ASTR301: Astronomy Beyond the Visible

Course content:

  • Radiative transfer: fundamental equations and optical depth; thermal radiation and local thermodynamic equilibrium; spectral lines and broadening mechanisms; scattering (Mie and Rayleigh); application to the interstellar medium.
  • Ionisation losses and bremsstrahlung: radiation from an accelerated charge; thermal bremsstrahlung; bremsstrahlung self-absorption; applications to astrophysical systems (e.g., galaxy clusters).
  • Synchrotron emission: theory; spectrum; polarization; Faraday rotation; synchrotron self-absorption; applications to astrophysical systems (e.g., radio galaxies).
  • High energy photon interactions: inverse Compton radiation; Thomson scattering; theory; astrophysical applications (e.g., the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect, cosmic rays).
  • Black holes and accretion phenomena: application to active galactic nuclei, compact stars (white dwarfs, neutron stars/pulsars); observational evidence.
  • Telescopes and detectors at gamma ray, X-ray, UV, IR, sub-mm, and radio wavelengths.
  • Radio interferometry: visibilities; aperture synthesis.

After completing this module students are expected to be able to:

  • Apply the radiative transfer equation to astrophysical systems and perform simple calculations.
  • Describe the physics of bremsstrahlung, synchrotron, and inverse Compton radiation, and derive estimates of the associated physical properties of observed astrophysical systems.
  • Explain the physical principles behind telescopes and detectors at non-visible wavelengths, and discuss their application to observations of astrophysical systems.
  • Understand the physical processes that arise in high energy astrophysical sources and model them.
  • Understand and apply the basic principles of radio interferometry to observational data to derive physical properties of high energy astrophysical sources (e.g., radio galaxies, supernovae remnants, pulsars).