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2020/21 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS5100M Winds, Bubbles and Explosions

15 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Dr Julian Pittard

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Module replaces

PHYS3270 Winds, Bubbles and Explosions in Galaxies

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

Massive stars inject radiative and mechanical energy into the interstellar medium via their intense photon fluxes, powerful winds, and SN explosions. This “feedback” is at least partially responsible for dispersing the molecular gas from massive star-forming regions. On larger scales, the energy injected from groups of massive stars powers galactic fountains and superwinds. This course covers the theory behind these processes, and the necessary background to understand them.


This module provides the fundamental knowledge for understanding how massive stars affect their environment.

Learning outcomes
- derive the Euler equations of hydrodynamics for an inviscid fluid;
- understand hydrodynamic and magnetohydrodynamic shocks and how to transform from the lab to the shock frame;
- understand various radiative cooling and heating processes that affect gas;
- understand various instabilities that affect astrophysical plasmas;
- describe how ionizing radiation creates HII regions and how these evolve;
- describe the structure of wind-blown bubbles (WBBs) and supernova remnants (SNRs);
- use dimensional arguments and similarity solutions to describe WBB and SNRs;
- understand how WBBs and SNRs evolve;
- describe how SNRs combine to form a superbubble, and how these evolve in a stratified interstellar medium;
- understand how SNRs evolve in an AGN environment;
- understand the key aspects of astrophysical jets


Overview. Injection of energy & momentum. Physical state of gas in the galaxy. Introduction to gas dynamics. Shock fronts. The Rankine-Hugoniot conditions. Physics of shocks and radiatively excited gases. Cooling processes. The cooling curve. The ISM phase curve. Effects of cooling behind shock fronts. Interaction of shocks with clouds. Photoionization and recombination. Ionization balance. Ionization fronts and expanding HII regions. Stellar explosions. The Sedov phase of supernova remnant evolution. Transition to the momentum conserving phase. The range of supernova remnants in interstellar gas. Wind blown bubbles. The two-shock flow pattern. Energy driven bubbles blown by single stars. Cluster winds. Galactic scale effects of winds and explosions into stratified media. The galactic disc-halo connection. Super bubbles and blow out. Starburst galaxies. Superwinds. Evolution of supernova remnants near an AGN. Properties and behaviour of astrophysical jets.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Office Hour Discussions111.000.00
Private study hours123.00
Total Contact hours27.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

- Taught session follow-up: 55 hours
- Self-directed study: 64 hours
- Workshop preparation: 6 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback


Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Online AssessmentOnline Mid-Term Assessment30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)30.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)70.00

Students will have to complete an online assessment at the end of the module. This will take place during the examinations period at the end of the semester and will be time bound. The assessment will not take 48 hours to complete, but students will have a 48 hour time period in which to complete it. Students must submit a reasonable attempt at all assessments for this module to pass this module.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 12/10/2020 15:48:24


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