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PHYS3011 Photons in Astrophysics

Module Overview

The main radiation mechanisms are discussed and examples are given of the situations in which they are most important. We show how the physical conditions, e.g. the temperature, density and magnetic field strength, can be determined from the emitted radiation in astrophysical situations, such as the nuclei of active galaxies or the surfaces of neutron stars. The course is fundamental to our interpretation of astrophysical data and so is vital for all astronomers. However it is very much a physics course and so is also of use to students who are not taking astrophysics degrees.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of this course is to cover the production and detection of photons in a cosmic setting.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Understand the key radiative processes occurring in astronomy.
  • Knowledge of the instrumentation required to detect photons in different wavebands
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Be able to draw some simple conclusions regarding the physical parameters in the emitting sources based on the radiation received.

Syllabus

Radiative Processes - Radiation from an accelerated charge. - Inverse Compton radiation. - Cyclotron and Synchrotron radiation. - Bremsstrahlung radiation. - Black body radiation. - Optical and radio line emission. - Nuclear reactions and annihilation processes. - Scattering processes, e.g. Compton and Rayleigh scattering. - Cherenkov radiation. - Gravitational waves. Detection Techniques - Radio telescopes: interferometers, aperture synthesis. - Infrared and optical telescopes: CCD detectors. - X-ray detectors: proportional counters, multichannel plates, grazing incidence imaging. - Gamma-ray detectors: crystal scintillators, semiconductors, spark chambers, codedmask imaging. - Air Cherenkov techniques. - Gravitational wave detectors Astrophysical Examples - Bremsstrahlung emission from accreting white dwarfs and clusters of galaxies. - Cyclotron emission from magnetised neutron stars. - Synchrotron emission from radio galaxies. - Synchrotron Self-Compton scattering emission from blazars. - Maps of our Galaxy in Gamma-ray line emission. - TeV emission from BL Lac objects.

Learning and Teaching

TypeHours
Wider reading or practice68
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Revision10
Follow-up work18
Lecture36
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

F H Shu. The Physics of Astrophysics: Radiations. 

R L Bowers & T Deeming. Astrophysics II, Interstellar Matter & Galaxies. 

G B Rybicki & A P Lightman. Radiative Processes in Astrophysics. 

M S Longair. High Energy Astrophysics. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 90%
Problem Sheets 10%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework marks carried forward %
Exam %

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites

To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

CodeModule
PHYS2003Quantum Physics
PHYS2024Quantum Physics of Matter
PHYS2001Electromagnetism
PHYS2023Wave Physics
PHYS2006Classical Mechanics
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