PHYSICS 753 : The Dynamic Universe


2023 Semester Two (1235) (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 broad range of topics in modern astrophysics. These include 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 is not required preparation for the course. The course will examine the topics in mathematical detail and will also use numerical simulations in demonstrations. This course is highly recommended 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
Graduate Profile: Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain the astrophysics of stars, galaxies and the Universe. (Capability 1)
  2. Analyse and evaluate observations of stars, supernovae and gravitational wave events to understand their nature. (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. Apply stellar evolution models to understand stellar populations. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Explain and communicate the main points of research articles in astrophysics. (Capability 1 and 4)
  6. Communicate effectively in a group to compare results and drawn conclusions. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 35% Individual Examination
Assignments (x2) 40% Group & Individual Coursework
Test 15% Individual Coursework
Presentation 5% Individual Coursework
Tutorials 5% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6
Final Exam
Assignments (x2)


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Key Topics

  • 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.

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, a typical weekly workload includes:

  • 3 hours of lectures (one of these being a tutorial every fortnight).
  • 3 hours of reviewing the course content
  • 4 hours of work on assignments 

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including tutorials to complete components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials will be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus is not required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning 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.

Recommended Readings: 
  • Astrophysics in a Nutshell, by Dan Moaz

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.


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.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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.

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

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.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2022 09:31 a.m.