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Study-Unit Description
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CODE SSA5025

 
TITLE Introduction to Astronomy and Cosmology

 
LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course

 
ECTS CREDITS 5

 
DEPARTMENT Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy

 
DESCRIPTION The study-unit will begin with a general introduction to classical astronomy. Such problems as Olber's paradox and the fundamental assumptions of homogeneity and isotropy will be dealt with. This part will end with an exposition on the Copernican principle.

The natural flow of the study-unit will lead to a discussion of Newtonian cosmology.

Following the initial introduction to classical astronomy, the cosmology section will begin. This will involve the governing Friedmann of cosmology with an in depth look at the evidence leading to this equation. With this in hand the evolution of the universe can be explored in greater detail. This will also involve a look at the effects of adding the cosmological constant to the universe energy budget.

Other standard laws definitions will be introduced and explained such as Hubble's law and the idea of redshift in distance measurement. The study-unit will close with an investigation of the general relativistic consequences for the big bang theory. This will include the thermal history of the universe and an exploration into the initial phases of the universe.

The study-unit will be complimented by a second component not covered in the astronomy and cosmology of the first part. This is the mechanisms of galactic dynamics.

As above a general introduction of the field will be presented. In particular the Hubble tuning fork rule for classification of galaxies and the Milky way structural uncertainty will be introduced such as the satellite galaxy system.

Evidence for dark matter from rotation curves. The debate about dark matter in elliptical galaxies and the difficulties associated with those measurements will then be investigated. Cold and hot dark matter can then be discriminate between. Concordance cosmology predictions for dark matter halos will then be shown

The formation of ellipticals in major mergers will also be explored including but not limited to shell structure and profiles classification of ellipticals

The study-unit will then move onto dwarf galaxies in the Local Group and methods for their detection. Discrepancy between observations and prediction from concordance cosmology. The halo of the Milky Way as a repository of cannibalized dwarf galaxies and the possibility of cannibalism into the thick/thin disk.

A discussion of N-body simulations will close the study-unit. This will include methods used to simulate galaxy formation and evolution and issues which are thought to matter.

Study-unit Aims:

This study-unit aims to provide the student with an introduction to cosmology and galaxies. The study-unit is split into two sections:

Cosmology

This section of the study-unit aims at introducing cosmology and the fundamental assumptions that are associated with our model of the universe. Being an active field of research the study-unit will expose our current understanding of the expanding universe including discussions on the cosmological constant, the geometry and evolution of the universe as well as the evidence for dark matter and dark energy.

Galaxies and Galactic Dynamics

This section of the study-unit seeks to serve as an introduction to galaxies and our current understanding of them. As this is a field of very active research, the study-unit will consider current developments. Subjects will include galaxy classification, the Milky Way, dark matter, bars, spirals and bulges, elliptical galaxies, super massive black holes, dwarf and satellite galaxies, the formation and evolution of galaxies, and N-body computer simulation methods.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will:

Cosmology:
- Be able to describe the fundamental assumptions of current cosmological models including homogeneity, isotropy and the Copernican Principle;
- Understand the application of classical Newtonian gravity to continuous mass distributions and compare this to relativistic cosmologies and homogenous metrics including the Friedman equation;
- Understand Hubble’s law and the expanding universe;
- Understand the known contents of the universe in terms of dust and radiation;
- Appreciate the unknown contents of the universe including dark matter, dark energy and the role of the cosmological constant in cosmology;
- Understand the density, geometry and evolution of the universe in terms of components of the universe;
- Be able to explain the relationship between redshift and time as well as the extragalactic distance ladder;
- Be able to discuss the thermal history of the universe including recombination and formation of light elements;
- Learn about the observational evidence and experiments being currently performed in the realm of cosmology.

Galaxies:
- Be able to explain the Hubble classification scheme;
- Have developed an appreciation for size and mass scales of galaxies;
- Be able to describe the Milky Way galaxy including its various components be familiar with its properties, and be able to outline the historical debate regarding whether galaxies other than the Milky Way exist;
- Be familiar with the evidence for dark matter and have understood the current theoretical predictions for dark matter halos in the context of the concordance cosmology, including their densities, shapes, sizes and angular momenta;
- Know been acquainted with modern ideas of galaxy formation and growth including the concept of hierarchical growth;
- Have an understanding for how spiral structure develops in disk galaxies and how this may lead to the formation of bars;
- Be familiar with the consequences of spirals and bars, including the formation of some bulges, the development of breaks, and radial mixing;
- Have learned how galaxy mergers lead to elliptical galaxies and be able to describe arguments for and against this interpretation;
- Understand how the presence of super massive black holes can be deduced, how in the Milky Way no other interpretation is viable, be familiar with the scaling relations of black holes, and the recently discovered similar ones for nuclear clusters;
- Know about dwarf galaxies and a census of dwarf galaxies in the Local Group, including the Sagittarius dwarf being cannibalized by the Milky Way, be aware of the problems associated with the number of dwarf galaxies in the standard cosmology and how this may be resolved;
- Learned about how simulations allow us to explore the formation and evolution of galaxies and of the current work being done in this field.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Code various universe models and compare and contrast these models with available data;
- Analyse astronomical and cosmological data to derive the phyiscal constants of the universe;
- Build models of galaxies and galactic dynamics and compare them with observation.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Cosmology:

- Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology, Robert J. A. Lambourne (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
- An introduction to Modern Cosmology, Andrew Liddle, Wiley.
- The State of the Universe, Pedro G. Ferreira, Phoenix.
- Cosmological Physics, J.A. Peacock, CUP.

For Galaxies:

- Galaxies in the Universe: An Introduction by Sparke & Gallagher (Cambridge University Press).
- Galactic Dynamics Second Edition: Binney & Tremaine (Princeton University Press).
- Galactic Astronomy: Merrifield & Binney (Princeton University Press).
- The Milky Way as a Galaxy: Gilmore, King & van der Kruit (University Science Books).

 
STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Tutorial

 
METHOD OF ASSESSMENT
Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Seminar Paper Yes 25%
Project Yes 75%

 
LECTURER/S Deandra Cutajar
Jackson Said

 
The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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