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2024/25 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PHAS5140M Star and Planet Formation

15 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Dr Catherine Walsh

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

Stars and their surrounding planetary systems form from material within large, cold, and dense molecular clouds found throughout the interstellar medium. The study of the physical processes underpinning the formation of stars and planets is fundamental for understanding the origin of the mass distribution of stars in galaxies, the formation of our Solar System, and potential sources of the vast diversity of extra-solar planetary systems now known to be orbiting nearby stars in the Milky Way. This module will instruct on the physics governing i) the formation of stars, ii) the impact of young stars on their immediate environment, and iii) the birth and evolution of (exo)planetary systems. Also covered will be current knowledge based on observations across multiple wavelengths from state-of-the-art telescopes.PHYS3281 (additional assessment component suitable for level M)


Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and application of:

- The physical conditions under which stars form in interstellar clouds;
- The physical processes that occur during the collapse of a gas cloud to form a star;
- The observational tools used, and evidence for, discs, jet, and outflows from young stars;
- The physical mechanisms of planet formation within circumstellar discs;
- Current knowledge in this field, and its limitations

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following learning outcomes relevant to the subject:
Make effective use of physics skills and knowledge to applications in Astrophysics.

Skills Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following skills learning outcomes:
The ability to solve physical problems using mathematics


I. Sites of Star Formation: the interstellar medium, molecular clouds, interstellar dust.
II. Gravitational Collapse: cloud equilibrium and stability, the collapse of dense cloud cores, fragmentation, protostars, accretion discs.
III. Feedback: jets, molecular outflows, HII regions, triggered star formation.
IV. Planet Formation: protoplanetary discs, disc evolution, the formation of the Solar System, models of planet formation, exoplanets.

Methods of Assessment

We are currently refreshing our modules to make sure students have the best possible experience. Full assessment details for this module are not available before the start of the academic year, at which time details of the assessment(s) will be provided.

Assessment for this module will consist of:

1 x Coursework
1 x Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours117.00
Total Contact hours33.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2024


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