ASTR 4003 / 8003 -- High Energy Astrophysics

Semester 1, 2019

PDF version of this syllabus


Mark Krumholz
Roland Crocker

Class meeting times

Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 AM - 12 PM
Woolley Seminar Room


This course covers high-energy astrophysics, defined roughly as the astrophysics of sources that emit radiation in the X-ray and gamma-ray bands, though they may also emit at other wavelengths. The first half of the course is devoted to physical processes associated with the emission and absorption of high energy radiation, and covers radiative transfer, bremsstrahlung, synchotron radiation, and Compton scattering. The second half of the course applies this physical background to a variety of astrophysical systems, including accretion disks, compact objects, and cosmic rays propagating through the interstellar medium.


This course will use two textbooks: Radiative Processes in Astrophysics, by Rybicki and Lightman (out of print, but easily ordered from resellers), and High Energy Astrophysics, by Longair. These books are highly recommended but not required. Two additional books that may be useful are Accretion Power in Astorphysics, by Frank, King, & Raine, and The Physics of Astrophysics I: Radiation by Shu.

Assignments and grading

There will be 6 problem sets for this course, due on the dates indicated below. Problem sets are due by close of business on the indicated day. In addition, there will be an oral final exam during the exam period. These exams will be scheduled individually. Each problem set is worth 10% of the final grade, and the final exam is worth the remaining 40%. Late assignments will be accepted up to one week after the due date (when graded assignments will normally be returned, and solutions made available), at a penalty of 5% per working day. Assignments may be submitted either via the course wattle page or on paper to one of the instructors.

Policy on collaboration

Group work is encouraged in this course. In particular, if your understanding is lacking in parts, as lecturers we fully encourage you to discuss and debate with other students to reach a better understanding. However, this should not lead to a number of students producing identical assignments. In the end, you must work through, understand, and answer the assignment questions yourself, not simply reproduce verbatim other students' work. See links for further information on ANU policies on plagiarism and collusion.


In the reading list, RL = Rybicki & Lightman, L = Longair

Date Topic Lecturer Reading Work due
27 Feb Radiative transfer I MK
28 Feb Radiative transfer II MK RL Ch. 1
6 Mar Classical theory of light MK
7 Mar Electromagnetic potentials MK RL Ch. 2
13 Mar The far field limit; radiation theory MK Problem set 1 (Solutions)
14 Mar Bremsstrahlung MK RL Ch. 3, 5
20 Mar Relativistic electromagnetism MK
21 Mar Emission from relativistic particles MK RL Ch. 4
27 Mar Synchotron radiation I MK Problem set 2 (Solutions)
28 Mar Synchotron radiation II MK RL Ch. 6
3 Apr Compton scattering I MK
4 Apr Compton scattering II MK RL Ch. 7
Semester break, 8 - 23 Apr
24 Apr Hadronic gamma-ray emission; secondary electrons RC L Ch. 10.1 Problem set 3 (Solutions)
25 Apr No class (ANZAC day)
1 May Cosmic ray (CR) phenomenology; CR transport; diffusion; Bohm limit RC L Ch. 15
2 May CR acceleration I; Hillas criterion RC L Ch. 16, 17
8 May CR acceleration II; UHECR sources RC Problem set 4
9 May Accretion; accretion power; Eddington limit RC L Ch. 14
15 May Accretion disks; Shakura-Sunyaev alpha parameter RC
16 May AGN; blazars; microquasars RC L Ch. 18, 19
22 May Pulsars; pulsar wind nebulae RC Problem set 5
23 May Supernovae; radionuclides and gamma-ray line emission; positrons; supernova remnants RC L Ch. 13
29 May Galactic plane; Galactic Centre; Fermi Bubbles RC L Ch. 10.3
30 May Cosmic rays in star-forming galaxies; FIR-radio continuum correlation; dynamical effects of CRs; CR winds; dark matter & DM indirect detection RC L Ch. 4.8
5 Jun No class Problem set 6
Exam period, 6 - 22 Jun