PHYSICS 753 : The Dynamic Universe


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Covers topics in modern astronomy and astrophysics relating to the evolution and dynamics of key astrophysical systems. Topics will be drawn from: stellar structure and stellar evolution; the formation of planets and the evolution of planetary systems; stellar and galactic dynamics; the large scale dynamical behaviour of the expanding universe.

Course Overview

This course will cover a number of topics in modern astrophysics. Key topics will be, observational techniques, stellar structure and evolution, stellar remnants, star formation, the structure and evolution of galaxies, gravitational wave detection and sources and a brief introduction to cosmology. Knowledge of the material of PHYSICS 201, 202 and 203 will be assumed. PHYSICS 356 would also be useful but not required preparation for the course. The course will examine the topics in mathematical detail and will also use numerical simulations in demonstrations. Students will also learn how to run their own simulations of stellar evolution and supernovae using publicly available computer programs. This course is highly recommend for those students wanting to undertake further study in astrophysics.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the astrophysics of stars, galaxies and the Universe (Capability 1)
  2. Analyse and evaluate observations of stars, supernovae and gravitational wave events. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 5)
  3. Create estimates of expect populations of astrophysical sources and transients within galaxies and the Universe. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 5)
  4. Use a stellar evolution code to create models of stars. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Explain the structure and evolution of galaxies and the Universe. (Capability 1)
  6. Communicate the main points of research articles on astrophysics. (Capability 1 and 4)
  7. Communicate within a group to contrast and compare results. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Presentation 5% Individual Coursework
Assignments (x3) 30% Individual Coursework
Project 15% Group & Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Assignments (x3)
Final Exam

Plussage will only be applied if all the coursework is completed.

Key Topics

Key topics include:
  • An overview of the Universe and its contents.
  • Astronomical observing techniques.
  • Stellar structure and evolution of single and binary stars.
  • Stellar remnants.
  • Star formation.
  • Galaxies.
  • Applied cosmology.
  • Gravitational wave transients.

Learning Resources

Recommended textbook:  Astrophysics in a nutshell by Dan Maoz.

Special Requirements

The project will require use of a linux computer to run the astrophysics code MESA ( A virtual box will be provided for Windows computers with this software included for those not running linux.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 2 hours of lectures, a 1 hour tutorial, 3 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 4 hours of work on assignments.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 01/07/2020 01:17 p.m.