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					MSc and Certificate in

Notes for guidance of students

         September 2007

While I have tried to ensure that the information in these guideline notes is accurate, there may be
errors. I would be grateful if students and staff draw to my attention any that they spot, so that
these can be corrected in future editions of the notes. No information given in these notes
supersedes that given in the official QMUL Academic Regulations.
Prof R. Tavakol, September 2007

1. Welcome

For those students new to the course, welcome! The MSc in Astrophysics and the Postgraduate
Certificate at QMUL is taught by members of the Astronomy Unit in the School of Mathematical
Sciences. For more information about the group and our research, see our Web sites below.

The course director for both MSc and Certificate is Prof. Reza Tavakol (Room 456, Maths). He is
normally available during his office hours (Please see the times posted on his office door) to discuss
any issues relating to the course. In urgent cases he can be contacted via E-mail
( or by phone (020-7882-5451)

During the first Semester (Sep-Dec 2007), however, Prof. James Lidsey (Room 455, Maths) will be
standing in for him.

2. Useful Web addresses

The following addresses contain information supplementary to these Notes.

Astronomy Unit:
Queen Mary:
Royal Astronomical Society:

Pages for this course:



3. Structure of the course

The MSc can be studied either part-time (at least two years) or full-time (one year). The Certificate
is studied part-time for one year. Lectures take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Full-time
students must attend all Lectures. Part-time MSc students who wish to complete in two years will
need to attend all the Tuesday and Thursday evening lectures. If they wish to extend their studies
over more than two years, they need not take all the evening courses in a given year but this will not
entail any extra fees. Certificate students are encouraged to take all the Tuesday and Thursday
evening courses. The MSc students must also undertake a Project and write this up to the form of a
dissertation. The scheduling of lectures is laid out on the following pages, together with details of
the study requirements for the MSc and Certificate, and short syllabuses for all the lecture courses.
For the most up-to-date information you should however refer to the Web pages, where any
corrections or additions to this information will be made.

Programme Requirements 2007 / 2008

Full-time MSc Astrophysics
Requirements 8 taught units + dissertation
Full-time students are expected to attend all the courses in the programme taught in the daytime (4
units), on Thursday evenings (2 units) and on Tuesday evenings (2 units).

Part-time MSc Astrophysics
Requirements 8 taught units + dissertation
Part-time students are required to take all courses taught on Tuesday evenings (2 units per year) and
Thursday evenings (2 units per year), though not necessarily in a single year.

Part-time Certificate
Requirements 4 taught units
Students are required to take 4 units of courses taught on Tuesday and Thursday evenings (2 units

Course Syllabuses 2007 / 2008

ASTM001 Solar System 1 unit
General overview / survey. Fundamentals: 2-body problem, continuum equations.
Terrestrial planets: interiors, atmospheres. Giant planets: interiors, atmospheres. Satellites: 3-body
problem, tides. Resonances and rings. Solar nebula and planet formation. Asteroids, comets and
[Some knowledge of physics and mathematics at the advanced undergraduate level will be helpful
but will also be reviewed, as needed, in the course.]

ASTM002 The Galaxy 1 unit
Introduction: galaxy types, descriptive formation and dynamics. Stellar dynamics: virial theorem,
dynamical and relaxation times, collisionless Boltzmann equation, orbits, simple distribution
functions, Jeans equations. The interstellar medium: emission processes from gas and dust
(qualitative only), models for chemical enrichment. Dark matter - rotation curves: bulge, disk, and
halo contributions. Dark matter - gravitational lensing: basic lensing theory, microlensing optical
depth. The Milky Way: mass via the timing argument, solar neighbourhood kinematics, the bulge,
the Sgr dwarf.

