PHYS2160 Astronomy

Weeks 1-6, Semester 2, 2015


This website will be used to host lecture notes and other material associated with the first 6 weeks of lectures for PHYS2160 being given by Prof. Tinney. The UNSW Moodle website for this half of the course will just re-direct you here.


  1. Weeks 1 to 6 – Prof. Chris Tinney ( Old Main Building, Rm 131

  2. Weeks 7 to 12 – Dr Sarah Martell ( Old Main Building, Rm 135

PHYS2160 Part 1 - Materials

Other Websites

  1. PHYS2160 at School of Physics' new website :

  2. The School of Physics' general website is, and under the “Current Students” link students you will find information about degrees, courses, and assessment.

  3. The University website provides links to the UNSW Handbook, Timetables, Calendars and other student information.

Prof Tinney's Websites

  1. PHYS2160 site (this page) and Materials

  2. Exoplanetary Science at UNSW page

  3. UNSW ResearchGate page

  4. School of Physics (New) page

  5. Personal page.

Course details

  1. Units of Credit - 3UOC

  2. Offered : Session 2, 2015

  3. Assumed Knowledge: The course assumes familiarity with first year physics, e.g. PHYS1002 or PHYS1221 or PHYS1231 or PHYS1241 or PHYS1022.

  4. Lectures
            Tuesday, 11AM, OMB 151
            Wednesday, 1PM, OMB 150

  5. Number of weeks - 12 weeks

  6. Commencement - starting Tuesday July 28

Lecture Capture

  1. Both rooms for this course are enabled for lecture capture.

Course Description (from Physics PHYS2160 Handbook Entry)

  1. Galaxies, the distance scale, large scale structure of the universe, galaxy
    evolution, the very early universe.


  1. (Weeks 1-6 are the 2014 Semester 2 teaching plan)

  1. Weeks 1-3 (Tinney) : The Milky Way : basic properties, major components, stars, planets, interstellar medium, rotation

  2. Weeks 3-5 (Tinney) : Galaxies: Types, basic properties, our galaxy, spiral galaxies, active galaxies.

  3. Weeks 5-6 (Tinney) : The Distance Scale - Primary, secondary, tertiary distance indicators; redshifts; Hubble’s constant and its determination; review of galaxy properties; bulk motions amongst galaxies.

Detailed Outline for Weeks 1-6

  1. 1 - Our Galaxy - Fundamentals

  2. •Magnitudes, Distances, Absolute Magnitudes/Luminosities

  3. •Orientation – Outline of our Galaxy.

  4. •How the nature of the Galaxy was historically determined

  5. •Disk, Halo, GCs. Where the Sun sits.

  6. 2  - The Milky Way (1)

  7. •Co-ordinate Systems, Velocities

  8. The disk (1)

  9. The Bulge/Spheroid and the Halo

  10. The disk (2)

  11. •Differential rotation and Oort’s constants

  12. 3 – The Milky Way (2)

  13. •Background material on stars

  14. •Stellar Populations in our Galaxy

  15. •Old v Young. Metal Poor v Metal Rich

  16. Tutorial problems distributed (time to look at issues in Lecture 9)

  17. 4 - The Milky Way (3)

  18. •Interstellar medium and gas. Extinction

  19. •Optical depth, Stromgren spheres

  20. •Making stars and planets

  21. Assignment Distributed in Lecture 4 - due on day of Lecture 8

  22. 5 – The Milky Way (4)

  23. •Radio astronomy - Synchrotron radiation, Thermal bremsstrahlung

  24. •Radio astronomy - Gas – 21cm HI spin-flip transition

  25. •Radio astronomy - Gas – CO as a molecular gas tracer, spiral arms

  26. •Rotation curve of our Galaxy from Gas

  27. •Dark Matter in the Halo

  28. •How did the Galaxy form?

