Black Holes and Accretion Astrophysics

Module code: PA4608

This module explores the role of supermassive black holes and the development of large-scale structure in the Universe. In the first half of this module you will learn the properties and evolution of supermassive black holes and the way they interact with their surroundings. You will explore the underlying equations to generate physical insight into the accretion processes by which supermassive black holes grow, and how this connects with what we observe in the Universe.

In the second half of the module you will explore the processes by which the initial almost-uniform Universe cooled and grew structure that would develop into galaxies, including the properties of dark and baryonic matter in the expanding Universe, and the conditions for matter to turn around from the Hubble-flow expansion and to collapse to form galaxies and stars. The processes of recycling gas in stars, and ejecting and heating gas, and the way to translate the observed dynamical properties of galaxies into their underlying mass distributions and formation history will be discussed. This section of the module is intended to place the properties of galactic supermassive black holes in the context of their homes in galaxies and the Universe at large.

Topics covered

  • The properties of supermassive black holes and their evolution
  • Accretion processes on to black holes
  • The nature and development of large-scale structure in the universe
  • The processes of conversion of gas in the large-scale structure into galaxies

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%)