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

Undergraduate Course: Radiation Processes in Astrophysics (PHYS11067)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Physics and Astronomy CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Year 5 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis is a 20-credit course covering the combined topics of continuum and line radiation in Astrophysics: High Energy Astrophysics and Radiation and Matter
Course description This course examines the radiation processes on-going in astrophysical objects: both continuum processes and emission line processes. The course begins by examining the many physical processes which are important in the structure and emission of light from extreme astrophysical sources, such as supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, gamma-ray bursts, active galactic nuclei, radio jets, and clusters of galaxies, which involve extreme conditions, like high energies, temperatures, or densities. Starting from Maxwell's equations, the classical theory of radiation from an accelerated charge is developed, and generalised to the relativistic case. Topics 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. The course then considers the physics of radiation and its quantal interaction with matter, and studies this interaction in various astrophysical environments to define the nature and limitations of observation. These techniques are applied to several important and characteristic astronomical observations, such as the 21cm radiation of atomic hydrogen used to weigh galaxies, the carbon monoxide emission used to map star nurseries, and the hydrogen Lyman alpha line forest used to determine the distribution of galaxy-forming matter throughout the Universe.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Modern Physics (PHYS08045) AND ( Dynamics and Vector Calculus (PHYS08043) AND Fourier Analysis and Statistics (PHYS09055) OR Introductory Fields and Waves (PHYS08053))
It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed ( Electromagnetism (PHYS09060) OR Electromagnetism and Relativity (PHYS10093)) AND Astrophysics (PHYS10102)
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking High Energy Astrophysics (PHYS11013) AND Radiation and Matter (PHYS11020)
Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have familiarity with vector calculus, Fourier Analysis, Electromagnetism, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 44, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Revision Session Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 126 )
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 S1 (December)3:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate understanding of four-vectors; use Maxwell's equations to derive and solve wave equations for the electrostatic and magnetic vector potentials; derive Larmor's formula and apply it in astrophysical settings.
  2. Derive the properties of various astrophysical radiation processes, including Bremsstrahlung radi- ation and synchrotron radiation, and discuss the effects of charges moving relativistically.
  3. Identify the emission mechanism at work in a variety of astrophysical objects, and show how this can be used to derive physical parameters of astrophysical objects.
  4. Derive the interaction Hamiltonian; use Fermi's golden rule to give the transition rate; derive (with guidance) the dipole transition rate.
  5. Be able to calculate and explain the appearance of emission and absorption lines, in terms of optical depth and physical properties of the source such as density and temperature. Use these to predict and interpret observations of astrophysical objects, and draw conclusions as to their properties.
Reading List
No specific reading list; material will be provided through LEARN
Additional Information
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.
KeywordsBremsstrahlung,Synchrotron,AGN,High Energy Astrophysics,Radiation and Matter,Lahmor's Equation
Course organiserProf Philip Best
Tel: (0131 6)68 8358
Course secretaryMs Nicole Ross
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