Astrophysics BSc (Hons)
About the course
Astrophysics is one of the oldest branches of Physics, being concerned with the behavior of the Universe and the physics of galaxies, stars and planets. Astrophysics applies many fundamental areas of Physics to the study of the Universe, from quantum physics to electromagnetism and relativity. Studying astrophysical phenomena, for example galaxies or supernovae, can often reveal new Physics such as the existence of dark matter and dark energy. Because Astrophysics is such a highly physical and mathematical subject, graduates are as in high demand as Physics graduates because of their analytic and transferable skills.
In the School of Physics, Astronomy & Mathematics we aim to teach you these skills in a friendly and professional environment, giving you the opportunity to learn both the fundamentals of Astrophysics and the results of modern cutting-edge research. We are in the top ten of Physics departments in the UK and we are highly regarded for our innovative and successful teaching. Our Centre for Astrophysics Research is one of the largest astrophysics groups in the UK, with over 50 astronomers and astrophysicists. We carry out internationally excellent and world-leading research Astrophysics across a broad swathe of Astrophysics from extrasolar planets, star formation and stellar evolution, galaxy formation and evolution, supernovae and cosmology. And our observatory at Bayfordbury is widely regarded as the best teaching observatory in the UK.
We take pride in our student-focused approach to teaching Astrophysics. With one of the best student-staff ratios in the country we are able to put our focus on you as an individual and give you the support that you need to reach your full potential as an Astrophysics graduate. Our graduates are in a wide range of careers, from scientific research to teaching and industry.
Why choose this course?
On our Astrophysics BSc (Hons) degree you will study the cosmos in all its wonder, gaining a detailed physical understanding of how the Universe works. We put a lot of emphasis on understanding the physical and mathematical principles behind astrophysical phenomena. You will also gain considerable hand-on experience of astronomical observations at our dedicated teaching observatory – beginning your studies there only a few weeks after commencing your degree with us. During your second and third years you will specialise in more advanced Astrophysical topics, including the physics of the solar system and extrasolar planets, cosmology, and star formation and stellar evolution. We also offer a range of options in your final year, including learning how to plan space missions in Space Dynamics and the flight dynamics of rockets in Rocket Performance and Propulsion.
You will also carry out a final year investigative project in a cutting-edge area of Astrophysics research. You will be closely supervised and guided by one of our experienced researchers in the Centre for Astrophysics Research. Previous projects have included mapping the Orion Nebula with our telescopes at Bayfordbury, studying planetary systems with the Herschel Space Observatory, and modeling high energy jets from galactic nuclei. If you’re continuing on our MPhys programme it’s possible to extend your project into your MPhys year. We also have an innovative strand of industrial projects, supported by the Institute of Physics, that give you direct experience of working in industrial research.
320 UCAS points which must include at least grade C in both Physics & Mathematics GCE A2 levels.
A2 level Maths and Physics must give a combined total of at least 200 UCAS points.
BTEC National Diploma in Applied Science at DMM combined with Mathematics A-level at grade C or above.
GCSE English Language and mathematics at grade C or above. A minimum IELTS score of 6.0,TOEFL 550 (213 CBT) is required for those for whom English is not their first language. Equivalent qualifications welcomed.
- Full Time, 3 Years
- Part Time, 6 Years
- Sandwich, 4 Years
- University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield
A degree in astrophysics opens doors to a wide variety of careers from scientific research to teaching or a range of different careers in industry. The top destinations of our graduates are postgraduate study (on MSc or PhD degrees in Astrophysics), teaching and IT. Your high levels of numeracy, critical thinking and analytic skills will put you in great demand.
We use a variety of teaching methods during our Astrophysics degrees, ranging from small-group tutorials, to lectures and practical classes. A key feature is our observatory at Bayfordbury, where we teach you how to carry out astronomical observations in as close to a professional setting as we can make it. Our typical intake of students is around 50-60 in each year, which means that our class sizes are small enough so that your lecturers will know you by name. We place particular emphasis on transferable skills, employability and project work throughout the degree.
You will meet your personal tutor on a regular basis in small-group tutorials, which are a great way of reinforcing the material that you learn in lectures. We also offer a wide variety of support throughout your degree, from your lecturers, the School’s Maths Centre and peer support from our student proctor scheme.
All of our Astrophysics degree programmes can be taken as a sandwich degree, with a professional placement or study abroad year. We have a dedicated Placements Tutor in our School who, along with the University’s Study Abroad Office and Careers & Placements Service, will help you find and set up your placement. Past students have gone on research and study abroad placements to the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and Singapore. Within the UK our students have worked at IBM, Microsoft, the Rutherford Appleton Labs, the Met Office and the National Physical Laboratory. Many of our graduates go on to work or postgraduate study at their placement hosts.
