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Galaxies & the Interstellar Medium & Cosmology - PHY00045H

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  • Department: Physics
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Nigel Woolsey
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2021-22 to Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

In this module we will cover both galaxies and cosmology. We will investigate properties of galaxies, including structure, dynamical behaviour and the interstellar medium. We will review the observational tools of the galactic and extragalactic astronomer and the physics underlying processes within our galaxy and others. To conclude this section we will review galaxy clusters and the largest structures in the Universe.

We will then look at the Universe as a whole, with an examination of experimental observables. This will be followed by an introduction to properties of space and cosmological models. Finally we will look at the early phases, and the main epochs, in the development of the universe from the Big Bang to the present as well as links with particle physics.

Module learning outcomes

  • Describe in detail the structure and underlying physics of our galaxy with particular reference to:
  • The interstellar medium including heating and cooling, interactions between gas and dust, gas dynamics and shocks
  • Dark matter and its role in galactic dynamics and evolution
  • Stellar evolution on a galactic scale including gravitational collapse, star formation, supernovae remnants and chemical enrichment
  • Discuss the formation and evolution of galaxies of various types and their extreme properties, including active galactic nuclei.
  • Assess the observational tools of galactic and extragalactic astronomy across the electromagnetic spectrum and what the information reveals about the astronomical source and the intervening medium.
  • Explain the observed large-scale structure of the Universe with reference to cosmological models.
  • Explain how the cosmic microwave background provides evidence for the Big Bang
  • Derive the equations of motion in Newtonian Cosmology and contrast Newtonian and Relativistic cosmology
  • Understand the concept of curvature in the geometry of the Universe
  • Understand the meaning of the Cosmological Constant and the evidence for it
  • Understand how primordial nucleosynthesis and the cosmic microwave background provide clues to the early stages of the Universe’s evolution
  • Discuss and derive the consequences of different cosmological parameters on the time development of the universe
  • Define density parameter and critical density
  • Discuss and explain the main epochs of the early development of the universe
  • Discuss and explain the meaning and implications of inflation in cosmological models of the early universe
  • Understand the meaning of the baryon asymmetry and possible causes of it
  • Discuss the ‘magnetic monopole mystery’
  • Understand the potential role of gravitational wave observations in cosmological astronomy

Module content


  • Our Galaxy:
    • Structure, spiral arms, rotation, mass, the virial theorem, dark matter, black holes
    • The Interstellar Medium, Gas & Dust, Stellar Evolution,
    • Thermal and Non-thermal emissions, Observational Techniques
  • Other Galaxies:
    • Classes, formation, structure and evolution
    • Active galaxies
    • Distribution and large-scale structure
  • Observations and relevance to cosmology
  • Cosmological models using Newtonian gravity and General Relativity
  • Curvature and the geometry of the Universe
  • The Cosmological Constant
  • The Big Bang Model and problems
  • Primordial Nucleosynthesis and Inflation
  • The Cosmic Microwave Background and Precision cosmology
  • Gravitational Wave Cosmology


Task Length % of module mark
Cosmology Assignment 1
N/A 20
Cosmology Assignment 2
N/A 30
Galaxies & the Interstellar Medium Assignment 1
N/A 20
Galaxies & the Interstellar Medium Assignment 2
N/A 30

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Cosmology Assignment 1
N/A 20
Cosmology Assignment 2
N/A 30
Galaxies & the Interstellar Medium Assignment 1
N/A 20
Galaxies & the Interstellar Medium Assignment 2
N/A 30

Module feedback

Our policy on how you receive feedback for formative and summative purposes is contained in our Department Handbook.

Indicative reading

Dyson J. E. & Williams D. A: The Physics of the Interstellar Medium (IOP, 1997)

Elmegreen D: Galaxies and galactic structure (Prentice Hall)

Sparke L & Gallagher J: Galaxies in the Universe (Cambridge, 2007)

Carroll & Ostlie: An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics (Pearson)**

Zeilik M & Gregory S.A.: Astronomy and astrophysics (Brooks-Cole)**

Liddle A: Introduction to modern cosmology (Wiley, 2003)

Raine D & Thomas E G: An introduction to the science of cosmology (Taylor & Francis/IoP Publishing)

Coles P & Lucchin F: Cosmology: the Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structure (Wiley)

Roos M: Introduction to Cosmology (Wiley, 2003)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.