Institute of Astronomy

Physics of Astrophysics

Lent Term, 24 Lectures – Prof. C J Clarke and IoA/Physics staff

How do astronomers make deductions about the important physical processes operating in the Universe when they are forced to play the role of passive observer rather than active experimentalist? Despite all the complicated analytical machinery that has been developed to process astronomical data and to perform complex theoretical simulations, there is still a vital role in astrophysics for the order of magnitude estimate in order to sort out the relative importance of different physical effects.  This is a skill that is rarely taught and one that is not always easily acquired, even though its mastery generally involves little more than the physics that is taught in the first two years of an undergraduate education.

This course aims to teach a set of skills by looking at a large range of astrophysical phenomena on scales from exoplanets to quasars. The issues to be discussed span well established astronomical truths (and how we know them) as well as a range of topics that are still at the forefront of debate.  The lectures will provide an immersion in topics in contemporary astrophysics but the examinable content of the course - and the supervision problem sets - do not involve significant factual recall of the lecture content; instead these exercises are designed to develop clear thinking and the ability to make intelligent deductions from information presented.

The scheduling of lecture topics may occasionally deviate slightly from what is set out below except in the case of the Guest Lectures

Lecture 1-3:          Timescales and Distributions

Lecture 4:             Guest Lecture: C. Tout       Type IA Supernovae

Lectures 5-9          Tides and  Dynamics

Lecture: 10            Guest Lecture: M. Wyatt   The Formation of the Moon

Lecture 11:            Guest Lecture: V. Belokurov     Tidal stripping in action: the field  of streams

Lecture 12-15:       Physics of matter and radiation

Lecture 16:            Guest Lecture:  A. Fabian    The radiation physics of AGN 

Lectures 17-18:      The physics of feedback

Lecture 19:             Guest Lecture:  D. Sijacki      Feedback, AGN and galaxy formation

Lecture 20-21:        Guest Lecture:  D. Queloz     The discovery of extrasolar planets

Lectures 22-24:       Unsolved problems in star and planet formation

Recommended books:

There are no textbooks to support the course.  However for students who are interested in learning more about some of the topics covered, the following books (in addition to those supporting other Part II Astro. courses) are recommended:

P. Armitage,  The Astrophysics of Planet Formation, Cambridge University Press,  2010.

Frank, J., King, A., Raine, D., Accretion Power in Astrophysics, Cambridge   University Press, 2002.

F. Mellia High Energy Astrophysics, Princeton University Press, 2009.

D. Ward-Thompson & A. Whitworth,  An Introduction to Star Formation, Cambridge   University Press, 2011.

Handout1 - slides16.11 MB
Handout2 - slides28.09 MB
poalmatterrad slides - 15 Feb4.73 MB
Facts and relations34.38 KB
C Tout guest lecture Type1A Supernovae366.29 KB
M Wyatt guest lecture Moon9.5 MB
V Belokurov guest lecture Streams13.33 MB
Radiation slides - 22 Feb4.02 MB
A Fabian guest lecture Radiation Physics of AGN7.88 MB
Melia extract and notes5.7 MB
Feedback slides12.53 MB
D Sijacki guest lecture Feedback4.72 MB
D Queloz guest lecture Exoplanets13.19 MB
PoA Examples Sheet 1521.53 KB
PoA Examples Sheet 250.77 KB
PoA Examples Sheet 355.96 KB
PoA handwritten notes 1 20174.31 MB
PoA handwritten notes 2 20177.13 MB
Page last updated: 22 March 2017 at 16:59