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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Physics and Astronomy : Undergraduate (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Undergraduate Course: High Energy Astrophysics (PHYS11013)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Physics and Astronomy CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Course typeStandard AvailabilityAvailable to all students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Year 5 Undergraduate) Credits10
Home subject areaUndergraduate (School of Physics and Astronomy) Other subject areaNone
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionThe term `High Energy Astrophysics' can be interpreted in many different ways. In the most narrow sense, it refers to observations involving high energy photons, primarily X-rays and gamma-rays. In a broader and more astrophysical view, it refers to the study of objects such as supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, binary X-ray sources, gamma-ray bursts, active galactic nuclei, radio jets, and clusters of galaxies, which involve extreme conditions, like high energies, temperatures, or densities. These objects have high energy particles, even if the photons that they emit have much lower energies. This course examines the many physical processes which are important in the structure and emission of light from extreme astrophysical sources. Starting from Maxwell's equations, the classical theory of radiation from an accelerated charge is developed, and generalised to the relativistic case. Topic studied then include: synchrotron radiation from relativistic electrons gyrating in a magnetic field; the acceleration of particles to relativistic energies; Compton and inverse Compton scattering; accretion of material onto compact objects; Radio galaxies and quasars, and their jets; bremsstrahlung emission from hot gas; cooling flows and the role of black holes in galaxy formation.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Physical Mathematics (PHYS09015)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements At least 80 credit points accrued in courses of SCQF Level 9 or 10 drawn from Schedule Q.
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
Displayed in Visiting Students Prospectus?Yes
Course Delivery Information
Delivery period: 2011/12 Semester 2, Available to all students (SV1) WebCT enabled:  Yes Quota:  None
Location Activity Description Weeks Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
OtherLectureLectures1-11 14:00 - 14:50
OtherLectureLectures1-11 14:00 - 14:50
OtherTutorialTutorials3,5,7,9,11 15:00 - 17:00
First Class Week 1, Tuesday, 14:00 - 14:50, Zone: Other. ROE Lecture Theatre
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours:Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)High Energy Astrophysics2:00
Summary of Intended Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

1) From Maxwell's equations, derive & solve wave equations for the electrostatic & magnetic vector potentials; discuss & apply the Lorentz condition;
2) Demonstrate that Maxwell's theory conforms to Special Relativity;
3) Define the distant zone; solve wave equation there;
4) Obtain electric & magnetic fields from the potentials in general, & in the distant zone;
5) Understand & apply the Poynting vector;
6) Derive Larmor's non-relativistic formula, & discuss effects of enhanced energy loss & beaming of radiation, for relativistically-moving charges;
7) Derive & apply the relativistic Larmor formula;
8) Demonstrate understanding of four-vectors, the summation convention, invariants;
9) Derive the orbit of a relativistic particle in a uniform magnetic field; compute its loss-rate;
10) Derive approximately the peak frequency of synchrotron radiation;
11) Show that the spectrum of synchrotron radiation is a power-law and a cutoff;
12) Argue that synchrotron radiation is polarised; derive the spectrum of radiation for a power-law energy distribution of electron; discuss synchrotron self-absorption;
13) Show that there is a minimum energy configuration to account for observed synchrotron emission;
14) Describe the physical process of diffusive shock acceleration, & derive the power-law energy slope for particles in non-relativistic shocks;
15) Derive Compton scattering effects using conservation of 4-momentum;
16) Describe inverse Compton scattering, & compute approximately its loss-rate & spectrum; describe the inverse Compton catastrophe & its importance in radio cores;
17) Discuss equipartition fields & the effect of losses on the spectrum;
18) Show how apparent superluminal motion may arise;
19) Derive & discuss Faraday rotation & its importance, & how to avoid its effects;
20) Derive the loss rate for Bremsstrahlung;
21) Discuss the physics of the Blandford & Rees jet model.
Assessment Information
Degree Examination, 100%
Special Arrangements
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus Not entered
Transferable skills Not entered
Reading list Not entered
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern Not entered
Course organiserDr Philip Best
Course secretaryMiss Paula Wilkie
Tel: (0131) 668 8403
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