KIS data and an individual's experience. For further information on how the KIS data is compiled please see the UNISTATS website.

    If you have any queries about a particular programme, please contact information@kent.ac.uk.

    The University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in its publicity materials is fair and accurate and to provide educational services as described. However, the courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Full details of our terms and conditions can be found at: www.kent.ac.uk/termsandconditions.

    *Where fees are regulated (such as by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills or Research Council UK) they will be increased up to the allowable level.

    Publishing Office - © University of Kent

    The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (0)1227 764000