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PHY8041 : Spectra and Radiative Transfer (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Angela Dyson
  • Owning School: Mathematics, Statistics and Physics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 15
ECTS Credits: 8.0


The analysis of observed spectra is one of the most fundamental tools of astronomical research. The aim of this course is to develop the theory of radiation and its interaction with matter in order to understand the physical processes involved in the formation of the spectrum. It also covers the effects that radiation has on the structure astrophysical objects, such as ionization and stellar winds. The module combines the mathematical framework with examples from observational and numerical work.

Outline Of Syllabus

- radiation field: intensity, radiative flux and pressure, Planck function
- coupling with matter: opacity, emissivity, equation of radiative transfer
- radiative transfer: simple solutions, spectral lines, limb darkening
- basics of stellar atmospheres and their interaction with the radiation field
- microscopic theory: line transitions, line broadening, scattering, ionization
- non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (NLTE)
- basics of radiation hydrodynamics (example: stellar winds)

- Radiative Processes in Astrophysics by George B. Rybicki
- Theory of Stellar Atmospheres: An Introduction to Astrophysical Non-equilibrium Quantitative Spectroscopic Analysis by Ivan Hubeny, Dimitri Mihalas

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00Formal lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion54:3022:30Preparation of assignments
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion240:3012:00Revision for unseen exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00Unseen exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion26:0012:00Preparation of report for practical classes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical22:004:00Computer lab exercise in numerical radiative transfer and fitting observed spectra
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Problem classes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery241:0024:00Office hours
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study13:003:00Assignment review - reflect on assignment feedback
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study134:3034:30Self-study: studying, practising and gaining understanding of the course material
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are used for the delivery of theory and explanation of methods, illustrated with examples, and for giving general feedback on marked work. Problem Classes are used to help develop the students’ abilities at applying the theory to solving problems. The practicals let the students use the acquired knowledge on real-world examples from research, both computational and observational. Office hours provide an opportunity for more direct contact between individual students and the lecturer and for student specific feedback on assignments, if required.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A70N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M20Two short reports on the practical exercises (1500 words per report)
Prob solv exercises1M105 Written numerical assignments - 2% each
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A substantial formal unseen examination is appropriate for the assessment of the material in this module, as this is the best way to test understanding of the Physics content. Written assignments (5 pieces of work of equal weight) allow the students to develop their problem solving techniques, to practise the methods learnt in the module, to assess their progress and to receive feedback; these assessments have a secondary formative purpose, as well as their primary summative purpose.
Two short reports on the outcome of the practical exercises in the computer lab make sure the students work towards a presentable result and practice their skills in scientific writing.

Reading Lists