  29. 6 - Galaxy Types - Spiral Galaxies & Elliptical Galaxies

  30. •Hubble's galaxy classification

  31. •Galaxy types

  32. •Spiral Galaxies - Density waves and star formation

  33. •Rotation curves in spiral galaxies => dark matter

  34. 7 - Dark Matter

  35. •Interpreting Spiral Galaxy Rotation Curves

  36. •Other evidence for dark matter

  37. •Dark matter candidates

  38. •Searches for dark matter

  39. Some time for tutorial issues.

  40. 8 – Active Galaxies (AGN)

  41. •Elliptical Galaxies, cD Galaxies

  42. •Discovery of Radio Galaxies and quasars

  43. •Seyferts, quasars, BL Lacs, radio galaxies

  44. •AGN spectral shape & radiation mechansims

  45. •Optical spectra - Broad and narrow emission line regions

  46. •AGN Unified model

  47. 9 – Quasars as probes of the Universe

  48. •Quasars – Number density

  49. •Optical spectrum: Emission properties,
                Absorption systems (Damped Lyman alpha systems,
                Lyman alpha forest, Gunn-Peterson effect)

  50. Some time for tutorial issues.

  51. 10 – The Distance Scale (I)

  52. •Discovery of the Universe’s expansion

  53. •Hubble's constant and age of universe

  54. •Standard candles

  55. •Distance Ladder : Parallaxes ➔ Cepheids ➔ Tully Fisher

  56. 11 - The Distance Scale (II)

  57. •Distance Ladder: Cepheids ➔ Dn-sigma & surface-brightness fluctuations for elliptical galaxies.

  58. •Distance Ladder: ➔ Supernovae

  59. •Dark Energy

  60. 12 – In-class Exam


  1. One assignment worth 15% of final mark

  2. In-session exam (during Wednesday lecture of Week 6) worth 35% of final mark


  1. All lecture notes will be made available in PDF format.  The course is not designed around a specific textbook.  However, the following books are useful references:

    M. Zeilik & S. Gregory, Introductory Astronomy & Astrophysics, (Saunders)
    F. Shu, The Physical Universe – an introduction to astronomy, (University Science Books)

  1. The following are all good introductory texts on astronomy, with excellent illustrations, but the material may be covered at a lower level than this course:

    W. Kaufmann, R. Freedman, Universe, (Freeman)
    M. Zeilik, The Evolving Universe, (Wiley)
    D. Maoz, Astrophysics in a Nutshell (Princeton)
    M. Seeds, Foundations of Astronomy, (Wadsworth)
    G. Abell, D. Morrison & S. Wolff, Exploration of the Universe, (Saunders)

  1. Tutorial problems will be distributed in Week 3, and time made available in lectures in Weeks 4-5 to address issues

  1. Those students having difficulties should consult the lecturer for help. Further information on student support services may be found on the School website here.


  1. All Physics students are members of Physoc (the Physics Student Society) The Physoc room is Room 35 Lower Ground Floor, Old Main Building and all students are welcome to drop in anytime. A number of social events are organised each session. Further information is available at or email

  1. The Australian Institute of Physics is the professional association of physicists in Australia.

Course Evaluation and Development

  1. Student feedback is gathered periodically by various means. Such feedback is considered carefully with a view to acting on it constructively wherever possible.  This course outline conveys how feedback has helped to shape and develop this course.

  2. CATEI: We welcome feedback at all times on presentation of course materials and any other course-related matters, and will be happy to discuss any issues raised in the lectures. You will be asked to provide evaluative feedback through UNSW's Course and Teaching Evaluation and Improvement (CATEI) process at the end of the course.

  3. The Physics degrees offered by UNSW are reviewed and accredited by the Australian Institute of Physics every five years. This last occurred in 2008.

Administrative Matters

  1. Expectations of Students - Students should check their UNSW email account regularly as all official university communication will be sent to that address.

  2. Assignment Submissions - Unless otherwise specified, assignments should be submitted to your lecturer, or to the School of Physics office (Room 62, Old Main Building) by 5pm on the due date. Marks will be deducted for late assignments. A downloadable assignment cover sheet is available from

  3. Occupational Health and Safety - Information on relevant UNSW Occupational Health and Safety policies and expectations is available at: and

  4. Assessment Procedures / UNSW Assessment Policy - On some occasions, sickness, misadventure, or other circumstances beyond your control may prevent you from completing a course requirement or attending or submitting assessable work for a course. You should then apply for Special Consideration online.

