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PX444 - The Distant Universe

  • Module code: PX444
  • Module name: The Distant Universe
  • Department: Physics
  • Credit: 7.5

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

To study what is known about the Universe to the limits of current observations and beyond, to identify gaps in current knowledge and to look at future prospects

Principal learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should: Have a qualitative understanding of the evolution of the early universe, from the Big Bang to the development of large scale structure; Understand the physics underlying theories of galaxy and structure formation, and how observations inform those theories; Be aware of the range and significance of observational evidence for stars, galaxies and structure in the distant Universe.

Timetabled teaching activities

15 lectures

Departmental link

Other essential notes

Recent observations are beginning to reach back into the Cosmic Dawn - the era when the first stars and galaxies formed. The physical conditions at the time of their formation set the properties of these objects, and their evolution in turn fixes the properties of the stars, galaxies and planets that follow. This module investigates the formation of structure in the early Universe, starting from the Cosmic Microwave Background and moving through the first generations of stars, and onto the large scale structures that we see today. The module discusses the theory behind the formation of the first stars and galaxies from primordial density perturbations, the build-up of mass through hierarchical structure formation and the importance of feedback in shaping galaxies. It also highlights observations currently being conducted to observe distant structures, which formed when the Universe was less than 5% of its current age. It outlines the insights that arise from them, and discusses how new observations from missions set for launch in the next few years might answer some of the unanswered questions in the field.

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
7.5 CATS (Module code: PX444-7.5)
B (Examination only) 1.5 hour examination (Summer) 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:



Optional Core


  • Undergraduate Physics (BSc MPhys) (F304) - Year 4
  • Undergraduate Mathematics and Physics (BSc MMathPhys) (FG33) - Year 4