Intermediate Astrophysics

  • Combine this unit with one other to form the module 'Intermediate Physics Specialisms'

In this intermediate unit you will focus on the astrophysics of stars and galaxies, starting with a review of the basic structure of a star. You will then study some of the background physics required to understand stellar structure – hydrostatic equilibrium, energy generation and transport – and the emissions from stars – blackbody radiation, opacity, and spectral lines. We will discuss stellar spectra and how we can understand the structure and evolution of stars by studying their spectra. This unit then explores galaxies, from what they are and how they are made up, to how we think they form and evolve.

We will focus on the basic structure of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, and the observational methods used to elucidate this structure, but we will also examine more distant galaxies and consider their classification, spatial distribution, and environments. This unit gives you the chance to take a more detailed approach to the study of galaxy groups and clusters, the largest gravitationally bound objects in the Universe, and see how these can be used to study dark matter.

Topics covered

  • Hydrostatic equilibrium, radiative energy transport, energy generation
  • Blackbody radiation, opacity, spectral lines, line broadening
  • Stellar spectra, stellar atmospheres, limb darkening
  • The Milky Way: rotation, structure, Oort’s constants
  • Distances, sizes, luminosities, and dynamics of external galaxies
  • Groups and clusters of galaxies, dark matter, active galaxies