AST80006 (formerly HET624) Galaxies & Their Place in the Universe

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




Students who have successfully completed (the old) HET604 cannot enroll in this unit.

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

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

This Unit aims to provide an introduction to galaxies and galaxy clustering, theories of dark matter, galaxy formation and evolution.

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

  • appreciate the “big questions” in galactic and extragalactic astronomy, and the current state of our knowledge on these questions;
  • understand the concepts of galaxy formation and evolution;
  • understand the way galaxies are classified and the approaches used to discover their properties;
  • communicate basic principles and concepts about our and other galaxies, their properties and their constituents in a non-technical way understandable to the wider public;
  • research an astronomy topic in depth, using dependable sources of astronomical information on the internet and refereed journal articles.


  • The Milky Way: structure, rotation curves and dark matter, spiral arms & density wave theory, galactic centre, modelling the origin of the Milky Way
  • The structure and classification of normal galaxies: spiral, elliptical & irregular galaxies, Hubble's classification
  • Estimating galactic distances: standard candles, sizes and masses, redshifts & Hubble's Law
  • Galactic structures: the Local Group, dwarf galaxies, dark matter in clusters, superclusters & voids
  • Star formation: measuring rates and evolution, techniques and relationships
  • Quasars and active galaxies: host galaxies, radio and Seyfert galaxies, unified active galactic nuclei model, black holes, gravitational lensing
  • Interacting galaxies, galactic cannibalism & mergers, starburst galaxies, modelling galaxy interactions
  • Galaxy formation and evolution, fluctuations and galaxy seeds, Jeans mass, N-body simulations, Cold Dark Matter
  • The first stars and galaxies: the dark ages, Population III stars, galaxies and quasars at high redshift, the evolution of clusters, faint blue galaxies
  • Quasar absorbers, evolution of gas in the Universe, the intergalactic medium.

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

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