Quasars and Cosmology

Module code: PA3605

This module will build on your knowledge in speciality physics by further exploring topics in extragalactic astrophysics. Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) are amongst the most luminous objects in the Universe. They are powered by accretion of gas and dust onto the supermassive black holes that dwell in the centres of galaxies. During this module you will explore the physical processes involved in the accretion process and their observable consequences. This module will examine the methods used to observe quasars and other AGN and determine their properties, how AGN evolve with cosmic time, and the impact they have on their surrounding galaxy. 

Cosmology is the study of the structure and composition of the Universe on the largest possible scales and at all times and we will take a look at the cosmological distance scale, and how cosmic expansion is measured. Throughout the course of this module you will see what some mathematical models of an expanding Universe are, and explore some ideas from the Hot Big Bang theory including inflation and nucleosynthesis. You will have the chance to study how cosmological expansion, the chemical composition, and the nature of the cosmic microwave background can be used to constrain cosmological theories.

Topics covered

  • Observational properties and classification of active galactic nuclei (AGN)
  • Distances, sizes and masses of AGN
  • Black hole accretion theory
  • Continuum and line emission processes
  • The physics of radio jets and lobes 
  • The cosmological principle, Copernican principle and anthropic principle
  • The expansion of the Universe, the distance ladder
  • Dark matter, Universal acceleration, the cosmological constant and dark energy
  • The hot Big Bang model, including nucleosynthesis and background radiation
  • Future developments in cosmology and the fate of the universe

Learning

  • 30 hours of lectures
  • 2 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 118 hours of guided independent study

Assessment

  • Coursework (30%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (70%)