Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Code PHYS485
Coordinator Dr D Bersier
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2021-22 Level 7 FHEQ Second Semester 15


- Understand the concept of thermodynamic equilibrium and its consequences on radiation
- To see how physical phenomena can be applied and used to explain the appearance and spectra of celestial objects.
- To introduce Einstein's A and B coefficients
- To introduce several important radiation mechanisms at work in a variety of astronomical sources
- To understand the major physical phenomena at work in non-stellar astronomical sources. Such as HII regions, giant radio lobes, supernova remnants

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) At the end of the module the student should have the ability to - Relate observable quantities to physical conditions and mechanism(s)

(LO2) - Describe and calculate the emergent flux and spectrum for several mechanisms (e.g.Bremsstrahlung, synchrotron, Compton effect)

(LO3) - Apply this knowledge to understand the properties and behaviour of different objects (active galaxies, neutron stars, H II regions, gamma-ray bursts)

(LO4) - Describe the physics of a few important line ratios in HII regions

(LO5) - Understand several cooling and heating mechanisms in astrophysical plasmas

(LO6) - Describe and use the concept of Eddington luminosity in several different situations

(LO7) - Use measurements of the HI 21cm line to deduce astrophysical information

(LO8) - Understand the basic physics of gamma-ray bursts

(S1) Problem solving skills



- Refresher: Radiative transfer equation, black body radiation, special relativity, electrodynamics, statistical mechanics (phase space, distribution function, Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution)
- Equation of radiative transfer, optical depth, emission and absorption coefficients, Einstein A and B coefficients
- Blackbody radiation, importance in astrophysics and limiting case 28
- Eddington luminosity
*Continuum emission*:
- Radiation emitted by moving charges; Thomson scattering
- Relativistic Doppler effect; aberration of light; jets in astrophysics
- Superluminal motion
- Synchrotron radiation; emitted power and spectrum; curvature radiation
- Compton scattering and inverse Compton effect
- Basic physics of gamma-ray bursts

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Teaching Method 1 - Lecture
Description: 2hrs per week
Attendance Recorded: Yes

Teaching Method 2 - Tutorial
Description: 1hr per week
Attendance Recorded: Not yet decided

The module will be delivered remotely in 2021. Asynchronous learning materials (notes/videos/exercises etc) will be made available to students through the VLE. The module will have regular synchronous sessions in active learning mode.
We are planning no changes to module content compared to previous years, and expect students to spend a similar amount of time-on-task compared to previous years. These changes will mainly constitute a rebalancing of hours from scheduled directed learning hours to unscheduled directed learning hours as students will have some flexibility as to when they access asynchronous materials.

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours     11


Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 115


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
online time-controlled examination  2 hours on task    60       
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Assessed Homework Standard UoL penalty applies for late submission. This is not an anonymous assessment.  4 sets of homework    40       

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.