Accredited by the Institute of Physics (IoP). Graduates of this degree programme are eligible for Associate Membership of the IoP.
Mathematical Techniques 1 (L1)
On entry students will have different mathematical knowledge and this module has been designed to standardise their mathematical knowledge. The module will initially review core areas of A-Level Mathematics which will be extended to improve students' knowledge. You will learn the standard mathematical techniques in calculus, matrices and vectors.
Contemporary Physics (L1)
The module introduces students to the fundamental developments in relativistic and quantum physics of the last century. Students will learn about the special relativistic effects. They will trace the development of quantum physics and learn about the structure of matter. They will uncover strange and bizarre phenomena including the twins paradox, the pole and barn paradox, matter waves, quantum tunnelling, particle-wave duality and the quantum superposition principle.
Laboratory Physics 1
The module consists of experimental investigations into various physical phenomena such as classical mechanics, thermodynamics, waves and optics, quantum phenomena (blackbody and photoelectric effect) and atomic spectra. It also introduces the basic techniques of laboratory practice, including data recording, uncertainty estimation, data and uncertainty analysis, maintaining a log book and writing reports.
Applications of Computing
In this module, you will learn how to program in a high-level language. You will see how to develop scientific and mathematical models and how they can be implemented in a computational environment. At the end of the module you will be capable of writing a technical report in which you present the results of an investigation using computer packages.
The Physical Universe
The module will provide students in Physics and Astrophysics with a quantitative introduction to the Physical Universe. It will provide a broad survey of the universe and the structure of matter. It will show how physics and mathematics are used as theoretical tools to interpret data collected in the laboratory or at the telescope. It will introduce students to laboratory and observatory skills.
Small Group Tutorial
The module will require students to attempt a range of problems, mostly of a mathematical nature, broadly in the students' subject area. Some problems will be associated with other specific taught modules on the programme, while others will have a synoptic role sitting across several modules. The work will challenge students to develop problem solving skills that enable them to approach unfamiliar as well as familiar problems.
Mathematical Techniques 2
You will learn how to integrate functions of two and three variables along plane and space curves and how to evaluate multiple integrals of such functions. You will learn about gradient, divergence and curl. You will be able to obtain Fourier series expansions of simple functions and perform calculations involving functions of a complex variable.
Solar System Physics
Solar System processes are studied using core physical ideas, practical observations and analytical modelling techniques.
Optical Physics & Electromagnetism
The module consists of a study of optical physics and electromagnetism, leading from the early classical studies of optical physics to the development of a modern electromagnetic theory of light. Wider applications and modern developments will also be considered.
The module will study the principles of quantum physics and its applicationsin atomic and nuclear physics. It will build on the quantum physics taught at Level 1.
Laboratory Physics 2
The module consists of experimental investigations into various physical phenomena such as optical polarisation, diffraction, optical effects such as the Zeeman effect, spectroscopy, thermal properties of matter, properties of semiconductors, nuclear decay, and basic crystallography.
The overall aim of this module is to develop the skills necessary to be able to contribute as a graduate in the world of work. The content includes opportunities to develop further the techniques of effective presentation, both in written reports and in oral presentation. Also, you will learn to develop further the ability to work in a team. You will learn to address circumstances requiring professional judgement. During the module you will also develop skills in the area of career management. This will be achieved through the following: researching information on post-graduation opportunities, the the introduction of MAPS PDP tool as a way of gathering information relating to your skills and experiences, and participation in activies to prepare you for applying for future opportunities. The aim of this part of the module is to raise awareness of employability issues and be confident in putting forward your skills and experiences for future opportunities.
Professional Teaching Skills
After receiving initial training in writing a CV and job application, you obtain a placement in a school for (approximately) ten half days to work with the class teacher. You develop professional teaching skills and build a relationship with the class teacher. At the end of that period you give a presentation to the class, which is assessed. You keep a diary throughout and write a final report. During the module you will also develop skills in the area of career management. This will be achieved through researching information on post-graduation opportunities, and participation in activities to prepare you for applying for future opportunities. The aim of this part of the module is to raise awareness of employability issues and be confident in putting forward your skills and experiences for future opportunities.
This module employs a variety of mathematical methods and techniques to explore, describe and predict the behaviour of scientific, industrial and engineering phenomena. The subject appeals to individuals interested in applying their mathematical interests and skills to real-word problems. In this module, we will focus on ordinary differential equations. The emphasis is on the development of methods important in applications. Topics include:- Theory and applications of first, second and higher order differential equations, The Laplace transform methods, Systems of linear differential equations.
You will learn about motion and how to determine the way a particle moves. This has applications in almost every area of human endeavour from spaceships to sport.
