The Sun's Atmosphere ASTRO5010

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Physics and Astronomy
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the physical processes at work in the solar atmosphere, and to the principles and practice of research in the physics of the solar atmosphere.


Normally two lectures per week, 1 hour per lecture.

Requirements of Entry

This course is open to all students enrolled on the MSc in Astrophysics and on the MSc in Theoretical Physics.

Excluded Courses





1. Oral examinations (50%): a mid-course oral exam of 15 minutes and an end-of-course oral exam of 15 minutes, each counting for 25% of the final grade. A list of topics will be provided at the start of the course. Students will choose one topic on which their knowledge and understanding will be assessed in the mid-course oral exam. The examiners will choose another topic on which the students' knowledge and understanding will be assessed in the end-of-course oral exam.


2. A final report on the computer-based "solar atmosphere research" project demonstrating understanding of issues associated to solar data analysis and their interpretation, or associated to theory and modelling of high-energy physics in the solar context (50%)

Course Aims

To develop the students' knowledge of emission processes of electromagnetic radiation; plasma physics; instrumentation; data analysis; theory and modelling - all in the context of the study of the solar atmosphere.

To offer initial training in solar physics research which will be useful for students interested in pursuing a career in astrophysics or theoretical astrophysics.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

- explain how a range of observations across the electromagnetic spectrum have led to the currently accepted theories of the structure and dynamics of the solar atmosphere

- apply the equations of magnetohydrodynamics to explain the structure and dynamics of the solar atmosphere

- use basic radiation transfer theory to explain the main properties of the observed radiation, in the context of microscopic radiation processes and macroscopic radiation quantities

- recall the fundamental principles of particle acceleration and transport in the solar atmosphere and summarise their observational signatures

- formulate the main properties of the layers of the solar atmosphere (photosphere, chromosphere, transition region and corona) in the context of the structure and dynamics of both the plasma and the magnetic field

- illustrate how the sun affects space weather

- use the theories, principles and ideas presented in the course to solve a computational data-analysis or modelling problem, in the context of the study of the solar atmosphere

- summarise in a written report the theories and methods adopted to solve the computational project

- produce a critical assessment of the project outcomes in the context of published research in professional journals

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.