ASTM003 Angular Momentum and Accretion in Astrophysics 0.5 unit
Differentially rotating systems in astrophysics. Discs as systems in which centrifugal forces
dominate. Virial theorem for rotating systems including Lorentz forces. Disc formation through
gravitational collapse; protostellar discs. Disc formation in close binary systems through mass
transfer. Necessity of angular momentum transport, review of possible mechanisms. Standard
viscous disc theory, steady states and time dependent diffusion equation, vertical structure.
Application to accreting neutron stars, white dwarfs and AGN. The boundary layer, disruption by a
stellar magnetic field, spin up and spin down. Application to T Tauri stars and Neutron stars.
Simple ideas about planetary formation, gap formation and migration. Application to extrasolar

ASTM112 Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics 1.0 unit
Fluid dynamical models in astrophysics. Gravitational stability, gravitational collapse. Stellar
stability, stellar oscillations, variable stars. Helioseismology. Stellar rotation, structure of rotating
stars. Binary stars, tidally distorted models. Rotationally and tidally distorted planets. Shock

ASTM005 Research Methods in Astronomy 0.5 unit
This course is an introduction to research methods, building on and exploiting a vast body of
literature and archived data. It serves as an introduction to the MSc Project. Topics covered
include: finding and evaluating information; using data archives; critical analysis of scientific
articles; scientific writing, including appropriate style and presentation; the context of astronomy
research in society.

ASTM041 Relativistic Astrophysics 0.5 unit
Conceptual introduction to Special and General Relativity. Lorentz transformation, Minkowski
spacetime, equivalence principle, curved spacetime, geodesics, field equations. Heuristic
understanding of gravitational redshift, light deflection, perihelion shift, gravitational radius,
Schwarzschild metric and orbits therein. Black holes: gravitational collapse, event horizon,
singularity, charged and rotating holes. Accretion by white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.
Evidence for black holes in binary systems, galactic nuclei and quasars. Primordial black holes and
associated quantum effects. Gravitational waves: sources and detection. Gravitational lensing and
dark matter.

ASTM115 Astrophysical Computing 1 unit
This course is an introduction to the use of computers in astrophysics. The material presented in
this module consists of the following: Basic notions of computer algorithms. Introduction to
numerical analysis: approximations, errors, convergence, stability, etc. Finite difference method:
solution of ordinary and partial differential equations. Introduction to numerical methods used in
data analysis and image processing. The concepts will be illustrated with examples from
astrophysics such as solar system dynamics, astrophysical fluids, stellar structure, etc. Computer
practical courseworks are a major element of the course. Students are expected to write simple
programs, and present their results in written reports. The course is intended to cater for students
with very different levels of programming expertise.

ASTM052 Extragalactic Astrophysics 0.5 unit
Classification and morphology of galaxies. Active and starburst galaxies, mergers and cannibalism.
AGN: properties, emission mechanisms; radio galaxies; jets, superluminal motion, feeding the radio
lobes. Accretion onto a massive black hole. Binary black holes.

ASTM108 Cosmology 1 unit
Observational basis for cosmological theories. Derivation of the Friedmann models and their
properties. Cosmological tests; the Hubble constant; the age of the universe; the density parameter;
luminosity distance and redshift. The cosmological constant. Physics of the early universe;
primordial nucleosynthesis; the cosmic microwave background (CMB); the decoupling era;
problems of the Big Bang model. Inflationary cosmology. Galaxy formation and the growth of
fluctuations; Evidence for dark matter. Large and small scale anisotropy in the CMB.

ASTM109 Stellar Structure and Evolution 1 unit
Observational properties of stars, the H-R diagram, the main sequence, giants and white dwarfs.
Properties of stellar interiors: radiative transfer, equation of state, nuclear reactions, convection.
Models of main sequence stars with low, moderate and high mass. Pre- and post-main sequence
evolution, models of red giants, and the end state of stars.

4. The MSc Astrophysics Project

This information applies to full-time MSc students and part-time MSc students in their second year,
on the MSc in Astrophysics.

The elements on which the award of an MSc is based are the end-of-year examinations and the
project. The project is an important component of the MSc, corresponding to 4 units, and you
should devote substancial effort to it during the year. The examinations and the project must both be
passed for the award of the MSc and distinction can only be attained in the MSc if it is also attained
in the project.

