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BSc Physics / Course details
Year of entry: 2023
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Course unit details:
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
|Unit title||Unit code||Requirement type||Description|
|Introduction to Astrophysics and Cosmology||PHYS10191||Pre-Requisite||Compulsory|
To gain an understanding of exoplanetary systems, including how they are detected and ideas on their formation and habitability.
On completion of the course students will be able to:
Course overview. The brief history of exoplanet research. Definition of a planet and its orbital elements.
2. Our Solar System in context
The architecture of our Solar System. Gas giant, ice giant and rocky planets. Planet equilibrium temperature. Surface temperature of a rocky planet with a simple greenhouse model.
3. Exoplanet detection methods
Radial velocity and astrometry; transits and TTV (exomoon detection); gravitational microlensing (bound and isolated exoplanets); direct imaging. The relative sensitivity of the different methods and their dependency on planet and host star properties.
4. Properties of detected exoplanets
Planet frequency distribution versus planet mass, radius, host separation and host properties. Detection bias. Multiple planet systems and circum-binary planets.
5. Planetary structure
Planet interior models for gas giant, ice giant and rocky planets. Constraints from observations. Observations of planetary atmospheres through transmission photometry and transmission spectroscopy. Comparison with simple theoretical models.
6. Planet formation theory
Key phases of planet formation. Magneto-rotational instability. Core accretion and gravitational instability scenarios. The snow line. Planet migration.
7. Planet habitability and the prospects for extra-terrestrial life
The stellar habitable zone and Galactic habitable zone. Current statistics of potentially habitable planets. Impact of current knowledge on speculative ideas of the abundance and spread of extra-terrestrial life and intelligent life: the Drake equation; the Fermi Paradox.
Feedback will be available on students’ individual written solutions to example sheets, which will be marked, and model answers will be issued.
Cassan, P., Guillot, T., Quirrenbach, A. Extrasolar Planets (Saas-Fee Advanced Course 31) (Springer 2006), ISBN: 978-3-540-31470-7
Perryman, M. The Exoplanet Handbook (CUP 2011), ISBN-10: 0521765595
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Assessment written exam||1.5|
|Independent study hours|
|Christopher Conselice||Unit coordinator|