  5. You must make formal application for Special Consideration for the course/s affected as soon as practicable after the problem occurs and within three working days of the assessment to which it refers.

  6. The application must be made via Online Services in myUNSW. Log into myUNSW and go to My Student Profile tab > My Student Services channel > Online Services > Special Consideration.

  7. Submit originals or certified copies of your supporting documentation to UNSW Student Central for verification.

  8. Further information about Special Consideration is available from

    If you are applying for an extension to an assignment, you should also contact your lecturer or Sue Hagon directly.

    All requests for special consideration must be accompanied by verified supporting documentation. You should note that submitting a request for Consideration does not automatically mean that you will be granted additional assessment, nor that you will be awarded an amended result. You will be notified of the outcome of your application.

  1. Equity and Diversity - Those students who have a disability that requires some adjustment in their teaching or learning environment are encouraged to discuss their study needs, with an Equity Officer (Disability) in the Student Equity and Diversity Unit (9385 4734 or ).

    Issues to be discussed may include access to materials, signers or note-takers, the provision of services and additional exam and assessment arrangements.  Students should meet with SEADU before the start of classes in order to enable any necessary adjustments to be made. 

  1. Student Complaint Procedure

  2. School Contact - Prof Gary Morriss, Undergraduate Director, School of Physics, Room 59D,, Tel: 9385 5240
    Sue Hagon, Higher Year Coordinator, School of Physics, Room 62B, OMB,, Tel: 9385 6293

  3. Faculty Contact - Dr Chris Tisdell, Associate Dean (Education),,
    Dr Gavin Edwards, Associate Dean (Undergraduate Programs),,

  4. University Contact - Student Conduct and Appeals Officer (SCAO) within the Office of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Students) and Registrar. Telephone 02 9385 8515, email
    University Counselling and Psychological Services Tel: 9385 5418

UNSW Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the presentation of the thoughts or work of another as one’s own.

Examples include:

•direct duplication of the thoughts or work of another, including by copying material, ideas or concepts from a book, article, report or other written document (whether published or unpublished), composition, artwork, design, drawing, circuitry, computer program or software, web site, Internet, other electronic resource, or another person’s assignment without appropriate acknowledgement;

•paraphrasing another person’s work with very minor changes keeping the meaning, form and/or progression of ideas of the original;

•piecing together sections of the work of others into a new whole;

•presenting an assessment item as independent work when it has been produced in whole or part in collusion with other people, for example, another student or a tutor; and

•claiming credit for a proportion a work contributed to a group assessment item that is greater than that actually contributed.†

For the purposes of this policy, submitting an assessment item that has already been submitted for academic credit elsewhere may be considered plagiarism.

Knowingly permitting your work to be copied by another student may also be considered to be plagiarism.

Note that an assessment item produced in oral, not written, form, or involving live presentation, may similarly contain plagiarised material.

The inclusion of the thoughts or work of another with attribution appropriate to the academic discipline does not amount to plagiarism.

The Learning Centre website is main repository for resources for staff and students on plagiarism and academic honesty.  These resources can be located via:

The Learning Centre also provides substantial educational written materials, workshops, and tutorials to aid students, for example, in:

•correct referencing practices;

•paraphrasing, summarising, essay writing, and time management;

•appropriate use of, and attribution for, a range of materials including text, images, formulae and concepts.

Individual assistance is available on request from The Learning Centre.

Students are also reminded that careful time management is an important part of study and one of the identified causes of plagiarism is poor time management.  Students should allow sufficient time for research, drafting, and the proper referencing of sources in preparing all assessment items.

* Based on that proposed to the University of Newcastle by the St James Ethics Centre.  Used with kind permission from the University of Newcastle

† Adapted with kind permission from the University of Melbourne