The project gives the student the opportunity to work independently and critically on the topic of
interest to them. It may be a theoretical topic, a critical examination of the literature, or more
occasionally it may involve computational or experimental work. In all cases the emphasis should
be on the astrophysics within the field chosen. The relevance of the work in the
wider context of the subject should be explained as part of the introductory section. The project will
normally require the study of original papers and show evidence of critical assessment. It need not
include original research by the student, but it will be regarded favourably if it does. The report
should not normally exceed around 10,000 words. In assessing the project, the examiners will pay
particular attention to clarity of presentation, evidence that the student has worked critically and
independently. and adequacy of references to original papers. The student may be examined orally
on the Project in some circumstances.

Students must choose a topic and find a supervisor by the beginning of January. Students are
encouraged to propose on their own initiative a Project which reflects their enthusiams and then
approach a potential supervisor to discuss the proposal. In case of any difficulties contact Prof.
Tavakol. A list of potential supervisors and their subject areas is provided in section 4.3.

It is important that you embark upon your project early in the year. You must obtain approval for
your proposed project from a staff member who agrees to supervise it and complete a Project
Registration Form in consultation with the supervisor who must sign the form. The completed form
must be returned to Prof. Tavakol no later than

Thursday 31 January 2008

You will be informed once the Project has been approved.

During the winter term you should contact your supervisor fortnightly and begin background
reading on your topic. No later than

                                       Friday 28 March 2008

i.e. the penultimate week of the winter term, you should hand your supervisor a short (at least 2
page) detailed outline of the proposed structure of your project. This should include references to
the papers that you will be discussing or building upon and a first draft of at least an introductory
chapter setting out the background and goals of the Project. Please arrange a short meeting with
your supervisor to discuss this in some detail by or during the last week of term.

 During the summer (starting May) term your should continue to contact your supervisor
fortnightly. You are expected to come to an understanding with your supervisor about your
respective schedules and how and when you will interact. By the end of June you should have
completed a draft of the bulk of the Project. This should cover the basic material and should be the

basis for your own critical or original contributions. You should discuss this with your supervisor
and continue to contact him fortnightly.

Your Project should be substantially complete before the summer examinations. After the
examinations you will only have to make final addditions and have the report typed and bound in
the required format. For the opening hours of the Library over the Summer term see the Library
Web site In Section 4.2 you will find the required format of the
report and references etc. Information regarding details of word-processing facilities available at
QMUL will be provided at the introductory talk on the computing facilities at the start of term.

Two typed and spirally bound copies of the Project in the required format, plus an electronic
version, must reach the Chairman of Examiners (Dr R. Donnison) no later than

                                   Friday 29 August 2008
THIS IS A STRICT DEADLINE. Requests for an extension must be made to the Chairman
of Examiners and will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

4.1 Guidelines for examiners marking the Project

1 The Project should be the work of the candidate.
2 Project markers will take into account:
    (i)    The English style and manner of presentation of the project
    (ii)   The readability and coherence of the project
    (iii)  The difficulty of the subject matter
    (iv)   The quality of the introduction and the reference list.

3 Projects should not normally exceed 10,000 words, excluding tables, diagrams and references. If
a submitted report is longer than 10,000 words then this will be taken into account when awarding
the final mark.

4 To justify a pass mark there should be evidence of at least one of the following:
   (i)      The candidate appreciates the context of the work in relation to the subject and to the
            wider field of astronomy or astrophysics.
   (ii)     The candidate has carried out a critical assessment of the current state of their chosen
   (iii)    The candidate has discovered new facts through original work in the chosen topic.
   5 A distinction will only be awarded when at least two of the factors listed in 4(i)-(iii) are
   present to a marked extent.

4.2 Style of Project Reports

The Project report should be printed (word-processed) in double spacing on one side only of A4
paper. Colour should not be used, except where essential in figures. Two copies must be provided.
The title page of your report must contain: title of project; your name; year of entry to MSc course;
name of supervisor.

