Topic outline

    • Module Information

    • General Introduction

      'The Galaxy' module considers in detail the basic physical processes that operate in galaxies, using our own Galaxy as an example. 

      We consider the gravitational dynamics and interactions of star systems, and how their motions can be described mathematically. The contents of the interstellar medium are described, and models are used to represent how the abundances of chemical elements have changed during the lifetime of the Galaxy. We investigate how dark matter can be studied using rotation curves of galaxies, and through the way that gravitational lensing by dark matter affects light. The various topics are then put together to provide an overview of the structure and characteristics of the Milky Way.


      The course will start in 2019/20 Semester B and will run for 11 consecutive weeks from January to April 2020. Lectures will be held at the Queen Mary Mile End Campus on Thursday afternoons in Graduate Centre room 2.22, between 1400 and 1600. Each lecture will be followed immediately by a 1 hour tutorial in the same room, finishing at 1700. 
      • Syllabus and reading list

        The syllabus is broadly as follows:

        Introduction: galaxy types, overview of formation and dynamics.

        Stellar Dynamics in galaxies: virial theorem, encounters and relaxation, collisionless Boltzmann equation,  gravitational potentials, orbits, simple distribution functions, Jeans equations.

        The Interstellar Medium: emission processes from gas and dust.

        Galactic Chemical Evolution: The Simple Model for chemical enrichment. The G-dwarf Problem and possible solutions.

        Rotation Curves: circular velocities, bulge, disk, and halo contributions to rotation curves.

        Gravitational Lensing and Dark Matter in the Galactic Halo: basic lensing theory, microlensing optical depth.

        The Galaxy - Its Structure and Content:  mass via the timing argument, solar neighbourhood kinematics, the bulge, the Sagittarius Dwarf.

        Suggested BACKGrOUND READING and Reference books:

        All the required material will be covered in the lectures, and a very comprehensive set of Course Notes is provided on this website (see below), containing all the information you should need. However you may find the following textbooks useful for additional reading and reference:

        • Galaxies in the Universe: an Introduction by L.Sparke & J. Gallagher2007, Cambridge Univ Press (a good general text covering most of the course material at the right level).
        • Galactic Astronomy by J.Binney & M.Merrifield, 1998, Princeton Univ Press (a comprehensive reference book at advanced postgraduate/research level)
        • Galactic Dynamics by J.Binney & S.Tremaine, 1987 (2nd edition 2008), Princeton Univ Press (a classic reference book covering galactic dynamics at research level) 

        Other books which may be useful for reference and general reading are:

        • The Structure and Evolution of Galaxies, S. Phillipps, 2005, Wiley (good general introduction and overview in very readable style).
        • Dynamics of Galaxies, G. Bertin, 2014, Cambridge Univ Press (an advanced text on galactic dynamics, also covering the basics).
        • Nucleosynthesis and Chemical Evolution of Galaxies, B. Pagel, 1997, Cambridge Univ Press (covers the material on chemical evolution).
        • An Introduction to Galaxies and Cosmology, Jones, Lambourne, Sergeant, 2015, Cambridge Univ Press (good undergraduate-level introduction).
        • Galaxy Formation and Evolution by H.Mo, F. van den Bosch & S. White, 2010, Cambridge University Press (an excellent all-round reference book on galactic astronomy and cosmology at an advanced postgraduate/research level for those with a broader interest).
        • Useful Websites

        • Course Notes

          This section contains a comprehensive set of course notes in pdf format. There are seven chapters. The notes are written in textbook style, organised by chapter, and represent the main course text for The Galaxy module. Currently, only the first two chapters are shown here. The others will follow.

        • COURSEWORK

          This section will contain the Coursework question sheets for download. The Coursework will be assessed and will contribute a maximum of 10% to the overall mark for the course. 

          Three Coursework question sheets will be set over the duration of the lecture course. Each Coursework sheet will contain three questions, only one of which will be assessed. The assessed question will be clearly identified on the question sheet.  

          Please hand in your solution for the assessed question for each Coursework to the lecturer no later than the date indicated. Unfortunately late solutions cannot be accepted unless an Extenuating Circumstances form has been approved.

        • Example problems

          This section will contain example problems covered during the tutorials. These problems are for practice only and will not be marked or assessed.

        • Exam and past papers

          This section contains information on the 2020 exam, together with past papers.

          The format of the 2020 exam will follow the 2013 - 2019 papers, i.e. Section A and Section B, each worth 50% of the total marks. Section A will contain 10 shorter questions, all compulsory. Section B will contain four longer questions of which any two should be attempted. 

          (Note, exams from 2012 and earlier years had a different format, e.g. any 5 from 8 questions).

        • Lecture recordings

          Video recordings of the lectures will be accessible here.