The course lecture modules are described below. Each term has an eight character code starting with "PHAS", which corresponds to the assessment of that term's lecture modules. For convenience, lecture module titles are linked to their corresponding reference material. Other reference information, including exam papers from previous years, is on the Course Material page.
First Year Lecture Modules
Term One (PHAS1515)
Foundations of Astronomy : An overview of modern astronomy, providing an introduction to the night sky, stars, galaxies, and cosmology.
Techniques in Astronomy : Optical and mechanical properties of telescopes; recent developments in large mirrors, adaptive and active optics. Diffraction effects in telescopes and instruments; Rayleigh criterion, Airy function. High- and low-resolution spectroscopy; spectroscopic diagnostics in astrophysics. Radio Astronomy. Instruments and detector systems in space, including infrared, ultraviolet and X-ray missions.
Term Two (PHAS1516)
The Solar System : Basic geography, interior structures, surface features and atmospheres of the terrestrial planets. Plate tectonics, volcanism, seismology and radiometric dating on the Earth. Impact cratering, surface features, and origin of the Moon. Interiors, atmospheres and rings of the giant planets. Basic geography and surface features of the satellites of the giant planets. Properties of Pluto and other dwarf planets. Asteroids, meteorites, comets, and Kuiper Belt. Origin of the solar system.
The Sun and Stars : The Sun; its nuclear energy source, structure, environment and activity cycle; principal observable layers; photosphere, chromosphere, corona. Measurements of the properties of stars, including magnitudes. Luminosity, effective temperature and stellar classification, H-R diagram. Outline of stellar evolution with reference to the H-R diagram. The white dwarf, neutron star and black hole end-states of stars.
Second Year Lecture Modules
Term One (PHAS2525)
Interstellar Astronomy : Overview of the interstellar medium; ionised, atomic and molecular gas. Examples from red giant envelopes, planetary nebulae, supernova remnants, and absorption in cold gas clouds. Photoionization and recombination; heating and cooling processes. Interstellar dust; extinction and reddening. Cosmic rays. Star formation; hydrostatic equilibrium, free-fall and induced collapse; observational signatures; gas flows from star-forming regions.
Extra-solar Planets and the Search for Life : Methods for searching for planets; Doppler shifts, transits, imaging and infrared observations. Recent results and implications for theories of the formation of planetary systems. Future missions. Schematic history of the development of life on Earth. Criteria for life; habitable zones, life-times of stars; panspermia. Possibilities of life elsewhere in the solar system, including the cases of Mars, Europa and Titan (current and future spacecraft missions). Signatures for life and the role of atmospheric compositions. The Darwin mission. SETI and the prospects for intelligent life; the Drake equation, the Fermi paradox; searches for signals and artifacts from other civilisations.
Term Two (PHAS2522)
High Energy Astrophysics : High energy galactic and extragalactic sources; supernovae, gamma-ray sources, interacting binary stars, accretion disks. Production and absorption of high energy photons in the Universe. Neutrino astronomy; supernova 1987a, solar neutrino problem, neutrino detectors. Gravitational wave astronomy; general relativity, binary pulsars, LIGO and LISA detectors.
Extra-galactic Astronomy and Cosmology : Structure of the Milky Way; Hubble galaxy types, content and properties. Hubble's Law and distance indicators (Cepheids). Distribution of galaxies in clusters and super-clusters. Active galaxies and quasars. Gravitational lensing. Dark matter. Observational basis of cosmology; Olbers' paradox. History of the Universe. Friedmann models - assumptions and solutions; fundamental cosmological parameters. Origin and significance of the cosmic microwave background radiation, including WMAP results. Cosmic nucleosynthesis. Successes and failures of the standard Big Bang model. The inflationary Universe. Formation of structure in the Universe.