4.2.1 Referencing

Referencing should be consistent and follow either of the following two forms A and B. References
to papers should be made at appropriate points in the text, and a list of papers cited should be made
in a reference list at the end of the report.

A. In text:
“…as was shown by Smith and Jones (1997) and by …”
In reference list:
Smith, A. B. and Jones, X. Y. (1997), Title of Paper, Ap.J., 413, 774-796.
[the entries after the title are the journal abbreviation (in this example the Astrophysical Journal,
then the volume number, then the first and last page numbers]
If you need to refer to two papers by Smith and Jones both published in 1997, refer to them in
the text and in the reference list as 1997a and 1997b.
B. In text:
“… as has been shown (24,25,…) …”
In reference list:
24. Smith, A. B. and Jones, X. Y. (1997), Title of Paper, Ap. J., 413, 774-796.

Journal abbreviations should follow the conventions of one of the standard journals, see i.e. the
Astrophysical Journal or the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. For a book or
conference proceedings, either of the above forms may be used, but the entry in the reference
list after the author, date and title should be one of the form:
   in “All About Astronomy”, IAU Symposium 421, p. 217, P. Q. Brown (ed.), Publisher’s

Note: Many journals keep exactly to either A or B above. Others, however – probably the
majority – omit the title of the paper and the last (but not first) page number. For projects this
alternative is not encouraged, as part of a Project’s value lies in its referencing as a ready
introduction to the subject.

4.2.2. Layout of Project

Title page
Abstract. At the beginning there should be a one-paragraph abstract outlining the project and
summarising any conclusions.
Table of contents. There should be a table of contents giving chapter and subsection names,
together with page numbers where they begin.
The first chapter should be an introduction explaining the aims of the project.
Reference list. The reference list should come at the end of the main body of the report. The
use of appendices should on the whole be avoided, but if an appendix is necessary (e.g. for a
program listing, or some data) then this should come after the reference list.
All pages should be numbered, either at the bottom or at the top.

4.2.3 Binding
The Project report should be bound in spiral binders between covers. This can be done in the
Office in the Mathematics Building (first floor) by arrangement with the Secretaries or your
supervisor. A small charge to cover costs of this may be made.

4.3 Finding a project supervisor

The following staff members may be willing to supervise a Project in the study area(s) indicated.
They can be contacted directly, either by going to their office in the Maths Department or by
phoning their extension (indicated below) to arrange a time. Some of them will not be in a position
to supervise more than one Project, so it in your interest to contact the most relevant person as soon
as possible. Please feel free to consult the Course director if you are uncertain which supervisor is
most appropriate.

Dr. C. B. Agnor               7045 Planet formation
Prof. D. H. Burgess           5460 Space Plasmas
Prof. B. J. Carr              5492 Cosmology / Early universe
Dr. J. Y. Cho                 5498 Planetary science / Astrophysical fluids
Dr. J. R. Donnison            5149 Solar system
Prof. J. P. Emerson           3183 Interstellar medium / Star formation
Prof. J. E. Lidsey            5461 Cosmology / Early universe
Dr. K. A. Malik               5462 Cosmology / Early universe
Prof. M.. MacCallum           5445 General Relativity
Prof. R. P. Nelson            3285 Planet formation
Dr. A. G. Polnarev            5457 Cosmology / Gravitation
Prof. I. Roxburgh             5441 Solar & Stellar physics / Gravitation
Dr. W. J. Sutherland          5481 Observational Cosmology
Prof. R. K. Tavakol           5451 Cosmology / Early universe / Solar and Stellar Physics
Dr. S. V. Vorontsov           5462 Solar and Stellar physics
Prof. I. P. Williams          5452 Solar System Dynamics

Please note that when dialling from outside the College, the telephone numbers should be prefixed
with 020 7882.

