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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS4161 Advanced Astrophysics (2012/13)

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 is given below, together with book lists and a link to the current library catalogue entries.  For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see


Astronomical Optics

Dr R.W. Wilson

14 lectures in Michaelmas Term


Additional: An Introduction to Optical Stellar Interferometry, A. Labeyrie, S.G. Lipson, and P. Nisenson (CUP, 2006)

Syllabus: Fundamentals of imaging. PSFs & MTFs, Sampling theorem. Effects on the transmission of light through the atmosphere. Adaptive optics: wavefront sensing, correction and control. Laser guide stars. Limits of adaptive optics. Results from adaptive optics. Michelson's stellar interferometer. The Van Cittert Zernike theorem. Astronomical spectroscopy.

High Energy Astrophysics

Dr A.C. Edge

10 lectures in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms


Additional: High Energy Astrophysics, Vols. 1 and 2, M.S. Longair (CUP)
Additional: Radiative Processes in Astrophysics, G.B. Rybicki and A.P. Lightman (Wiley)
Additional: An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics, B.W. Carroll and D.A. Ostlie (Addison-Wesley)

Syllabus: Theoretical and observational tools. Observed properties and classifications of active galactic nuclei. Unified model. Physical processes: Bremsstrahlung, Compton, synchroton.

Physical Processes in the ISM

Dr T. Theuns 

12 lectures in Epiphany Term


Additional: The Physics of the Interstellar Medium, J.E. Dyson and D.A. Williams (IOP)
Additional: Radiative processes in Astrophysics, Rybicki and Lightman (Wiley)
Additional: Astrophysics of Gaseous Nubulae and Active Galactic Nuclei, Osterbrock and Ferland (University Science Books)

Syllabus:  Fundamentals of radiative transfer:  description of radiation field, equation of radiative transfer; Plasma effects:  dispersion relation, polarization, Faraday rotation; evolution of  abundances in the ISM:  channels for element production; chemical reactions in the ISM:  molecule formation, dust grains;  interaction of radiation with matter:  energy levels, recombination, ionisation, selection rules, dipole radiation; gaseous nebulae:  spectra, cooling and heating, collision strengths, temperature and density sensitive lines; molecules:  roto-vibrational transitions;  21 -cm radiation; Saha equation.


3 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer.

Teaching methods

Lectures: 2 one-hour lectures per week

Problem exercises: See