Module code: PHY3055

Module provider


Module Leader

COLLINS ML Dr (Physics)

Number of Credits


ECT Credits



FHEQ Level 6

JACs code


Module cap (Maximum number of students)


Module Availability

Semester 1

Overall student workload

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 11

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework COURSEWORK 30%

Alternative Assessment


Prerequisites / Co-requisites

Module overview

In this module, students will learn about the observational evidence and theoretical framework of our standard model of cosmology. Using this framework, they will go on to learn about the growth of structure in the Universe and the formation and evolution of galaxies.


Module aims

To provide the students with a coherent picture of our cosmological world view and the formation and evolution of galaxies and large scale structures. The module will provide the necessary theoretical framework to describe the evolution of the Universe and the principles structure formation.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
Describe modern cosmological models, the basic structure and contents of the Universe and how cosmic structures arise KC
Demonstrate understanding of how to derive and solve the Friedmann equations, and explain the role of baryons, radiation, as well as the role of exotic concepts such as dark ¿matter and dark energy, in the standard model of cosmology KC
Understand the thermodynamic evolution of the Universe, and should be able to describe the growth of density perturbations leading to the formation of structure KC
Characterise the large scale distribution of matter in the Universe, and describe how modern observations can be used to constrain cosmological model KC
Understand the processes relevant for dissipative collapse leading to disk galaxy formation, and how star formation and “feedback” operate in galaxies K
Characterise galactic morphologies and how these follow observed galactic scaling relations C
Discuss our current understanding of how high redshift galaxies relate to locally observed systems KCT
Appreciate the evolving nature of galaxy formation theory and insight into ongoing puzzles, like the “missing satellite” and “missing baryons” problems K

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Module content

- General overview and introduction -

Historical background, observational cosmology and extragalactic astronomy, Big Bang and the early Universe, the cosmic microwave background, contents of the Universe: baryons, radiation, dark matter and dark energy. The cosmological principle, isotropy and homogeneity, standard candles and cosmic distances, the distance ladder, Hubble's law.

- Cosmological models -

The Friedmann equations, cosmological parameters, observational tests of the Friedman model, redshift and various distance measures in cosmology, matter and radiation dominated expansion, the flatness and the horizon problem, inflation, the thermal history of the Universe, recombination, the surface of last scattering, synthesis of the light elements. Observational constraints of our cosmological models (CMB, clustering, Lyman alpha alpha forest, reionisation of H and He).

- Formation of structure -

Growth of perturbations: gravitational instabilities in an expanding space-time, formation of large scale structure, the cosmic web, statistical properties of cosmological density fields: correlation functions and power spectra from theory and observations, Press-Schecter theory,  Non-linear collapse, virialisation and the formation of dark matter haloes, the dark matter halo mass function, the halo model, halo bias.

- Galaxy Formation -

Dissipative collapse, cooling and heating processes, origin of angular momentum: tidal torque theory, disk formation, the role of galaxy mergers, modes of accretion: hot vs. cold inflow, the inter-galactic medium, the galaxy luminosity function, the galaxy-dark matter halo connection.

- Galaxy Evolution -

Galactic scaling relations: the Tully-Fisher and Faber-Jackson relation and the fundamental plane. The Hubble sequence and the blue and red sequence of galaxies. The high redshift Universe: the cosmic star formation history, gas rich high redshift galaxies, results from numerical simulations. Star formation and feedback processes. Puzzles in galaxy formation theory: the missing satellite problem, missing baryon problem, overcooling.


Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to increase students’ critical understanding of physics and astrophysics, and through this module to provide students with the opportunity to explore both the theoretical and experimental concepts of Cosmology and Galaxy Formation.

The learning and teaching methods include:

lectures (2hrs per week x 11 weeks) ‘

tutorials (1hr per week x 11 weeks)

independent study


The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate core competencies in astrophysics materials, through examination.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

- a written examination of 1.5 hrs duration, with two questions from three to be attempted

- a midterm coursework assignment consisting of three questions of the type discussed during the weekly tutorials.

Formative assessment and feedback¿

Formative assessment is provided by verbal feedback in tutorials and lecture classes



Assessment Strategy

Reading list


Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2017/8 academic year.