4. 4 Note on plagiarism

Plagiarism is the act of representing the work of someone else as though it were one’s own, and can
lead to dismissal from the College. All significant ideas, derivations, results, and conclusions that
are not the student’s own should be attributed to their original source by an explicit reference at the
relevant position in the text together with the corresponding entry in the bibliography. Text copied
verbatim from papers, Web materials, etc., should be surrounded in quotation marks and referenced.
Normally such quoted text should be brief (at most a few sentences up to a single paragraph).
Textual passages not attributed to others should be in the student’s own words and phrasing and
represent the views, synthesis, and/or results obtained by the student. Supervisors should be
consulted concerning the appropriate level of referencing well in advance of the final submission,
though final responsibility rests with the student. See also the notes in the Student Handbook on

5. Award of the MSc and Certificate Qualifications

Information will be provided later.

5.4 Resits

Students may resit an examination on a particular lecture course they have failed on the next
occasion on which an examination is offered in that subject. Some courses alternate between day
and evening, and the examinations in those subjects are generally during the daytime in years when
the course is taught in the daytime and during the evening when it is taught in the evening (see also
Section 6).

6. Term dates

The teaching is divided into two semesters. The first semester teaching starts on Monday 24 Sep
2007 and runs until Friday 14 December 2007. The second semester runs from Monday 7 Jan 2008
until Friday 4 April 2008. Revision lectures will be organised by the individual lecturers.

Exams for all courses will be held in May and June. Daytime courses will be examined on
weekdays; evening courses will be examined either on the evenings on which they were taught or
on Saturdays. The College’s examination timetable is usually only available after Easter. Details
will be circulated when available. We shall endeavour to give students as much notice as possible
of the dates and times of examinations.

Evening lectures start at 6:30pm (or earlier when there are exercise classes) and finish by 9pm, with
a short coffee break half-way through the evening.

All evening lectures are held in the Maths building, mostly in Room 103. For time and place of the
day-time MSc Astrophysics lectures see the timetable.

7. Miscellanea of relevance to all students

   •   There is a pigeon hole for MSc students located in the mail room just off the Common
       Room (Room 102). Please check your pigeon hole and emails frequently.
   •   Your student ID card acts also as your Library card. There will be Library & Information
       Induction tours. The times will be announced at the start of term.
   •   We constitute an MSc Student-Staff committee as a liaison forum: please discuss among
       yourselves to elect a representative and let the course director know.

8. Items mainly of relevance to full-time students

   •   In addition to the courses listed earlier in this booklet and on the Web page, students are
       entitled to attend any other undergraduate or postgraduate courses. The course director can
       provide further details upon request.

   •   All MSc and Certificate students will be issued with an electronic card that will allow them
       access to the Maths Building after the closure of the main door in the evenings.

   •   The study room for MSc students is Room 303. The electronic card for the front door will
       also allow access to this room. This room also contains computing facilities for MSc
       students. You will be given an account on these machines during the introductory talk on
       the computing facilities.

   •   The Common Room is only available for MSc students (a) for access to the pigeon holes;
       (b) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for students attending the evening Astronomy and
       Astrophysics lectures; and (c) by invitation by a member of staff. Coffee and other
       refreshment facilities are available in the Student Union building adjacent, also in Bar Med
       in the Library square and in the refectory building.

9. Library

All students should attend the Library and Information Induction tour the timing of which will be
announced at the start of the term. In addition to information about Library resources, you will also
receive information about your Athens username, so you can access information resources on and
off-campus. A wide variety of up-to-date library and information resources, including the Library
catalogue and your own Library user record, can be accessed from any computer with access to the
Web. Access the Main Library homepage: and Kathy Abbott’s
Finding Information: School of Mathematical Sciences Web page:


In addition, for reference only, QMUL students can use the libraries at many of the other University
of London colleges or the British Library at St Pancras. See the Web pages for information before
you travel. For Main Library opening hours see .

10. Seminars and the RAS

All graduate students are encouraged to participate in College-based seminars and to consider
joining the Royal Astronomical Society.

