HET614 Particle Physics and High Energy Astrophysics

Course/s with Unit:
A unit of study in the Graduate Certificate of Science (Astronomy), Graduate Diploma of Science (Astronomy) and Master of Science (Astronomy).

Credit Points:
12.5 Credit Points

One semester

Contact Hours:
Equivalent to 60 hours


HET625 Cosmology and the Large-scale Structure of the Universe (or the old HET605 Theories of Space and Time), or equivalent.


Learning and Teaching Structure:
Online delivery mode, contact via newsgroups & email.

Assessable newsgroup contributions (30%), online tests (20%) and project (50%).

This Unit aims to provide a general introduction to particle physics in general and to modern high-energy astrophysics in particular.

After successfully completing this Unit, students should be able to:

  • understand the basic concepts of particle physics, including the structure of atoms, the quark model, and the fundamental forces in nature;
  • have a conceptual knowledge of the importance of particle physics in astrophysical processes and especially in high energy astrophysics;
  • understand origins of high energy astronomical radiation; and
  • research an astronomy topic in depth, using dependable sources of astronomical information on the internet and refereed journal articles.


  • Probing the atom: the atom and electrons, the nucleus and nucleons.
  • Conservation laws and fundamental forces: charge, energy, momentum; neutrinos; gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and weak forces; interactions and Feynman diagrams.
  • Antimatter: positrons, properties of antimatter, other antimatter particles.
  • The particle zoo: pions, muons, species of neutrinos and antineutrinos, particle classifications.
  • Conservation laws revisited: lepton, baryon number, strangeness, reaction rules.
  • The quark model: building mesons and baryons out of quarks, quarks and the classification scheme, experimental evidence for quarks, the standard model and quark flavours.
  • Acceleration of charged particles: particle accelerators, colliders, particle detectors.
  • Solar, cosmic ray and neutrino astronomy: accelerating particles and solar flares, pair production, synchrotron radiation and magnetic fields, neutrinos and weak interactions, neutrino oscillations, Cerenkov radiation, lepton scattering.
  • Neutron stars: strong interactions, interiors and nuclear matter, Compton and inverse Compton scattering, QPO sources, millisecond X-ray pulsars.
  • X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy: supersoft X-ray sources, Jets, TeV gamma-ray emission from the Crab Nebula, detecting the supergalactic plane, highest energy gamma-ray sources, gamma ray bursters - detection, possible production processes and astronomical sources.
  • Gravitational wave astronomy: gravitons, binary and colliding neutron stars and black holes.
  • Exotics: quark stars, searching for dark matter - WIMPs.
  • Particle physics and cosmology: cosmic microwave background, scattering, matter and antimatter, symmetry breaking, primordial black holes, fundamental constants and cosmological time.
  • Grand unified theories (GUTs), theories of everything (TOEs) and implications for cosmology.

Prescribed Textbook & Reading Materials:
For information about the textbook, follow this link.

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