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PAP318 Galaxy formation and evolution, 5 cr 
Code PAP318  Validity 01.01.2017 -
Name Galaxy formation and evolution  Abbreviation Galaxy formatio 
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
    Optional for:
    1. Study Track in Astrophysical Sciences

The course is available to students from other degree programmes.


This course is lectured every two years, so the student should take it when it is on offer.

This course will be offered in the Autumn semester, periods 1-2, every two years. The course will be lectured even years, next time in the Autumn of 2018.

Learning outcomes 

The student will learn to understand galaxy formation as process. The student will learn to solve practical problems in observational cosmology. The student will
master Newtonian perturbation theory required to explain the origin of galaxies. The student will understand the role of dark matter in galaxy formation. The student
will learn how the initial perturbation spectrum developed to the observed distribution of galaxies. The student will be able to describe the non-linear evolution of
density perturbations using simple analytic models. The student will learn the dominant cooling processes relevant for galaxy formation and understand the importance
of star formation and supernova feedback for galaxy evolution. The student will learn the properties and formation scenarios of disk galaxies, elliptical galaxies and
active galaxies. The student will learn to the importance of galaxy interactions and encounters as a force shaping the evolution of galaxies.

Completion methods 

The course is completed by handing in written problem sets every two weeks. The problem sets include both mathematical problems that need to be solved and questions related to research articles that need to be answered. At the end of the course there is a final closed book exam.


Galaxies and cosmology. The basic- and intermediate-level courses of Astronomy. Cosmology I and FYMM I-II are also recommended.

Recommended optional studies 

The course is primarily linked together with Advanced Dynamics and Cosmology I-II.  Also observational extragalactic courses and for example Interstellar matter could serve as optional studies.

  • Basic elements of galaxy formation.
  • The classification of galaxies.
  • Statistical properties of the galaxy population.
  • Galaxies at high redshifts.
  • Robertson-Walker metric and the Friedmann equations.
  • The evolution of small perturbations.
  • The Jeans' instability in a static and expanding Medium.
  • Cosmological horizons and perturbations on superhorizon scales.
  • Adiabatic and isothermal perturbations.
  • Hot and cold dark matter in galaxy formation models.
  • The two-point correlation function for galaxies.
  • The initial power spectrum and transfer functions.
  • The non-linear collapse of density perturbations.
  • Top-hat collapse and the Zeldovich approximation.
  • The Press-Schechter mass function and dark matter density profiles.
  • The cooling and heating of gas in dark matter haloes.
  • The cooling function and galaxy formation.
  • Molecular clouds and self-regulated star formation.
  • Supernova feedback: The ejection and heating of gas.
  • Formation of disk galaxies and the origin of disk scaling relations.
  • Galaxy interactions and encounters.
  • Tidal stripping and dynamical friction.
  • Orbital decay and galaxy merging.
  • Structure and formation of elliptical galaxies.
  • The physics of Active galaxies (AGNs).
  • The formation and evolution of AGNs.
Study materials and literature 

The Lecture notes can be found on the course homepage.

In addition the following books will be extensively used:

  • Mo, van den Bosch, White: "Galaxy Formation and Evolution", Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010.
  • Longair: "Galaxy formation", 2nd ed. Springer, 2008
Activities and teaching methods in support of learning 

Two hours of weekly lectures and written problem sets every two weeks. The problem set session will led by the course assistant and there the correct solutions will be discussed and presented.

Assessment practices and criteria 

To pass with a grade 1/5 requires 43.3% of the maximum exam points, for the highest grade 5/5 the requirement is 86.7% of the maximum exam points. The maximum points from the final exam is 30 and an additional 6 points can be acquired from the problem sets. Additional points are only awarded for problem set points that exceed the minimum level of one third, which is required in order to have the right to take part in the final exam.


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