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PAP302 Open problems in modern astrophysics, 5 cr 
Code PAP302  Validity 01.01.2017 -
Name Open problems in modern astrophysics  Abbreviation Open problems i 
Scope5 cr   
TypeAdvanced studies
  GradingGeneral scale 
    Can be taken more than onceno
Unit Master's Programme in Particle Physics and Astrophysical Sciences 

Target group 

Master’s Programme in Particle Physics and Astrophysical Sciences is responsible for the course.

Module where the course belongs to:

  • PAP300 Advanced Studies in Particle Physics and Astrophysical Sciences
    Compulsory for:
    1. Study Track in Astrophysical Sciences

The course is available to students from other degree programmes.


Recommended time/stage of studies for completion: start of the studies in the autumn term of year 1.

The course is offered every year in the autumn term, I and II periods.

Learning outcomes 
  • The student will familiarize him/herself with seven exciting hot topics in contemporary astrophysics.
  • The student will learn to read review papers and specialised research articles.
  • The student will learn how to interpret and understand the main results from a research article.
  • The student will learn how good research papers are written and how to best present scientific arguments.
  • The student will learn to discuss research articles, and how to present scientific points in a discussion.
Completion methods 

The course is completed by handing in written problem sets every two weeks, in which questions related to research articles are answered. At the end of the course there is a final exam, with general questions on all topics covered during the course and more specific questions related to each topic. The student can freely choose which topics he/she wants to concentrate on in the exam.


A Bachelor degree in Astronomy, Theoretical physics or a related field. The course is non-mathematical in nature, but requires knowledge of basic astrophysics in order to set the various topics in their right scientific context.

Recommended optional studies 

This is a compulsory first year Master level course on the Astrophysical Sciences study line and it should be taken at the start of the Master studies.


During the course we will cover 7 different topics in modern astrophysics, with each topic discussed for two weeks. The new topic will first presented by the Lecturer based on a recent review paper typically published in the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. During the second week the topic will be discussed in more depth by highlighting recent research articles in the relevant area. Finally, the topic will be rounded off by a problem set for which the students will have to read two research articles and answer questions based on the papers. The final exam will be a written exam in which the students will be asked questions about the various topics covered during the course at a general level and more in depth questions on a few chosen subjects.  

The topics to be discussed during the course have been chosen to cover a broad range of astrophysics, including exoplanets, stars, galaxies and cosmology. In general the topics have been chosen to cover a broad range of astrophysics, including exoplanets, stars, galaxies and cosmology. The aim is to learn about interesting research topics that are likely to remain at the core of modern astrophysics in the coming decades. The exact content of the course will vary from year to year depending on what topics are considered particularly interesting for that year. In the previous year the following topics have been discussed: 1. The detection and properties of Extrasolar planets, 2. The formation and evolution of low-mass stars and brown dwarfs, 3. Presupernova evolution of massive stars, 4. Gamma-Ray Bursts: Observation and Theory, 5. Dwarf galaxies in the Local group of galaxies 6. The First Galaxies, 7. Dark Energy and the Accelerating Universe.

Study materials and literature 

The course material will consist of astrophysical journal publications that can be downloaded from the web. Interested students can study in advance the relevant material found in the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics for each topic.

Activities and teaching methods in support of learning 

Two hours of weekly lectures. Every topic will be covered during two weeks, at the end of which there will a problem set session led by the course assistant. The problem session will cover the main aspects of the topic in question.

Assessment practices and criteria 

The course grading is divided into two parts as follows:

  • 50% of the final grade will come from the written problem sets.
  • 50% of the final grade will come from the final written exam.

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