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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2018-19. The current handbook year is 2019-20

Department: Physics

PHYS4231 : PLANETS AND COSMOLOGY 4

Type Open Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap Location Durham

Prerequisites

  • Foundations of Physics 1 (PHYS1122).

Corequisites

  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • Planets and Cosmology (PHYS3651).

Aims

  • This module is designed primarily for students studying Department of Physics and Natural Sciences degree programmes.
  • It provides a knowledge appropriate to Level 4 students not specialising in astronomy of the astrophysical origin of planetary systems and the cosmological origin of the Universe.
  • It develops transferable skills in researching a topic at an advanced level and making a written presentation on the findings.

Content

  • The syllabus contains:
  • Planetary Systems: Overview of the Solar System, orbital dynamics, planetary interiors, planetary atmospheres, formation of the Solar System, extrasolar planets.
  • Cosmology: Observational overview and the expansion of the Universe, the cosmological principle (homogeneity and isotropy), Newtonian gravity and the Friedmann equation, the geometry of the Universe, solutions of Friedmannʼs equations, the age of the Universe, weighing the Universe, the cosmological constant, general relativistic cosmology (the metric and Einstein equations), classic cosmology (distances and luminosities), type Ia SNe and galaxy number counts, the cosmic microwave background, the thermal history of the Universe, primordial nucleosynthesis, dark matter, problems with the hot big bang, inflation, current constraints on cosmological parameters.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module, students will understand the formation and workings of our Solar System, its orbital dynamics, and the basic physics of planetary interiors and atmospheres.
  • They will be familiar with mathematical models for the expansion, thermal history, material and energy content of a homogeneous isotropic universe, and will understand the physical basis of the model and the observational evidence that constrains it.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In addition to the acquisition of subject knowledge, students will be able to apply the principles of physics to the solution of complex problems.
  • They will know how to produce a well-structured solution, with clearly-explained reasoning and appropriate presentation.
Key Skills:
  • Students will have developed skills in researching a topic at an advanced level and making a written presentation.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be by lectures and workshops.
  • The lectures provide the means to give a concise, focused presentation of the subject matter of the module. The lecture material will be defined by, and explicitly linked to, the contents of recommended textbooks for the module, thus making clear where students can begin private study. When appropriate, the lectures will also be supported by the distribution of written material, or by information and relevant links on DUO.
  • Regular problem exercises and workshops will give students the chance to develop their theoretical understanding and problem solving skills.
  • Students will be able to obtain further help in their studies by approaching their lecturers, either after lectures or at other mutually convenient times.
  • Lecturers will provide a list of advanced topics related to the module content. Students will be required to research one of these topics in depth and write a dissertation on it. Some guidance on the research and feedback on the dissertation will be provided by the lecturer.
  • Student performance will be summatively assessed through an examination and a dissertation and formatively assessed through problem exercises and a progress test. The examination will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acquisition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem-solving skills. The dissertation will provide the means for students to demonstrate skills in researching a topic at an advanced level and making a written presentation.
  • The problem exercises and progress test will provide opportunities for feedback, for students to gauge their progress, and for staff to monitor progress throughout the duration of the module.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 38 2 per week 1 hour 38
Workshops 17 Weekly 1 hour 17
Preparation and Reading 145
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
written examination 3 hours 100%
Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
dissertation 1500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Problem exercises and self-assessment; one progress test, workshops and problems solved therein.


Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University