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Unit information: High Energy Astrophysics 301 in 2018/19

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Unit name High Energy Astrophysics 301
Unit code PHYS34012
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Ben Maughan
Open unit status Not open

120 credit points of physics units at level I/5 in Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, Theoretical Physics, joint honours Physics and Philosophy.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


High energy astrophysics is the study of some of the most dramatic, violent and extreme processes in the Universe. We will look at the theoretical background for the generation and propagation of photons and relativistic particles by high energy processes. We will apply these concepts to understand the observable characteristics of a diversity of astrophysical objects including pulsars, supernovae, supermassive black holes, and clusters of galaxies. We will also study the nature and origin of cosmic rays.


To provide an introduction in an analytic and quantitative way to the relationship between energetic particles and photons which reach the Earth and energetic phenomena in distant astronomical objects.

Intended learning outcomes

Understand how the nature of cosmic rays has been inferred from direct and indirect observations. Acquire a familiarity with energy-loss processes of relativistic particles. Understand the processes of synchrotron radiation and inverse Compton scattering and their significance in interpreting radiation from a wide variety of astronomical objects. Able to estimate important characteristics of astronomical objects in terms of simple models of the physical phenomena, using sensible approximations. Understand the main likely sources of high-energy emissions and the importance of gravity.

Teaching details

Lectures and problems classes

Assessment Details

Written examination comprising 1 2-hour paper.

Reading and References

Longair, High energy Astrophysics Vols 1 and (mainly) 2 (CUP)