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

Undergraduate Course: Astrophysics: Galaxies and Cosmology (PHYS10112)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Physics and Astronomy CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course begins from a premise of no prior knowledge or experience of Astrophysics, but a solid background in both Physics and Mathematics; references to textbooks covering basic astronomical terminology and concepts will be provided, for the benefit of those students with no astrophysical background. Students are introduced first to the nature of galaxies through examination of our own Milky Way. The course then considers other galaxies in the nearby Universe, before extended to cosmological distances and considering the evolution of galaxies across cosmic time. The latter part of the course introduces the principles of cosmology and the nature and evolution of the Universe as a whole.

The course is a core course for all Astrophysics students in Semester 2 of Senior Honours, and is designed to be accessible to students in all other degree programmes within the School of Physics & Astronomy. The course is self-contained, but is also intended to link naturally with the Astrophysics: Stars and Planets course which runs in Semester 1. Taken together, these two courses should provide students with a solid, balanced, physics-based understanding of the structure of our Universe, and our place within space and time.
Course description - Interstellar extinction
- Stroemgren spheres
- Thermal balance in the Interstellar medium
- The Milky Way galaxy
- Normal galaxies: morphology, gas/stellar content and dynamics
- Active galaxies: the AGN zoo, supermassive black holes as the central power source, the unified model
- The distance scale: the cosmic distance ladder, distance measures within the Milky Way, extra-galactic distance measures, Hubble's Law
- The galaxy distribution: number counts and luminosity functions, the local group, large-scale structure, galaxy clusters
- Galaxy evolution: basics of galaxy evolution models, selection and properties of high-redshift galaxy populations, evolution of cosmic star-formation rate and stellar-mass density.
- The assumptions underpinning the Big Bang cosmological model
- The Robertson-Walker spacetime and light propagation within it
- The dynamics and expansion histories of cosmological models dominated by different perfect fluids
- The thermal history of the Universe
- The inhomogeneous Universe: the growth of structure and the derivation of cosmological constraints from it
- The "problems" of the Big Bang model.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Modern Physics (PHYS08045) AND Thermal Physics (PHYS09061) AND ( Fourier Analysis (PHYS09054) OR Fourier Analysis and Statistics (PHYS09055))
It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Astrophysics: Stars and Planets (PHYS10111)
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Astrophysics (PHYS10102) AND Cosmology (PHYS10101)
Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 40, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 18, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Revision Session Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 132 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 100 %, Coursework 0 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% Exam
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)3:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain the nature of galaxies, their formation and their evolution, and the cosmological nature of the Universe
  2. Apply knowledge of core concepts in physics to derive astrophysical properties of galaxies and the Universe
  3. Formulate solutions to astrophysical problems related to galaxies and cosmology, involving new concepts, with limited guidance
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of the frontiers of the discipline, for example, through cases where current theories fail to explain a set of observational data
  5. Demonstrate a high degree of independence in learning and retrieving information on galaxies and cosmology from the primary research literature, books and other sources.
Reading List
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills On completing this course students will have developed an enhanced ability to understand complex material and to draw information from different areas of physics and apply it to real-life situations within our Universe. Students will enhance their numerical, analytic, and problem-solving skills, as well as their study skills
Course organiserProf Bob Mann
Tel: (0131) 668 8338
Course secretaryMiss Alex Delaney
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