KL7002 - Advanced Solar Physics

What will I learn on this module?

This module is designed to provide you with knowledge in special topics in astrophysics at the forefront of the research landscape using a directed learning strategy. The content of the module includes, but is not limited to, theoretical, technical and computational aspects. The module aims at enhancing your skills for independent work, specialist knowledge in astrophysics, critical thinking and appraisal of scientific research outputs.

Outline Syllabus
The content of the coursework will be drawn from areas that map to the research strengths in the Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Electrical Engineering. The following list is indicative, rather than prescriptive, of the special topics (ST) to be covered:
ST1 Observational Spectroscopy
To understand the physical processes in the different layers of the stellar atmospheres, observations are obtained in a broad range of energies and with different observables (i.e., intensity, polarization, magnetic field). The interaction of light with stellar atmospheric plasma will be covered through potential topics such as the theory of radiative transfer and spectral line diagnostics.

ST2 Astrophysical Data Analysis
Introduction to programming language (i.e., Interactive Data Language (IDL), Python) and specialist software (i.e., IDL solarsoft package, R), Solar Satellites and Instrumentation, Data Analysis of Astrophysical Observations (i.e., calibration, noise, statistical methods, time series), The future of Solar Observations.

How will I learn on this module?

The module is delivered using a substantial amount of directed independent learning supported by lectures and seminars and practical computer programming workshops. The teaching strategy consists of a rotation system where lectures, seminars and workshops are delivered by staff members from the Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Electric Engineering. Each participating member of staff is in charge of one Special Topic.

Lectures are used to introduce an overview of a Special Topic at the forefront of astrophysics along with a contextual background of the current research landscape linked to that topic. Seminars and workshops are used to steer the students learning and to give feedback on on-going assignments.

This module provides a collegial environment for active scientific discussion and engagement, thus strengthening your employability through knowledge and critical thinking about special topics in Astrophysics and the current Astrophysics research landscape. This is augmented through technology-enhanced learning opportunities for example use of the industry standard software, e.g. Interactive Data Language or Python.

Independent study is supported by further technology-enhanced resources provided via the e-learning portal, including lecture notes and source open-access journal papers. You will be provided with a reading list and a list of aspects of the topic to be further developed as an assignment. Coursework is developed through various routes. An indicative, non-prescriptive, list of activities incudes consultation of textbooks and research papers, mathematical modelling work and computational laboratory work.

The assessment consists of two coursework portfolios (50%, 50%) with each relating to one ST in Astrophysics covered in the module. Feedback will be provided individually. The module will make use of Electronic submission, assessment and feedback. Formative feedback will be provided during seminars and workshops.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lectures will be the main point of academic contact, offering you with a formal teaching environment for core learning. Seminars will provide you with opportunities for critical enquiry and exchanges. Workshops will give you practical hands-on experience in the development and application of computational methods to research topic problems. Written feedback will be provided on coursework. Formative feedback will be provided during seminars and workshops. Feedback will be provided individually and also generically to indicate where the cohort has a strong or a weaker answer to specific questions.

Outside formal scheduled teaching, you will be able to contact the module team (module tutor, year tutor, programme leader) either via email or the open door policy operated throughout the programme.

Further academic support will be provided through technology-enhanced resources via the e-learning portal. You will have the opportunity to give their feedback formally through periodic staff-student committees and directly to the module tutor at the end of the semester.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

1. No recommendations for purchase by students

2. Books
A reading list will be assigned by each tutor.

• Boyd T and Sanderson J (2003) The Physics of Plasmas, Cambridge University Press

• Lang K (2001) Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Sun, Cambridge University Press

• Priest, E R (2014) Magnetohydrodynamics of the Sun, Cambridge University Press, 2nd Revised Edition

• Aschwanden M J (2009) Physics of the Solar Corona, Springer

• Phillips, Feldman and Landi (2008) - Ultraviolet and X-ray spectroscopy of the solar atmosphere

• Ivezic, Connolly, VanderPlas and Gray (2014) - Statistics, data mining and machine learning in astronomy

• Westfall B (2011) University Physics, McGraw-Hill

3. Journal articles
A reading list will be assigned by each tutor.

4. Journal and Newspaper titles
Astronomy and Astrophysics, Solar Physics, Astrophysical Journal Letters, Astrophysical Journal Letters, Space Science Reviews, Journal of Geophysical Research

5. Databases and Websites
Web of Science

6. Any other resources
IT resources for practical work, literature reviews and report writing.

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Analyse advanced concepts in astrophysics from areas at the forefront of the discipline, and to apply such ideas to problems at a conceptual and mathematical level.
2. Apply advanced concepts in astrophysics to topics studied in class using computational means.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Evaluate the application of special topics in astrophysics in the context of the current research landscape in the field.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. Manage your own learning, through knowledge of available reading sources, including advanced texts and research papers and scientific databases.
5. Effectively and concisely communicate complex astrophysics-based ideas in written form.

How will I be assessed?

The assessment consists of two coursework assignments (worth 50% and 50%) each relating to one special topic in Astrophysics covered in the module. One coursework will be a problem-based assignment (maximum 2000 words/20 pages) and the second will be a computational assignment (maximum 20 pages).

1. Coursework (50% Problem-based) – MLOs 1,3,4,5
2. Coursework (50% Computational) – MLOs 2,3,4,5

1. Seminars – MLOs 1,3,4,5
2. Workshops – MLOs 2,3,4,5

Feedback will be provided individually and also generically to indicate where the cohort has a strong or a weaker answer to questions.

Written feedback will be provided on coursework.
Formative feedback will be provided during seminars and workshops.





Module abstract

In ‘Advanced Solar Physics’, you will investigate astrophysics topics using the Sun, our nearest star, as a physics laboratory. You will consider the physical processes of the solar interior and atmosphere, as well as learning about state-of-the-art solar observations such as sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. This you will do by constructing and applying mathematical models to describe fundamental observations and processes, which include the interaction between magnetic fields and plasma (hot charged gas).

You will be attending formal lectures during which you will become conversant with observational techniques and theory. An assignment portfolio during the course will cover the special topics. ‘Advanced Solar Physics’ provides you with useful preparation for employment with the development of new skills (data analysis, computing programming proficiency), for example in the increasingly important space sector, or as preparation for further graduate study.

Course info

UCAS Code F2W4

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 4 years full-time or 5 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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