We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS4201 Theoretical Astronomy (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


Galaxy Formation

Dr C.G. Lacey

14 lectures in Michaelmas Term


Additional: Cosmology: The Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structure [2nd ed] (2002) P. Coles and F. Lucchin (Wiley)
Additional: Structure Formation in the Universe, T. Padmanabhan (CUP)
Additional: An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, A.R. Liddle (Wiley)
Additional: The Early Universe, E.W. Kolb and M.S. Turner (Addison-Wesley)

Syllabus: The growth of density perturbations in the Universe, non-baryonic dark matter, power spectrum, cosmic microwave background. Non-linear evolution, top-hat model.

Astrophysical Fluids

Prof C.M. Baugh

8 lectures in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms


Additional: Principles of Astrophysics Fluid Dynamics, C.J. Clarke and R.F. Carswell (CUP)
Additional: A First Course in Fluid Dynamics, A.R. Paterson (CUP)
Additional: An Introduction to Fluid Dynamics, G.K. Batchelor (CUP)
Additional: Elementary Fluid Dynamics, D.J. Acheson (OUP)
Additional: Fluid Dynamics for Physicists, T.E. Faber (CUP)

Syllabus: Lagrangian particle paths. Euler equation of motion. Bernoulli equation. Compressible fluids, sound waves. Sub and supersonic motion, Mach number, 1-D shock waves. Star formation. Physics of accretion flows. Bondi accretion.

General Relativity and Black Holes

Prof C. Done

14 lectures in Epiphany Term


Additional: A Short Course in General Relativity, J. Forster and J.D. Nightingale (Springer)
Additional: Black Holes an Introduction, D.J. Raine and E. Thomas (Imperial College Press)

Syllabus: Inertial frames and the Principle of equivalence. Tensors and tensor algebra. Tensor derivatives and Christoffel symbols for curved spacetime. Geodesic paths and the Euler-Lagrange equations. Riemann curvature tensor. Energy-momentum tensor and its conservation laws. Ricci tensor and the Einstein equations. Schwarzschild metric. Weak field limits for particle and photon paths. Precession of the perihelion of Mercury and lightbending around the Sun. Gravitational redshift. Black holes and event horizons.



3 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer.

Teaching methods

Lectures: 2 one-hour lectures per week

Problem exercises: See