Topic outline

  • General

    Astronomy and Space Physics Theme Area

    The Astronomy and Space Sciences courses cover a broad range of topics aimed at widening students’ knowledge of the field. They range from advanced extensions of subjects covered at undergraduate level to the introduction of new interdisciplinary sciences. We recommend that students take a mixture of core material, advanced courses (usually 16-20 hours equivalent credit) and more general topics, including computing and data reduction modules, to gain a broad grounding in astronomical methods and modern research areas.

    Each course is self-contained, although background reading or another SUPA course may be recommended to bring students from various backgrounds up to speed. Students from other theme areas are very welcome to take Astronomy and Space Sciences courses, with particular modules likely to be of interest for Life Sciences and Plasma Physics students, but they should remember that a basic understanding of astronomy and astronomical terms will be assumed by course lecturers.

    A typical programme, building to the core requirement of 40 hours of Technical Courses might include:
    • A SUPA technical Astronomy course (these generally constitute 16-20 hours)
    • A technical SUPA course in another field or a second Astronomy course
    • Non-SUPA courses as appropriate (e.g. for students changing specialities)
    • Summer Schools in Astronomy and Space Physics

    Students should note that certain Astronomy courses are only run biennially. Each student must consult their PhD supervisor to construct a suitable programme before registering, and students are encouraged not to over-register. The 40 hour course requirement is taken over the first and second years, although students from all years can take extra subjects for interest.

    Semester 1

    Students taking Astrophysical Plasmas in Semester 2 are strongly advised to take the Semester 1 course on Plasma Physics SUPAPPH in the Nuclear and Plasma Theme first.

    Semester 2

    Note enrolment for Semester 2 opens in December

    • Astrophysical Plasmas (SUPAAPL)  *
    • Astrobiology and the Search for Life (SUPAASL)
    • SUPA Observing Course (SUPAOBS)
    • The Sun’s Atmosphere (SUPATSA)

    *: Note about SUPAAPL This is a biennial course which will run in 2019/20 but not run in 2020/21.

    Professional Development Training

    In addition, general topics should be studied, and those of particular interest to astronomy and space physics students include advanced data analysis (an introductory prequel is also offered) and courses in different programming languages such as C++, plus transferable skills modules.

    Professional Development Training - semester 1

    Professional Development Training - semester 2

  • Topic 1

    Theme Leadership

    Theme leader: William Ken Rice (

    • Topic 2