PHY401: Cosmic Origins

Star formation Stellar evolution Nearby galaxies Galaxy formation


Cosmic Origins (PHY401) is no longer offered, and has been replaced with PHY404 (Star formation and evolution) and PHY405 (Galaxy formation and evolution). This webpage will be retained until PHY404 and PHY405 have been embedded in the curriculum. PHY401 spans various aspects of contemporary astrophysics at a research level, providing students with a full module (20 credits), subdivided into 4 topics each contributing 5 credits: (a) observations and theory of star and planet formation; (b) advanced topics in stellar evolution and stellar diagnostics for galaxies; (c) the transient universe; (d) galaxy formation and evolution. PHY402 is a half-module (10 credits) involving study of two topics from the four available.

Aims and Objectives

PHY401/402 aims to develop qualitiative understanding of current developments at the frontiers of astrophysics, within a general historical context, present an overview of aspects of research-level astrophysics. It will demonstrate the relevance of the topics to the evolution of the universe, and develop an appreciation of how different topics are interrelated, such as how the rate of star formation affects the chemical enrichment of galaxies, itself impacting upon stellar evolution. The four sub-modules and their outline syllabi are as follows:

  • Star Formation (Simon Goodwin) - suggested pre-requisite PHY232

    • low mass star formation; giant molecular clouds; pre-main sequence; multiple stars; massive star formation; planets and brown dwarfs; star clusters.

  • Stellar Evolution and Diagnostics for Galaxies (Paul Crowther) - suggested pre-requisite PHY213

    • Introduction; evolution of low, intermediate and high mass single stars; close binary evolution; diagnostic role of stars in galaxies for distances, ages and metallicities; Stellar nucleosynthesis, Population III stars, gamma ray bursts as tracers of low metallicity star formation

  • The Transient Universe(Stuart Littlefair) - suggested pre-requisite PHY213

    • Introduction, Stellar Variability, Exoplanets, Interacting Binaries and Accretion, Cosmic Explosions; novae and supernovae. Stellar Remnants; Neutron Stars, Pulsars, Black Holes. Stellar Mergers. Gravitational Waves and Multi-Messenger Astronomy.

  • Galaxy Formation and Evolution (Clive Tadhunter) - suggested pre-requisite PHY216

    • Galaxy evolution; basit techniques; key recent results (Hubble Deep Field, Lyman break galaxies; elliptical galaxies; quasars; AGN), modelling galaxy evolution; outstanding challenges.


Various homework exercises contribute 20% of the module - details will be provided by individual lecturers (Stellar Evolution - Deadline Mon 18 Nov at noon - hardcopy to G12, electronic version to Turnitin; Star Formation; Transient Universe - problems deadline; Galaxy Formation). A final 3/1.5 hour exam (PHY401/402) contributes the remaining 80%.

Lectures for 2013/14 session

Week Mon 14:00-14:50/LT-D Tue 14:00-14:50/LT-D Thu 12:00-12:50/LT-D Fri 15:00-15:50/LT5
1 (Sep 30) Stellar Evolution 1/PC Stellar Evolution 2/PC Star Formation 1/SG Star Formation 2/SG
2 (Oct 7) Stellar Evolution 3/PC Stellar Evolution 4/PC Star Formation 3/SG Star Formation 4/SG
3 (Oct 14) Star Formation 5/SG Stellar Evolution 5/PC Star Formation 6/SG Stellar Evolution 6/PC
4 (Oct 21) Stellar Evolution 7/PC Stellar Evolution 8/PC Star Formation 7/SG Star Formation 8/SG
5 (Oct 28) Stellar Evolution 9/PC Stellar Evolution 10/PC Star Formation 9/SG Star Formation 10/SG
6 (Nov 4) Galaxy Formation 1+2/CT (1-3pm, Astro Lab) - Galaxy Formation 3/CT Galaxy Formation 4/CT
7 (Nov 11) - - - -
8 (Nov 18) Transient Universe 1/SL Galaxy Formation 5/CT Transient Universe 2/SL Transient Universe 3/SL
9 (Nov 25) Transient Universe 4/SL Galaxy Formation 6/CT Transient Universe 5/SL Galaxy Formation 7/CT
10 (Dec 2) Transient Universe 6/SL Galaxy Formation 8/CT Transient Universe 7/SL Galaxy Formation 9/CT
11 (Dec 9)Transient Universe 8/SL Galaxy Formation 10/CTTransient Universe 9/SL Transient Universe 10/SL

Revision classes will be held in due course:


5 Sep 2013