PHYSICS 7532 - Atmospheric and Astrophysics

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2017

This course will provide students with a knowledge of modern techniques, theory, and observational results relating to energetic processes in astrophysics and cosmology, and introduce the physics of planetary atmospheres with special emphasis on the atmosphere of the Earth. It also will provide students with knowledge of the physical processes that govern weather and climate. Content will include: Introduction to planetary atmospheres and the solar system. Radiative transfer in the sun-earth system. Thermodynamics of the atmosphere, including cloud physics, atmospheric motions and circulation. Introduction to the roles of aerosols and minor atmospheric constituents such as water vapour, carbon dioxide and ozone. The impact of anthropogenic processes. An introduction to relevant astrophysics terminology. Binary stars and accretion processes. The structure and evolution of the Milky Way and other galaxies. Active galaxies and unified models. Aspects of special and general relativity relevant to astrophysics. Cosmology, observations and theory.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PHYSICS 7532
    Course Atmospheric and Astrophysics
    Coordinating Unit School of Physical Sciences
    Term Semester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 4 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites PHYSICS 2510, PHYSICS 2534 , MATHS 2101 or MATHS 2201, MATHS 2102 or MATHS 2202
    Incompatible PHYSICS 3013, PHYSICS 3014, PHYSICS 3532
    Assessment Examination, Assignments, Tutorials
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Ross Young

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    1. understand Binary Stars and Accretion in Close Binary Systems, and the associated processes occurring in the Milky Way and other galaxies;

    2. explain aspects of special and general relativity related to astrophysics;

    3. explain cosmology, both observation and theory;

    4. apply the concepts of thermodynamics of dry and moist air, radiation and radiative transfer relevant to planetary atmospheres;

    5. explain the basic motion of the atmosphere;

    6. explain climate and climate change;

    7. apply appropriate techniques for solving a range of problems

    8. assess the validity of any assumptions that were made, and the correctness of the solution;

    9. identify the basic concepts and results of modern research papers in atmospheric and astrophysics;

    10. use the tools, methodologies, language and conventions of physics to test and communicate ideas and explanations.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    Zeilik, M and Gregory, S.A. (1998) Introductory Astronomy and Astrophysics, 4th Edition (Thomson)


    Wallace, J. M. and P. V. Hobbs (2006): Atmospheric Science: An Introductory Survey, 2nd Edition, (Academic Press)


    Andrews, D. G. (2000): An Introduction to Atmospheric Physics, CUP
    Recommended Resources

    Rogers, R. R. and M. K. Yau (1989): A Short Course in Cloud Physics, 3rd Edition, (Pergamon Press).

    Holton, J. R. An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology, (Academic Press) (any edition).

    Carroll, B.W. and Ostlie, D.A. (2007): An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics (either edition) (Addison-Wesley)
    Online Learning

    MyUni: Teaching materials and course documentation will be posted on the MyUni website (
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    - 3 Lectures of 1 hour each per week

    - 1 Tutorial of 1 hour per week

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    A student enrolled in a 3 unit course, such as this, should expect to spend, on average 12 hours per week on the studies required. This includes both the formal contact time required to the course (e.g., lectures and practicals), as well as non-contact time (e.g., reading and revision).
    Learning Activities Summary

    Ø Solar-Planetary Relations
    - introduction to planetary atmospheres
    - simple radiative balance

    Ø Atmospheric Thermodynamics
    - first law of thermodynamics
    - effects of water vapour
    - atmospheric stability
    - thermodynamic diagrams
    - mixing and convection
    - formation of cloud droplets
    - precipitation

    Ø Radiation and Radiative Transfer
    - black-body radiation
    - extinction and emission
    - absorption in the atmosphere
    - radiative transfer equation and solution
    - heating rates
    - cooling to space
    - aerosols: Rayleigh and Mie scattering

    Ø The Atmosphere in Motion
    - Eulerian and Lagrangian frames
    - momentum equations in a rotating frame of reference
    - equation of continuity
    - scale analysis
    - geostrophic motions
    - pressure coordinates
    - vorticity
    - turbulence, frictional effects and secondary circulations

    Ø Climate and Climate Change
    - ozone production and loss
    - greenhouse effect and climate feedbacks

    Ø Binary Stars and Accretion in Close Binary Systems
    - Visual, spectroscopic and eclipsing binary stars
    - Evolution of close binaries
    - Accretion in semi-detached systems; accretion disks
    - White dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes in binary systems

    Ø The Milky Way and other Galaxies
    - Composition and size of the Milky Way
    - Galactic structure, spiral arms
    - The Centre of the Milky Way
    - Galaxies beyond the Milky Way – types, multiwavelength observations
    - Galaxies and the distance scale
    - Large scale structure of the Universe
    - Active Galactic Nuclei, types and a unified model

    Ø Aspects of Special and General Relativity related to Astrophysics
    - Relativistic Doppler shift and associated redshift
    - Inverse Compton Scattering and synchrotron radiation
    - Theory of apparent superluminal motion
    - Doppler shift and Doppler factor of active galactic nuclei
    - Relativistic beaming and Doppler boosted luminosity
    - Gravitational deflection of light and gravitational lensing
    - Gravitational redshift and black holes

    Ø Cosmology – observations and theory
    - Key observations of the Universe
    - Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker metric
    - Einstein-de Sitter model and closure density
    - Cosmological redshift
    - Thermodynamics of matter, radiation and dark energy
    - The early Universe and decoupling
    - Age of Universe as function of redshift
    - Angular diameter distance and luminosity distance as tools for measuring cosmological parameters
    - Primordial nucleosynthesis
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment task Type of assessment Percentage of total assessment

    Yes or No #
    Objectives being assessed / achieved
    Assignments Formative & Summative 30-40% No 1 – 10
    Exam Summative 60-70% No 1 – 10
    Assessment Detail

    While this course is offered concurrently to undergraduate students, all postgraduate students are expected to perform at a higher level both qualitatively and quantitatively. To facilitate this, postgraduate students are required to address additional content in the projects and the examination within the same timeframe as undergraduate students.

    Assignments (from 30 - 40% of the course grade – the percentage weighting of assignments and examination will be decided at the start of the semester in consultation with students). The assignments will be used during the semester to assess knowledge and understanding of the concepts and the ability to use the techniques involved in the course, and to provide students with a benchmark for progress in the course.

    Final exam
    One 3-hour exam (from 60 - 70% of the course grade – the percentage weighting of assignments and examination will be decided at the start of the semester in consultation with students) will be used to assess the understanding of and the ability to use the material.

    Although tutorials will not contribute to the course grade, attendance is highly recommended. Tutorials will be scheduled as required by the Lecturers at only one of the given tutorials sessions in any given week.

    Submission of Assigned Work
    Coversheets must be completed and attached to all submitted work. Coversheets can be obtained from the School Office (room G33 Physics) or from MyUNI. Work should be submitted via the assignment drop box at the School Office.

    Extensions for Assessment Tasks
    Extensions of deadlines for assessment tasks may be allowed for reasonable causes. Such situations would include compassionate and medical grounds of the severity that would justify the awarding of a supplementary examination. Evidence for the grounds must be provided when an extension is requested. Students are required to apply for an extension to the Course Coordinator before the assessment task is due. Extensions will not be provided on the grounds of poor prioritising of time. The assessment extension application form can be obtained from:

    Late submission of assessments
    If an extension is not applied for, or not granted then a penalty for late submission will apply. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each calendar day that is late (i.e. weekends count as 2 days), up to a maximum of 50% of the available marks will be applied. This means that an assignment that is 5 days or more late without an approved extension can only receive a maximum of 50% of the mark.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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