Experimental and Professional Astrophysics I module (PH31016)

Develop advanced observational astronomy and professional astrophysics skills, including data acquisition, complex analysis, and scientific literature reading

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Experimental astrophysics is where theoretical astrophysics succeeds or fails. In experimental astrophysics, we test out theories of the mechanisms that drive star and planet formation, and the mechanisms of the Universe around us.

Building on the laboratories in the modules PH21001 and PH22001, you will develop your observational astrophysics and data analysis skills.

You will perform a range of advanced astrophysics experiments that will prepare you for your final year projects and your career as a professional astrophysicist. The module will put emphasis on understanding the uncertainties and statistical meaning of a result.

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • learn how to assess the statistical significance of your results
  • gain experience in performing risk assessments
  • undertake various observation-based experiments, collecting data from optical and radio telescopes and using data from the Gaia satellite
  • perform physics lab experiments relevant to astrophysics
  • learn how to identify and avoid 'pathological science'
  • develop skills in critically reading a diverse range of scientific literature

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • plan and execute ground-based observations, record your results, and keep track of your work in a professional lab book
  • fit and analyse your data professionally, using Python and MATLAB
  • critically read and analyse a broad range of scientific literature
  • independently learn a new topic and present it to your peers
  • develop a competitive CV

Assignments / assessment

  • coursework (100%)
    • lab books
    • presentations
    • CV
    • critical paper review

This module does not have a final exam.

Teaching methods / timetable

  • six hours of lab sessions each week
  • an hour of professional physics workshop each week


This module is available on following courses: