Module code: PHY3055

Module Overview

In this module, students will learn about the observational evidence and theoretical framework of our standard model of cosmology. Using this framework, they will go on to learn about the growth of structure in the Universe and the formation and evolution of galaxies.


Module provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

COLLINS Michelle (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 117

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

The module will assume prior knowledge equivalent to the following modules. If you have not taken these modules you should consult the module descriptors: PHY2071 Introduction to Astronomy (or BSc Physics Year 2 equivalent)

Module content

- General overview and introduction -

Historical background, observational cosmology and extragalactic astronomy, Big Bang and the early Universe, the cosmic microwave background, contents of the Universe: baryons, radiation, dark matter and dark energy. The cosmological principle, isotropy and homogeneity, standard candles and cosmic distances, the distance ladder, Hubble's law.

- Cosmological models -

The Friedmann equations, cosmological parameters, observational tests of the Friedman model, redshift and various distance measures in cosmology, matter and radiation dominated expansion, the flatness and the horizon problem, inflation, the thermal history of the Universe, recombination, the surface of last scattering, synthesis of the light elements. Observational constraints of our cosmological models (CMB, clustering, Lyman alpha alpha forest, reionisation of H and He).

- Formation of structure -

Growth of perturbations: gravitational instabilities in an expanding space-time, formation of large scale structure, the cosmic web, statistical properties of cosmological density fields: correlation functions and power spectra from theory and observations, Press-Schecter theory,  Non-linear collapse, virialisation and the formation of dark matter haloes, the dark matter halo mass function, the halo model, halo bias.

- Galaxy Formation -

Dissipative collapse, cooling and heating processes, origin of angular momentum: tidal torque theory, disk formation, the role of galaxy mergers, modes of accretion: hot vs. cold inflow, the inter-galactic medium, the galaxy luminosity function, the galaxy-dark matter halo connection.

- Galaxy Evolution -

Galactic scaling relations: the Tully-Fisher and Faber-Jackson relation and the fundamental plane. The Hubble sequence and the blue and red sequence of galaxies. The high redshift Universe: the cosmic star formation history, gas rich high redshift galaxies, results from numerical simulations. Star formation and feedback processes. Puzzles in galaxy formation theory: the missing satellite problem, missing baryon problem, overcooling.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ESSAY 20
Online Scheduled Summative Class Test BIWEEKLY QUESTIONS ON SURREYLEARN 10
Examination End of Semester Examination - 2 hours 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate core competencies in astrophysics materials, through examination, essay writing, and short online questions.

The summative assessment for this module consists of:

- a written examination of 2-hour duration with a section of short compulsory questions, and a section of longer questions with a choice of 2 out of 3.

- a midterm essay question.

- a series of biweekly graded questions on SurreyLearn.


Formative assessment and feedback

Formative assessment is provided by verbal feedback in problem solving tutorials and lecture classes. An example formative SurreyLearn quiz is also available.

Module aims

  • To provide the students with a coherent picture of our cosmological world view and the formation and evolution of galaxies and large scale structures. The module will provide the necessary theoretical framework to describe the evolution of the Universe and the principles structure formation.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Describe modern cosmological models, the basic structure and contents of the Universe and how cosmic structures arise KC
2 Demonstrate understanding of how to derive and solve the Friedmann equations, and explain the role of baryons, radiation, as well as the role of exotic concepts such as dark ¿matter and dark energy, in the standard model of cosmology KC
3 Understand the thermodynamic evolution of the Universe, and should be able to describe the growth of density perturbations leading to the formation of structure KC
4 Characterise the large scale distribution of matter in the Universe, and describe how modern observations can be used to constrain cosmological model KC
5 Understand the processes relevant for dissipative collapse leading to disk galaxy formation, and how star formation and “feedback” operate in galaxies K
6 Characterise galactic morphologies and how these follow observed galactic scaling relations C
7 Discuss our current understanding of how high redshift galaxies relate to locally observed systems KCT
8 Appreciate the evolving nature of galaxy formation theory and insight into ongoing puzzles, like the “missing satellite” and “missing baryons” problems K

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to increase students’ critical understanding of physics and astrophysics, and through this module to provide students with the opportunity to explore both the theoretical and experimental concepts of Cosmology and Galaxy Formation.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • lectures (2hrs per week x 11 weeks) ‘

  • tutorials (1hr per week x 11 weeks)

  • independent study



Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHY3055

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.