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Unit information: High Energy Astrophysics 301 in 2021/22

Unit name High Energy Astrophysics 301
Unit code PHYS34012
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Ben Maughan
Open unit status Not open

120 credit points of physics units at level I/5 in Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, Theoretical Physics, joint honours Physics and Philosophy.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

High energy astrophysics is the study of some of the most dramatic, violent and extreme processes in the Universe. We will look at the theoretical background for the generation and propagation of photons and relativistic particles by high energy processes. We will apply these concepts to understand the observable characteristics of a diversity of astrophysical objects including pulsars, supernovae, supermassive black holes, and clusters of galaxies. We will also study the nature and origin of cosmic rays.


To provide an introduction in an analytic and quantitative way to the relationship between energetic particles and photons which reach the Earth and energetic phenomena in distant astronomical objects.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Understand how the nature of cosmic rays has been inferred from direct and indirect observations. Acquire a familiarity with energy-loss processes of relativistic particles. Understand the processes of synchrotron radiation and inverse Compton scattering and their significance in interpreting radiation from a wide variety of astronomical objects. Able to estimate important characteristics of astronomical objects in terms of simple models of the physical phenomena, using sensible approximations. Understand the main likely sources of high-energy emissions and the importance of gravity.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

Assessment Information

Written, timed, open-book examination (100%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYS34012).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.