PHY1029 IT and Astrophysics Skills 2020-21
Prof. F.Y. Ogrin and Dr C.M. Brunt
Delivery Weeks: T1:01-05,07-12, T2:06-11
Level: 4 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 26 students (approx)


This module is practically based with comprehensive work sheets for each session and demonstrators available to answer any queries that may arise. Students are encouraged to work at their own speed depending on their previous experience. Students with no prior experience will need to spend more time than their more experienced counterparts outside the class sessions to complete the assignments contained in the work sheets.

In the first half of the module students learn to use Python for scientific applications. Python is an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language that can be used for a range of academic and research based activities including high level mathematics and data processing work. Python is widely used in commercial and research environments. This is followed by a two week introduction to LaTeX for typesetting high-quality reports.

The second half introduces students to computer-aided manipulation and analysis of modern astrophysical data. They will gain an understanding of the basic properties of digital imaging and spectroscopy data and how such data are limited by various noise components added in the signal chain between the astrophysical source and the detection of photons or waves from it. The students will gain an appreciation of the computer tools and algorithms used to analyse astrophysical data through a series of short projects based on actual data, with the goal of producing meaningful scientific results and understanding the uncertainties associated with them. The module also illustrates the interesting differences of approach needed by 'observational physics' as opposed to 'experimental physics'.

Module Aims

Every physicist must be able to analyse data, evaluate theoretical models, and present their work in the form of a technical report. They must also be able to perform investigations, such as experiments, and solve the problems they encounter in a systematic and logical manner.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

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

Syllabus Plan

Part A: IT Skills

  1. Introduction
    1. Use of the Exeter Learning Environment.
    2. The networked environment.
    3. Introduction to online collaboration and communication tools, e.g. Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
  2. Python
    1. Introduction to Jupiter Notebooks
      Getting started with Python, basic operations and data structures.
    2. Fundamentals
      Using the SciPy module, commands and functions, matrix operations.
    3. Working with graphics
      Basic plotting, styles and plotting structure, working with axes and outputting.
    4. Writing Python functions
      Basic syntax, scripts and functions, internal/external arguments and global variables, input and output.
    5. Numerical integration
      Principles and different methods used, use of generic integration functions.
    6. Curve Fitting
      The least-squares criterion, fitting with polynomial functions, using self-defined fitting routines.
    7. Programming
      Basic programming: using 'for' and 'while' loops, conditional statements 'if', 3-D graphics.
  3. LaTex
    1. Using LaTeX to create a simple document
      1. Typeset documents with equations, tables, and other LaTeX attributes
      2. Working with LaTeX templates
    2. Using software tools to create graphics and diagrams for use in technical reports.

Part B: Astrophysics

  1. Indicative List of Projects
    1. Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
    2. Differential rotation in the Sun
    3. Measuring velocities in a young protostellar jet
    4. Spectral classification
    5. The Hubble Law
    6. Measuring the mass of the Coma cluster of galaxies

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
11×2-hour computer laboratory sessions (IT) 22 hours SLT
12×3-hour computer laboratory sessions (astrophysics) 36 hours SLT
8×3-hour IT Skills homework 24 hours GIS
Reading, private study and revision 68 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
15% Mid-Term IT Skills Test 1 90 mins Week T1:09 1, 5, 16, 17 Written and verbal
15% Mid-Term IT Skills Test 2 90 mins Week T1:12 1, 5, 16, 17 Written and verbal
20% 8 × IT Skills assignments 2 hours in class + 3 hours homework each Weekly T1:02-05,07,08,10,12 1,6,10,11 Written and verbal
50% Astrophysics Reports 6×500-word reports and notebooks Weekly T2:07-11 2-5,7-9,11,12 Written and verbal


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 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

Notes: Re-assessment is not available for this module.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 58 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 92 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 70%
Written exams 0%
Practical exams 30%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • XX-02 IT Skills
Availability unrestricted
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Astrophysics; LaTeX; Python; Software.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised 14-Jul-20