Gravitational and Accretion Physics
SCQF Level 10
Academic year(s): 2019-2020
SCOTCAT credits : 15
ECTS credits : 7
Level : SCQF Level 10
Availability restrictions: Not automatically available to General Degree students
This theoretical module is open to both physics and astrophysics students. It aims to explore the basics of gravitational dynamics and its application to systems ranging from planetary and stellar systems to clusters of galaxies. The dynamics responsible for the growth of super-massive black holes in galaxies and the accretion discs in stellar systems are also covered. Starting from two-body motion and orbits under a central-force law, the module describes the calculation of extended potentials and their associated orbits. The use of the virial theorem and the statistical treatment of large numbers of selfgravitating bodies is then developed with application to stellar systems. Applications of these methods are made to several different astrophysical objects ranging from collisions in globular clusters to the presence of dark matter in the universe.
Pre-requisite(s): Before taking this module you must pass PH2011 and pass PH2012 and pass MT2501 and pass MT2503 and ( pass PH3081 or pass PH3082 or pass MT2506 and pass MT2507 )
Anti-requisite(s): You cannot take this module if you take AS4021
Weekly contact: 3 lectures occasionally replaced by whole-group tutorials.
Scheduled learning hours: 32
Guided independent study hours: 118
As used by St Andrews: 2-hour Written Examination = 100%
As defined by QAA
Written examinations : 100%
Practical examinations : 0%
Re-assessment: Oral Re-assessment, capped at grade 7
Module coordinator: Dr H Zhao
Module teaching staff: Dr H Zhao
To present an overview of the importance and relevance of gravitational process in astrophysics, including how gravity relates structures with kinematics and the long-term evolution of such structures due to gravitational interactions. The module also aims to provide a basic understanding of how astrophysical discs work and provide an insight into how compact astrophysical objects form and obtain their characteristic masses be they planets, stars or black holes.
By the end of the module the student should be able to:
Apply potential theory to gravitational systems.
Relate kinematics to mass distributions in extended objects like clusters and galaxies.
Determine how gravitational interactions drive the evolution of self-gravitating systems.
Model the structures and evolution of astrophysical discs.
Understand the statistical treatment of a large-N system
Use the Jeans equations to determine mass distributions from observable properties.
Model accretion processes and how these relate to the luminous Universe.
Starting from two-body motion and orbits under a central-force law, the module describes the calculation of extended potentials and their associated orbits. The use of the virial theorem and the statistical treatment of large numbers of self-gravitating bodies is then developed with application to stellar systems. Applications of these methods are made to several different astrophysical objects ranging from collisions in globular clusters to the presence of dark matter in the universe. The physics of accretion and accretion discs is developed with emphasis on disc structures, accretion through the disc and the ability of discs to form smaller mass objects such as planets.
This module may not contain material that is part of the IOP “Core of Physics”, but does contribute to the wider and deeper learning expected in an accredited degree programme. The skills developed in this module, and others, contribute towards the requirements of the IOP “Graduate Skill Base”.
Please view University online record:
Please also read the general information in the School's honours handbook that is available via st-andrews.ac.uk/physics/staff_students/timetables.php.