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MPhys Physics with Astrophysics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Galaxy Formation

Unit code PHYS40992
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Physics & Astronomy
Available as a free choice unit? No


Galaxy Formation


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Cosmology PHYS30392 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


To provide an introduction to the modern theory of galaxy formation and large-scale structure of the Universe.

Learning outcomes

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.
On completion of the course, students should be able to:
1. Discuss key observable properties of the low and high redshift galaxy population within a cosmological context.
2. Explain the basic ideas of how large-scale structures grow and lead to the formation of dark matter haloes.
3. Discuss the important physical processes that set the conditions for galaxy formation.
4. Describe and explain the properties of galaxy clusters and their application to cosmology.
5. Outline modern research methods used to model galaxy formation and discuss key outstanding problems.


1. Overview
Observations of galaxies and their environments at low and high redshifts; key observational tests for galaxy formation models; galaxies in a cosmological context. 


2. Growth of large-scale structures:
Linear growth of structures; Zel’dovich approximation; characteristic halo mass and hierarchical growth; power spectrum.


3. Dark matter haloes:
Spherical top-hat collapse model; Press Schechter formalism and the halo mass function; mergers and accretion; internal structure; halo shapes and spin; substructure.


4. Gas processes:
Hydrostatic equilibrium; Jeans mass; accretion shocks; radiative cooling; angular momentum and disk formation; star formation and feedback processes.


5. Galaxy clusters:
Galaxies in clusters; intracluster medium; dark matter and mass measurements; cluster scaling relations; cosmology with clusters.


6. Frontiers of galaxy formation:
Ν-body simulations; semi-analytic models; hydrodynamic simulations; outstanding problems.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods


Feedback will be available on students’ individual written solutions to examples sheets, which will be marked, and model answers will be issued.

Recommended reading

Peacock, J. Cosmological Physics (CUP)
Coles, P. & Lucchin F., Cosmology: The Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structure (Wiley)
Binney, J. & Tremaine, S. Galactic Dynamics (Princeton) (2nd edition)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 74.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Brown Unit coordinator

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