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PX387 Astrophysics

Lecturer: Boris Gaensicke
Weighting: 15 CATS


To introduce the physical processes and detection methods required for understanding the broad band emission spectra of astrophysical objects from the radio regime to X-rays and gamma-rays, to provide a basis for further studies in observational astrophysics.


At the end of this module you should be:

  • be able to identify the major emission mechanisms of astrophysical objects
  • understand the physical basis of detection methods for UV-radiation and X-rays from astrophysical sources.
  • understand how electromagnetic theory and quantum mechanics are used to predict the emission of radiation.
  • be able to quantify physical conditions in a variety of astrophysical systems using measured data.
  • understand how gravitational potential energy produces most of the high-energy radiation of the Universe through the process of accretion


  • Observational instrumentation, telescope design, detectors
  • Accretion onto compact objects as a source of energy
  • The Eddington limit: a maximum accretion rate
  • The structure and the emission of accretion disks
  • The occurence of jets in astrophysical objects
  • Binary stars: configuration, evolution, stable and unstable mass transfer
  • Accretion onto magnetic stars, Alven radius
  • Radiation from free electrons, Larmor formula, synchrotron radiation, cyclotron radiation
  • Thermal bremsstrahlung from hot accretion plasmas
  • Stable and unstable nuclear shell burning in accreting white dwarfs and neutron stars
  • Black holes of different masses
  • Supernovae and gamma-ray burst: massive stars, exploding white dwarfs, merging neutron stars
  • Pulsars: origin, emission, evolution

Commitment: 24 Lectures and 5 problem classes

Assessment: 2 hour examination

This module has a home page.

Recommended Texts: H Bradt, Astronomy Methods: A Physical Approach to Astronomical Observations, Cambridge University Press
J Frank, AR King and DJ Raine, Accretion Power in Astrophysics, CUP
C Hellier Cataclysmic Variables: How and why they vary, Springer

Leads to: 4th year modules on astrophysics