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Department of Physics

PHYS4131 Astrophysics 4 (2011/12)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above.  A detailed description of the module's content, together with book lists, is given below.  For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see



Prof R.G. Bower 

18 lectures + 4 examples classes in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus: The large scale properties of the Universe: isotropy, homogeneity, Hubble Flow. The Friedman models: the big bang, age of the Universe, closed, flat and open models, comoving coordinates. The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation: the discovery and origin of the CMB; The role of pressure in an expanding universe. The Cosmological constant. The Geometry of the Universe: luminosity and angular diameter distances, galaxy number counts, the Hubble diagram. The thermal history of the universe and the origin of the light elements. Dark matter and dark energy.


Required: An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, A. Liddle (Wiley, 2nd Ed.)
Additional: Cosmological Physics, J.A. Peacock (CUP)
Additional: Cosmology: The Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structure, P. Coles and F. Lucchin (Wiley)

Planetary Systems

Dr A.R. Jenkins

18 lectures + 4 examples classes in Epiphany Term

Syllabus: Constituents of the Solar System: main features of the solar system, the planets, the asteroids, comets. Orbital Mechanics: 2-body motion, integrals of motion, Kepler's Laws, Vis Viva equation, elliptic, parabolic and hyperbolic orbits, spacecraft orbits, Lagrange's restricted 3-body problem, tidal effects, dynamical effects of solar radiation pressure. Planetary Interiors: atomic forces, mass-radius relation, hydrostatic equilibrium, bulk modulus, Lane-Emden equation, observational basis for models of planetary interiors, interior of the Earth from seismology, interior heat sources, plate tectonics. Magnetic Fields in the Solar System: observed magnetic fields, magnetic field in conducting fluid, the turbulent dynamo. Planetary Atmospheres: retention of atmospheres by planetary bodies, atmospheres of Earth, Venus and Mars, evolution of climate. Origin of the Solar System: solar nebula theory. Extra-solar planets.


Additional: Planetary Sciences, I. De Pater and J. Lissauer (CUP)
Additional: Moons and Planets, W.K. Hartmann (Wadsworth, 3rd or 4th Ed.)
Additional: Physics of the Earth and the Solar System, B. Bertotti and P. Farinella (Kluwer Academic)


2 lectures in Easter Term, One by each lecturer

Teaching methods

Lectures: 2 one-hour lectures per week.

Examples classes: These provide an opportunity to work through and digest the course material by attempting exercises and assignments assisted by direct interaction with the lecturers and demonstrators. Students will be divided into groups, each of which will attend one one-hour class every two weeks.

Extended essay: Students undertake a Special Essay Project in Physics with a submission deadline in the fourth week of the Epiphany Term. The essays should be approximately 3000 words in length, and it is strongly recommended that they should be word-processed and printed single-sided on A4 paper.
The subject matter is to be chosen with the advice of the course lecturers who will provide a list of suitable topics. The aim should be to pick a topic which has a high physics content appropriate for Level 4, which is accessible to the student and can be readily researched, and which can be discussed satisfactorily within the word count limit. The technical level should be advanced, rather than introductory.
Students should discuss with the lecturer the qualities expected in the essay, but an indication of these is given in the mark proforma used for assessment. The proforma will be made available to students for their information at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. The written essay is summatively assessed.
The marked essays along with the completed proformas (giving the marks awarded for the essay) will be returned to students before the end of the Epiphany Term.

Problem exercises: See