Galaxies are the basic building blocks of the Universe. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes - while many of them are spiral galaxies, like the Milky Way, others are ellipsoidal, lenticular, barred or irregular. Apart from stars, they consist of large amounts of gas and dust, and a large amount of dark matter. They provide the link between smaller structures, such as stars and interstellar material, and the large-scale structure of the Universe.
This module will focus on the structure and evolution of galaxies. We will start with a review of Newtonian mechanics, gravitational potential and angular momentum. We will look at the basic differences between spiral and elliptical galaxies, and attempt to understand why they appear the way they do, and how their morphology relates to the dynamical properties of their stars. We will also discuss the chemical evolution of galaxies.
We will examine the contents of our own galaxy - the Milky Way - and explore its immediate neighbourhood. We will study how galaxies form, and evolve in various environments, and briefly look at how galaxies interact with each other. Other related topics will be groups and clusters of galaxies, active galactic nuclei, galaxies at high redshift and the detection of dark matter in galaxies and their clusters from their dynamics, x-ray properties and gravitational lensing.