10.1 Astronomy Seminars

There are Astronomy Seminars on Fridays during term time, currently starting at 2:15 pm. These
are usually held in the Maths Seminar Room (Room 103 in the Maths Building). Full-time MSc
students are strongly encouraged to attend; part-time students are most welcome to attend if their
schedules permit. The seminars cover a wide range of topics of current astronomical and
astrophysical interest. A schedule of seminar speakers and titles for the term will be posted on the
noticeboards, and can also be found at

Seminars do not take place on the second Friday of the month (October-May) because of Royal
Astronomical Society meetings on those days.

10.2 Royal Astronomical Society

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) is the principal professional organisation for astronomers in
the UK. It is based at Burlington House, Piccadilly, and attractions of belonging to the Society
include its monthly day-long meetings and use of the Society’s extensive library collection. The
meetings are held on the second Friday of the month (October to May); usually there are parallel
sessions, one on astronomy and the other on geophysics. We do not hold seminars on those Fridays,
to avoid clashing with the RAS meetings. For meeting topics and venues, see There are various levels of membership, including Junior Member (for
students under 26 years of age); Fellow for people 26+ years old; and a special category for those
students too old for Junior membership but for whom the full Fellow’s membership fees would be
difficult to pay. Details of the current annual fees can be found on the Society’s Web site
( To be elected to membership, you must be nominated by existing Fellows:
most lecturers on the MSc course are Fellows of the RAS and would be happy to nominate you.
Forms for the appropriate level of membership can be found on the following pages of this booklet.

[RAS Membership application form]

                                                        ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
                                                                                           Burlington House, Piccadilly
                                                                                                 London W1J 0BQ, UK
                                                                             T. 020 7734 4582 / 3307 F. 020 7494 0166
                                                                                          Registered charity no. 226545


   Complete the form legibly in print or block capitals and return to the Membership Secretary at the above address.

Title, given name, surname          …………………………………………………………………………
Occupation                         …………………………………………………………………………
Address for correspondence …………………………………………………………………………
Date of birth ………………………                            Phone(s) ………………………………………………….
Fax      ……….…………………….                             Email ……………………………………………………..
I, the above, request admission into THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY as a Fellow. If
elected, I will be bound by its Charter and Bye-Laws, will advance its objectives and will not bring
it into disrepute. Further, as a Fellow I will observe the Universal Ethical Code for Scientists:

• Act with skill and care in all scientific work. Maintain up-to-date skills and assist their development in others.
• Take steps to prevent corrupt practices and professional misconduct. Declare conflicts of interest.
• Be alert to the ways in which research derives from and affects the work of other people, and respect the rights and
reputations of others.
• Ensure that my work is lawful and justified.
• Minimise and justify any adverse effect my work may have on people, animals and the natural environment.
• Seek to discuss the issues that science raises for society. Listen to the aspirations and concerns of others.
• Not knowingly mislead, or allow others to be misled, about scientific matters. Present and review scientific evidence,
theory or interpretation honestly and accurately.

Signature of candidate …………………………………………….                                                    Date ………………….

Please complete EITHER (1) below, OR (2) overleaf.

(1) Proposal by two Fellows or Associates of the Society, one of whom has personal knowledge of
you. Applications may be submitted with the signature of one Fellow who has personal knowledge
of you, in which case the Council will select a second Fellow to support your application.

We the undersigned, as Fellows or Associates of the Society, propose and recommend the applicant named above for
admission to the Royal Astronomical Society as a Fellow.
Signature of proposer                    1                                        2
                                         FROM PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE
Name in block capitals


MSc Project Registration Form

Name of student (block capitals):

Year of entry:

Proposed title of project:


Does the project require experimental/observational work:        Yes   No

Supervisor’s name (block capitals):

                                          For staff use only

Supervisor’s approval:
I approve the above topic and am prepared to supervise it.



                                       Registration of project

I approve registration of the above project.

Signature of Chairman
of Board of Examiners:



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