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Theoretical Astrophysics
Provider: Faculty of Science

Activity no.: 5893-21-11-31
Enrollment deadline: 01/08/2021
Date and timeSeptember 2021 - November 2021
Regular seats20
Contact personJulie Meier Hansen    E-mail address: juliemh@nbi.ku.dk
Enrolment Handling/Course OrganiserMartin Elias Pessah    E-mail address: mpessah@nbi.ku.dk
Semester/BlockBlock 1
Scheme groupB
Exam requirementsSee learning outcome
Exam formContinuous assessment
Exam formWritten examination, 4 hours under invigilation
Exam detailsThe final grade will be based on two components: (i) weekly homework assignments (1/3 of the final grade) (ii) 4-hour written exam (2/3 of the final grade)
Exam aidsOnly certain aids allowed
Criteria for exam assessmentType of assessment Continuous assessment Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation The final grade will be based on two components: (i) weekly homework assignments (1/3 of the final grade) (ii) 4-hour written exam (2/3 of the final grade) Aid Only certain aids allowed - Class notes provided by Lecturer in Absalon - Class notes taken by students in class - Pocket calculator - List of physical constants and astronomical data (provided)
Course workload
Course workload categoryHours


Recommended prerequisites:

Students will benefit from being acquainted with basic concepts in Calculus, Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics. Knowledge about fluid dynamics is welcome but not essential. Students who would like to take the course but could benefit from brushing up their knowledge in these and related subjects are encouraged to contact M. Pessah in advance in order to discuss useful reading material toward this end.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Aim and content
This fundamental course provides an overview of some of the most important astrophysical processes that shape the evolution, and observational properties, of astrophysical systems, from planets to stars, and from supermassive black holes to entire galaxies. The course is strongly recommended for all students starting at the M.Sc. and Ph.D. levels in preparation for their further study and research in any area of astrophysics, including planetary sciences and cosmology. We will cover the basic equations, learn how to solve them, and understand their implications. This course will provide students with a wide range of interests in observational, theoretical, or computational astrophysics with a valuable toolkit to become more competent researchers.

The aim of this course is to bring together several key concepts in physics and build upon them in order to understand some of the most important processes in astrophysics. This is crucial in order to understand the formation and evolution of a wide range of astrophysical systems. This is a demanding task that is possible to accomplish by attending the lectures and investing the time in doing the weekly homework assignments. This course has been designed in such a way that lectures and weekly assignments come together to achieve the goals sets forth.

Learning outcome


When the course is finished, it is expected that the student is able to:

  • Identify the physical processes involved in a given astrophysical setting
  • Carry out order of magnitude calculations to support physical intuition
  • Solve basic problems involving radiative transfer, wave propagation, instabilities, and shocks in hydrodynamics and magnetohydrodynamics.


When the course is finished, it is expected that the student is able to:

  • Explain the basic astrophysical processes covered by the course content
  • Explain how these processes act together to dictate the dynamics of astrophysical flows such as self-gravitating fluids, disk, winds, and jets.

This course will endow the students with a powerful set of tools that will allow them to work more confidently on a wide variety of subjects in astrophysics. The competences acquired in this course are a valuable complement to those obtained in observational and phenomenological astrophysics courses. These competences are an indispensable asset for students wishing to pursue studies in any branch of astrophysics. This course provides the students with the background knowledge to pursue research in this field and is an excellent preparation for a MSc project.


Please go to this link for more information.

Target group

This course is offered to MSc and PhD students. For full course description and sign-up for MSc students >> link here

PhD students, please see below for information on applying. 

Martin Pessah
Irene Tamborra
Tobias Heinemann


This course gives an introduction to, and builds upon, the following subjects:

  • Order of magnitude astrophysics, fundamental concepts and equations
  • Radiative processes: basic radiative transfer, absorption, scattering
  • Hydrodynamics: fundamental equations, waves, instabilities, shocks
  • Magnetohydrodynamics: fundamental equations, waves, instabilities
  • Gravity: virial theorem for N-body and gases, self-gravitating fluids
  • Astrophysical flows: basic properties of disks, jets, and winds



Applying for the course:

PhD students should apply as credit students using this application. The course code to enter is: NFYK14011U 

General information for credit students » at this link

Please contact Julie Meier Hansen if you have any questions.


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