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The University of Southampton

PHYS2013 Galaxies

Module Overview

We will start from outlining fundamental questions we must answer in order to build up a picture of an astrophysical object, e.g., what is it made of? How luminous? How big? How old? How fast? How heavy? These seemingly simple questions are surprisingly difficult to answer but we will cover the different astrophysical tools used to answer them. We will then move outwards to consider the demography, spatial distribution, and environment of galaxies, in the ‘field’ and in clusters. We will then consider galaxies very distant from us in space and time, discuss galaxy formation and evolution, and have an overview of Active Galaxies, super-massive black holes and their co-evolution with their host galaxies.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The structural, morphological, environmental, and spectral differences of galaxies.
  • The differences between the spectra of stars and galaxies.
  • Environment of galaxies and its connection to galaxy evolution
  • Main families of high-redshift galaxies
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Interpret the structural and evolutionary differences of spiral and elliptical galaxies
  • Investigate the physics behind galaxy motions
  • Differentiate the relevant physical processes in active galaxies
  • Outline the relationships between dark matter, galaxies, and the large-scale structure of the Universe
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Develop mathematical tools for applied physics
  • Formulate links between statistics and physics


- The make-up of galaxies: stars, gas, dust and dark matter. - Galaxy morphology: Luminosities and sizes, surface brightness, elliptical galaxies, spirals, irregular galaxies, galaxy masses. - Basic galaxy dynamics: The virial theorem - Galaxy demographics: Demographics of different types of galaxies, luminosity functions, surveys. - Galaxy environment: large-scale structure, clustering, clusters and groups, effect on galaxies. - Galaxy groups and clusters : Scaling relations, mass estimates. - The cosmological setting of galaxies: Distance measurements, cosmological redshift, Hubble expansion of the universe. - Active galaxies and supermassive black holes : Supermassive black holes in normal and active galaxies, quasars, radio galaxies, unification, the possible role of AGN in galaxy evolution. - Galaxy evolution: Hierarchical structure formation and Galaxy mergers and interactions, galaxies at high-redhisft, cosmic downsizing, star formation history of the universe.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Q&As via zappers In-class group activities On-line group activities Blogs Videos, Movies

Completion of assessment task16
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Follow-up work18
Wider reading or practice52
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Web-sites of additional Lectures. Provided in class.. 

The Structure and Evolution of galaxies. 

Module notes on Blackboards. 

An introduction to modern astrophysics. 

Galaxies & Galactic Structure. 

Galaxy Formation and Evolution. 

S S Sparke & J S Gallagher (2007). Galaxies in the universe: an introduction. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 20%
Final Assessment  80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: PHYS1005

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