Supervised work experience provides students with the opportunity to set their academic studies in a broader context, to gain practical experience in specific technical areas and to strengthen their communication and time-management skills. It greatly assists them in developing as independent learners, so that they are able to gain the maximum benefit from the learning opportunities provided at level 3 of the programme.
The Year Abroad will provide students with the opportunity to expand, develop and apply the knowledge and skills gained in the first two taught years of the degree within a different organisational and cultural environment in a partner academic institution. The host institution will appoint a Programme Co-ordinator who will oversee the student's programme during the Year Abroad and will liaise with the appointed UH Supervisor.
Physics of Stars
This module develops and applies core physics concepts to achieve a systematic, deep understanding of star formation, stellar evolution, stellar atmospheres and their observational basis. Refer to the Module Guide for a more detailed description.
Cosmology and Large Scale Structure
This module develops the basic physical ideas required to understand core topics in contemporary cosmology. Refer to the teaching plan for a more detailed description.
Rocket Performance and Propulsion
This module will introduce students to flight dynamics of rockets and their propulsion systems. Typical applications under consideration will include satellite launch and insertion into orbit, sounding rockets and potential future applications such as space tourism, together with some aspects of guided weapons.
Quantum Computing A
Quantum information processing continues to be an extremely active research area exploiting fundamental quantum phenomena in new applications from computation, secure data communication and information processing. A major paradigm shift, the area is of significant interest and potential benefit to computer scientists, mathematicians and physicists. This module will be theoretical in nature, exploring concepts and applications from the area of Quantum Information Processing with an emphasis on Quantum Computing. Content will vary according to current research directions.
Quantum Computing B
The content for this module builds upon that presented in Quantum Computing A tackling for example more advanced topics such as Shor's algorithm and Grover's algorithm. The content is theoretical in nature, exploring concepts and applications from the area of Quantum Information Processing with an emphasis on Quantum Computing. Content will vary according to current research directions.
Waves and Fluids
This module develops the basic physics required to understand core topics in wave and fluid physics.
Boundary Value Problems
You will learn how to solve one and two-dimensional boundary-value problems both analytically and numerically. Through practical sessions you will use suitable numerical software to investigate the numerical processes. Refer to the teaching plan for a more detailed description.
Project - (Physics)
Under the guidance of a supervisor, students will undertake a substantial individual project of their choice. The project will be assessed by the following elements: a written project plan, overall project management, a poster presentation, a written sample chapter, the project report and a project viva.
Spacecraft dynamics is studied using core physical ideas, case studies and modelling techniques.
The module will provide students in Physics, Astrophysics and Applied Mathematics with a range of self contained case studies in computational physics. Each case study will investigate a physical problem, using the computer as an investigative tool. Students will learn how to formulate and model a physical problem and how to analyse and present the results of their investigation. A variety of appropriate computer techniques would be used.
Contemporary Quantum Physics
This module will cover advanced concepts in contemporary quantum physics and discuss some modern applications. Content is a selection of topics from the following, or similar: - The time evolution of quantum systems - Time dependent perturbation theory - Interaction of an atom with an electromagnetic wave - The time-energy uncertainty relation - The quantum states of light - The harmonic oscillator - Quantization of the radiation field - Zero point energy and the Casimir force - Experiments and applications - Interferometry and indistinquishability - Entangled states and quantum correlations - Lasers and Cold atoms
Investigation in Physics
Students will choose a topic from a list of typically ten different physics/astrophysics topics offered by school staff (tutors), and will conduct an open-ended investigation into that topic. The students working on each topic will work independently on their investigations with minimal supervision, under the guidance of a tutor. They will be required to produce an original, substantial and professionally presented report typically 25-30 pages in length. Students will be interviewed about their work and will defend it in a question and answer session.
You will learn how to investigate and evaluate the qualitative behaviour of the solutions of differential equations which relate to problems in a wide variety of application areas. You will recognise that the behaviour of the solution of a differential equation can be drastically altered by the small change of a coefficient. These observations may have important contributions in improving the applications of mathematics in industry, business and the physical sciences. The module provides the student with a deep understanding of differential equations.
Fees & funding
Full time: £9,000 for the 2014 academic year
Part time: If you decide to study this course on a part time basis you will be charged on a modular basis. The cost is £1,125 for each 15-credit module
Full time: £10,600 for the 2014 academic year
Other financial support
Living costs / accommodation
The University of Hertfordshire offers a great choice of student accommodation, on campus or nearby in the local area, to suit every student budget.
Key course information
- Institution code: H36
- UCAS code: F501BSc (Hons) Astrophysics,F510BSc (Hons) Astrophysics with a Year Abroad,
- Course code: EIPHYAP
- Course length:
- Full Time, 3 Years
- Part Time, 6 Years
- Sandwich, 4 Years