Topic outline

    • General

      Year: 3 | Semester: A | Level: 6 | Units: 0 | Credits: 15

      Prerequisites: Good understanding of Calculus (e.g. SPA4121, SPA4122, and ideally SPA5218), and ideally SPA6308
      Lectures: Tuesday 9-11am in GOJ:UG1, Thursday 10-11am in GOJ:UG1

      Homework deadline: Wednesdays at 4 pm (courseworks start in Week 2, tutorials start in Week 2)

      Final Marks: 80% final exam, 10% mid-term exam, 10% coursework 
      Practical work: none Ancillary teaching: weekly exercises

      Course organiser: Dr Phil Bull | Course deputy: Dr David Mulryne

      This module covers the essential concepts of modern cosmology, and in particular introduces the student to what has become known as the "cosmological standard model". It discusses the structure and properties of the universe as we observe it today, its evolution and the the underlying physical concepts, and the observations that formed our understanding of the universe.

      Recommended books:

      A. Liddle, An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, Wiley
    • Aims and Objectives

      Learning Outcomes

      At the end of the course you will be familiar with:

      • the structure of the universe and the cosmological standard model,
      • cosmological length and mass scales,
      • the expansion of the universe and its ultimate fate,
      • cosmological parameters and models,
      • phenomena in the very early universe, the Big Bang, inflation and  dark energy
      • structure formation


      Problem sheets will be released once per week during the module; see below for a timetable.

      • Syllabus

        • The universe as we see it today, its size and structure. The constituents of the universe (galaxies and galaxy clusters, dark matter etc). Cosmic length and mass scales.
        • Methods of measuring astronomical and cosmological distances: the cosmic distance ladder. Apparent and absolute magnitude and luminosity. Standard candles in cosmology, galactic velocities and redshifts.
        • The expansion of the universe: the scale factor and Hubble's law.  Age and size of the Universe. Olbers' Paradox. Newtonian derivation of the Friedmann equation and standard derivation of the governing equations.
        • Main cosmological parameters: the Hubble parameter, the critical density, the mass-energy density, the deceleration parameter and the cosmological constant. Geometry of the universe, its evolution and fate.
        • The very early universe and the hot big bang. The cosmic microwave backround. Physical phenomena in the very early universe. Inflation. Late time acceleration and dark energy. 
        • The formation of large scale structure in the universe. The gravitational instability, Jeans length, evolution of the density contrast in an expanding universe (Newtonian treatment). 
        • Outlook and recent developments.

        The main text for the course is A. Liddle, An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, Wiley.

        • Lecture notes and slides

          Lecture notes will be made available after each lecture.

        • Problem sheets and tutorials

          • There are 10 problem sheets, which will be released each week after the first lecture of the week (on Tuesday). Six of them are assessed as your coursework, and should be handed in by Wednesday at 4pm the following week, to the School Office on Floor 1.
          • Each problem sheet includes some maths practice questions, some general exercises to help build your understanding, and either a practice exam question, or an assessed coursework question. The assessed questions are graded, and contribute 10% of the final grade for the module. Solutions will be released for each problem sheet at the tutorial sessions, and posted online the following week.
          • Please attempt all of the questions! The problem sheets are designed so that if you can do all of the general exercises, you should have everything you need to complete the practice exam question or assessed question.
          • There are two tutorial sessions per week, on Tuesdays (11am in LAWS:2.07(1)) and Wednesdays (11am, ENG: 2.16(2)). They are run by myself and Rebeca Martinez Carrillho. You are free to attend either one, but it is important that you attend every week! We will help with all of the questions except the assessed ones, which you’re expected to do yourself. You are also encouraged to work in groups with other students to figure out the general questions, but you must attempt the assessed questions on your own. I have a zero tolerance policy for cheating/copying courseworks!

          Problem sheets
          Week Title Release date Hand-in date Marks returned
          1 Expanding universe
          Tue 24 Sep Not assessed Not assessed
          2 Geometry and distance Tue 01 Oct Wed 09 Oct Tue 15 Oct
          3 Friedmann equation Tue 08 Oct Wed 16 Oct Tue 22 Oct
          4 Distances and horizons Tue 15 Oct Wed 23 Oct Tue 29 Oct
          5 Cosmic accelerationTue 22 Oct Not assessed Not assessed
          6 CMB radiation Tue 29 Oct Wed 13 Nov Tue 19 Nov
          7 READING WEEK n/a n/a n/a
          8 CMB anisotropies Tue 12 Nov Wed 20 Nov Tue 26 Nov
          9 Inflation Tue 19 Nov Thu 05 Dec Thu 12 Dec
           10 Revision questions Fri 22 Nov Not assessed Not assessed
           11 Dark matter and structure formation Thu 05 Dec Not assessed Not assessed