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Unit information: Galaxies 301 in 2016/17

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Unit name Galaxies 301
Unit code PHYS34011
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Dugdale
Open unit status Not open

120 credit points of physics units at level I in Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, joint honours Mathematics and Physics or Physics and Philosophy.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


Introduction: discovery of galaxies, distance scales, redshifts and the expansion of the universe. Galaxy types: morphology; infra-red radio and X-ray observations, luminosities, sizes and surface brightness, galaxy environments structure of ellipticals, structure of spirals. Stars in galaxies: stellar types, lifetimes, stellar populations, stellar mass function, evolution. Gas in galaxies: neutral hydrogen, HII regions, molecules, gas distributions, dust, star formation. Galaxy dynamics: rotation and velocity dispersion of ellipticals, virial theorem, Faber-Jackson relation, supermassive black holes, rotation of spirals, rotation of the Galaxy, Tully-Fisher relation, Galactic halo, Galactic Centre, dynamical evolution. Galaxy formation and evolution: galaxies at high redshift - observations, galaxies at high redshift - theory.


To provide a description of galaxies and their contents. To introduce the factors involved in galaxy evolution. To discuss the distribution of galaxies in a cosmological context.

Intended learning outcomes

Able to appreciate the scale and content of galaxies in the universe and see how observations of them are made. Understand how galaxies behave as dynamical systems and what this indicates about the matter content of the universe. Understand how galaxies may have evolved to their present states and how their distribution bears on the overall structure of the universe.

Teaching details

Lectures and problems classes

Assessment Details

Written examination comprising 1 2-hour paper

Reading and References

  • Phillipps, The structure and evolution of galaxies, (Wiley 2005)
  • Sparke and Gallager, Galaxies in the universe, (CUP 2000)