ani_phases.gif (93875 bytes) Astronomy
Physics at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University, Corner Brook, NL
Astronomers Witout Borders


Physics 3160: Galaxies & Cosmology

Physics Info

Physics Laboratories

B.Sc. in Physics

  Physics 1020
  Physics 1021
  Physics 1050
  Physics 1051
  Physics 2053
  Physics 2056
  Physics 2151
  Physics 2400
  Physics 2553
  Physics 2820
  Physics 3060
  Physics 3160
  Physics 3180
  Physics 3220
  Physics 3820
  ES 2150
  EnvS 2430
  EnvS 2450

Astronomy Links

Physics Links


Grenfell home

 This course will be offered in Winter Term 2014.

This course covers the structure and history of our own Galaxy, the properties of normal and active galaxies, their formation and evolution.  The second part of the course is an overview of cosmological models and their observational background, the Big Bang, and the evolution and expansion of the Universe.

Physics 3160 is an upper year physics/astronomy course with mathematics & physics prerequisites: Physics 2056 and 2151 and Mathematics 2000. Physics 3220 is recommended.


Dr. Douglas Forbes
Office: AS 3028
Phone: 637-6295
E-Mail: dforbes at grenfell dot mun dot ca


An Introduction to Galaxies and Cosmology, Edited by Jones and Lambourne (2004,  Cambridge University Press)

An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, 2nd ed.,  A. Liddle, (2003, Wiley)

Other Recommended Books:

Galaxies in the Universe (2nd Ed.), L.S. Sparke & J.S. Gallagher (2007, Cambridge University Press)

Course Topics:

The course is broken up into several main areas, generally following the arrangement of topics in the textbooks:

  • Section I.  Review of Stellar Astronomy.   You will already be familiar with some of this material from PHYS 2151, but we will go into greater depth and be more technical, with most things.  This section will review astronomical observation (magnitudes, colours, spectra, radial velocities, distances, etc.), and basics about stars (spectral classification, the HR diagram, stellar evolution). 

  • Section II.  General Observational Properties of Galaxies.   After an examination of our own Galaxy, you will learn more about general galaxy properties – morphologies, sizes, luminosities, surface brightness profiles.  We'll look at the nature of elliptical, spiral, and irregular galaxies in some detail. In addition to covering the stellar and gaseous components of the galaxies, you'll be learning about their dynamics and chemical evolution. You’ll also find out about the luminosity function for galaxies, and be introduced to active galaxies and a “nature vs. nurture” debate.  (Jones & Lambourne, Chap. 1 and 2)

  • Section III.  Active Galaxies.   “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”, so we’ll devote a few days to these spectacular show-offs. (Jones & Lambourne, Chap. 3)

  • Section IV.  Galaxy Clusters.  Groups of galaxies and their large-scale distribution in space.  Here’s where you’ll find two pretty spiffy ways to find the mass of galaxy clusters - even if you can’t see most of it! (Jones & Lambourne, Chap. 4)

  • Section V.  An Introduction to Modern Cosmology.   And now for the really cool stuff!  As the author of your second text says: “By a lucky chance, and a subtle bit of cheating, the correct equations describing an expanding Universe can be obtained from Newtonian gravity.  From this basis, one can study all the triumphs of the Hot Big Bang cosmology – the expansion of the Universe, the prediction of its age, the existence of the cosmic microwave background, and the abundances of light elements such as helium and deuterium – and even go on to discuss more speculative ideas such as the inflationary cosmology.”   Which is just what we’ll do!     (Liddle)

  • Exercise Links:

    Colour Galaxy Images              Sloan Digital Sky Survey

    Marking Scheme:

    Group problems 15 %
    Individual problems 15 %
    Exercises 20 %
    Term Tests 20 %
    Final Exam 30 %
    Total  100 %

    Your attention is drawn to University regulations governing academic offences, particularly plagiarism. Anyone found guilty of an academic offence can expect, at the very least, to receive a mark of zero for the work in question.


      Last update: 12 December, 2013

    Questions or Comments?  physics_webmaster