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

Undergraduate Course: Computational Astrophysics (PHYS11037)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Physics and Astronomy CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course provides an introduction to advanced computational techniques used for numerical simulations in astrophysics involving gravity and/or fluids. The topics include N-body methods for solving gravity problems and numerical hydrodynamics techniques for fluids.

Astrophysical topics for which the methods are used include cosmological simulations of structure formation in the Universe, the evolution of stellar systems (galaxies and star clusters), the formation of stars and planetary systems, and the collisions of neutron stars and black holes as a model for gamma-ray bursters. For more information on the sort of topics to which the methods are applied, please see:

Although the examples are drawn from astrophysics, the methods taught are applicable to a wide range of problems in computational physics. The course is continuously assessed on the basis of course exercises and a computing project: there is no Degree Examination.
Course description - Ability to adapt existing direct N-body packages to solve a new problem of physical or astrophysical interest. This includes sufficient awareness of the algorithms on which the codes are based to alter the initial conditions appropriately, understand the output, check the accuracy of the results, and manipulate and display them using standard unix tools.

- Ability to formulate and understand the equations relevant for hydrodynamics in conservative and non-conservative form.

- Ability to discretise the equations relevant for hydrodynamics in conservative form.

- Ability to numerically implement as computer code a subset of the equations relevant for hydrodynamics.
- Knowledge of concepts of source terms, Eulerian and Lagrangian formulations, implicit and explicit formulations, finite difference approximations, finite difference/volume/element methods.

- Ability to describe the Particle-Mesh method of solving the Poisson equation.

- Ability to numerically implement as computer code a subset of the equations relevant for Particle-Mesh simulations.

- Ability to explain properties of the Discrete Fourier Transform.

- Ability to express the equations for gravitational dynamics in Fourier space.

- Understand the Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) implementation of the hydrodynamics equations.

- Have an understanding of the situations in which a Lagrangian treatment (as used by SPH) may be more appropriate than a Eulerian treatment.

- Understand the different techniques for calculating the gravitational force - direct versus PM versus TREE code.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Computer Modelling (PHYS09057) OR Numerical Recipes (PHYS10090)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements At least 80 points accrued in courses of SCQF level 9 or 10 drawn from Schedule Q.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 16, Dissertation/Project Supervision Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 79 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 4 items of coursework - 50%
project - 50%
Visiting Student Variant Assessment
4 items of coursework - 50%
project - 50%
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Describe and apply the finite-difference method for solving the equations of hydrodynamics
  2. Describe and apply the Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics method for solving the equations of hydrodynamics
  3. Describe and apply the direct N-body method for solving orbit dynamics of particles under Newton's laws
  4. Describe the Particle-Mesh method of solving the Poisson equation
Reading List
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information 7 hour(s) per week for 3 week(s). Workshop/Tutorial Sessions as arranged.
Course organiserProf Avery Meiksin
Tel: (0131) 668 8355
Course secretaryMiss Paula Wilkie
Tel: (0131) 668 8403
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