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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS4231 Planets and Cosmology 4 (2013/14)

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



Dr R.J. Wilman and Prof R.G. Bower

18 lectures + 3 workshops in Epiphany Term


Required: An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, A. Liddle (2nd Ed Wiley 2003)
The course is defined by material contained in this book, in particular Chapters 1-13 and 15 (topics 1 and 2).

Syllabus: 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.

Planetary Systems

Dr T. P. Roberts

18 lectures + 3 workshops in Michaelmas Term


Required: Planetary Sciences, I. de Pater and J. J. Lissauer (Cambridge 2001)
The course is defined by material in this book, in particular Chapters 1-4, 6, 12-13.
Additional: Orbital Motion, A.G. Roy (Adam Hilger 4th Edition)
The course is defined by material in this book, in particular Chapter 4.

Additional: Physics of Planetary Interiors, G.H. Cole (Adam Hilger)
The course is defined by material in this book, in particular Chapter 2.

Syllabus: Overview of the Solar System, orbital dynamics, planetary interiors, planetary atmospheres, formation of the Solar System, extrasolar planets. 


2 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer.


Teaching Methods 

Lectures: 2 one-hour lectures per week.

Workshops: 1 one-hour workshop every 3 weeks

Dissertation: Students undertake a dissertation in Physics of approximately 3000 words in length.
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 dissertation, 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 dissertation is summatively assessed.
The marked dissertations along with the completed proformas (giving the marks awarded for the dissertation) will be returned to students before the end of the Epiphany Term.

Problem exercises: See