Students can study Astronomy or astrophysics as Part II on completion of Part IB in either Mathematics or Physics. The course provides the scientific reasoning that underlies modern astronomy and astrophysics.
The Michaelmas (1st) Term consists of four 24 lectures teaching the fundamental physics
underlying the rest of the course –
- Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
- Principles of Quantum Mechanics
- Topics in Astrophysics.
3 of the 4 courses in the Lent Term cover the main areas of
contemporary astronomy and the fourth course is Statistical
- statistical physics
Lectures in astrophysics, like most of the Cambridge curriculum, focus on the derivations of fundamentals from first principles and the teaching of basic understanding.
Assessments: written examinations, coursework and an extended essay or two or more of the CATAM computer projects organised by the Mathematics Faculty. For progression to Part III Astrophysics students will be required to do at least one CATAM computing project.
In Part III Astrophysics students will undertake a substantial project amongst lectures, which accounts for 1/3 of the marks and is supervised by a tutor from the Institute of Astronomy. Lecture courses are taught by Institute of Astronomy (IoA) staff, as part of the Part III 4. Mathematics course and from a few courses offered in Part III Physics. Many of Part III Astrophysics and Part III Mathematics lectures (and examinations) are the same,therefore for interested Part II Mathematics students of sufficient standard, Part III Astrophysics is an alternative to Part III Mathematics. The main difference is that Part III Astrophysics students take one less lecture course (and examination), but undertake a more substantial project, insteadof the essay. It is also possible for mathematically able students who have taken Part II Physics to take Part III Astrophysics, provided they have taken the Lent Term option in Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics.
Astrophysics courses typically offered in Part III Mathematics (these change from year to year)include
- Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
- Structure and Evolution of Stars
- Stellar and Planetary Magnetic Fields
- Physical Cosmology
- General Relativity
- Black Holes
- Accretion Discs
Examinations are the same as those taken by students taking Part III Mathematics. Part III Astrophysics students may also offer the Part III Physics courses “The Physics of the Earth as a Planet” and “Particle Physics”. Further details of the courses may be found at the Department of Physics. Examinationsare the same as those taken by students taking Part III Physics.
A major component of the Part III Astrophysics course is the research project which provides undergraduates with a unique opportunity to get to the cutting edge of astronomical research and the resulting dissertation often contains work of publishable quality. Projects ofteneither involve the analysis of astronomical data or the running of computer simulations.
Astronomy is also included in the History of Sciences, where students will gain a grasp of the hitory of astronomy and its contribution to modern sciences, including great early astronomers such as Kepler, whose laws of planetary motion planted the seeds for our understanding of gravity and the laws that govern life on Earth.