PHY3066 Galaxies and High Energy Astrophysics 2017-18
Dr C.L. Dobbs
Delivery Weeks: T2:01-11
Level: 6 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 22 students (approx)


This module applies the two main techniques of astronomy - astronomical observations and theoretical modelling - in order to understand galaxies in the Universe, including the Milky Way, and their physical processes. These systems are studied at a more advanced level than in PHY2030 and the module complements PHY3063 Stars, which covers the small-scale universe (e.g. stellar astrophysics).

Module Aims

This module aims to develop an understanding of the physics of galaxies, their constituents, and their evolution over cosmological time. The fascination that these objects hold is due in part to the challenge of extracting information from objects so faint and distant, and in part to the exotic physics of dark matter, black holes, non-Newtonian gravity, quasars and the expansion of the Universe. By the end of this module, students should be able to digest galaxy-related material on the web and in the popular scientific press, and begin to engage with the astrophysics literature, as a means of updating their knowledge in this fast-moving field. This module also provides the student with a practical primer in the radiation processes fundamental to astronomical observations.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

A student who has passed this module should be able to:

Syllabus Plan

  1. Introduction and astronomy background
  2. Our Galaxy
    1. Structure and constituents of the Milky Way
    2. Disk kinematics: the Galactic rotation curve and kinematic distances
    3. Disk dynamics: circular motion in a gravitational potential; evidence for dark matter
    4. The Galactic Bulge / Bar and the Galactic Centre
    5. The black hole candidate Sgr A*: theory and observational evidence
    6. The Galactic Halo: globular clusters and the virial theorem
  3. High energy radiation processes
    1. The equation of radiative transfer
    2. Continuum emission from stars and dust
    3. Bremsstrahlung or free-free radiation
    4. Synchrotron emission
    5. Compton and inverse Compton scattering
  4. Galaxies beyond the Milky Way
    1. Beyond the Milky Way: introduction to galaxies from the Big Bang to the Local Group
    2. Galaxy classification
    3. Spiral galaxies: structure/constituents, the Tully-Fisher scaling relation, star formation, spiral arms and supernova feedback
    4. Elliptical galaxies: structure/constituents; the Fundamental Plane scaling relations
    5. Active Galactic Nuclei phenomenology and unification, black hole accretion and the Eddington luminosity
    6. Jet astrophysics: superluminal motion and relativistic beaming
    7. Galaxy formation and evolution
    8. Gravitational lensing

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
20×1-hour lectures 20 hours SLT
2×1-hour problems/revision classes 2 hours SLT
5×6-hour self-study packages 30 hours GIS
4×4-hour problem sets 16 hours GIS
Reading, private study and revision 82 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% Guided self-study 5×6-hour packages Fortnightly 1-9 Discussion in class
0% 4 × Problems sets 4 hours per set Fortnightly 1-9 Solutions discussed in problems classes.
100% Final Examination 2 hours 30 minutes May/June 1-8 Mark via MyExeter, collective feedback via ELE and solutions.


The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that students are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Instructor(s).

Core text:

Supplementary texts:


Further Information

Prior Knowledge Requirements

Pre-requisite Modules Vector Mechanics (PHY1021) and Introduction to Astrophysics (PHY1022)
Co-requisite Modules none


Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.

Original form of assessment Form of re-assessment ILOs re-assessed Time scale for re-assessment
Whole module Written examination (100%) 1-8 August/September assessment period

Notes: See Physics Assessment Conventions.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 22 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 128 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 0%
Written exams 100%
Practical exams 0%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • N/A this is an optional module
Availability unrestricted
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Astronomy; Galaxy; Star; Radiation; Observations.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised 24-Jul-17