Institute of Astronomy

Physics of Astrophysics

Lent Term, 24 Lectures – Prof. C J Clarke and IoA 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: Introduction: Facts and Figures

Lecture 2: Distributions

Lectures 3-5: Tides: their applications to planets and binaries

Lecture 6: Guest Lecture: C. Tout Type IA Supernovae

Lectures 7-9: Further dynamical problems: from star clusters to galactic  encounters

Lectures  10-12: The physics of matter and radiation

Lecture 13: Radiative properties of accretion discs

Lecture 14: Guest Lecture:  V. Belokurov Tidal stripping in action: the field   of streams

Lecture 15: Guest Lecture:  A. Fabian The radiation physics of AGN 

Lecture 16: Guest Lecture:  M. Wyatt The formation of the Moon

Lectures 17-19: The physics of feedback

Lecture 20: Guest Lecture:  N. Madhusudhan The physics of planetary  atmospheres

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

Lecture 22: Guest Lecture:  D. Sijacki  Feedback, AGN and galaxy formation

Lectures 23-24: 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.

PoA.lectures14.64 KB
PoA.facts.relations29.93 KB
PoA.slides.16.Jan21.05 MB
PoA slides 23 Jan6.05 MB
Tout.handout.SN.Type.1a367.24 KB
PoA slides 30 Jan 201511.32 MB
PoA slides 6 Feb22.87 MB
Belokurov Streams slides 17 Feb14.32 MB
Fabian AGN handout 18 Feb 7.42 MB
Fabian AGN handout 18 Feb - slide 7161.82 KB
PoA slides 23 Feb 201520.35 MB
Queloz Exoplanets slides 4 March 201517.83 MB
Sijacki PoA slides 6 March 2015 17.97 MB
PoA slides 9 March 20155.28 MB
PoA examples sheet 146.18 KB
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PoA examples sheet 451.14 KB
Page last updated: 27 April 2015 at 12:57