Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Core Physics Modules at Level 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Other Workshop. 3 workshops/exercise classes


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   end of semester examination for BSc students  80%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   end of semester examination for MPhys students  80%
Semester Assessment Coursework Deadlines (by week of Semester): Exercise Class 1 Week 4 Exercise Class 2 Week 8 Exercise Class 3 Week 10  Course Work: 3 Exercise Classes  20%

Learning Outcomes

After taking this module students should be able to:

  • explain the source of the Sun's energy
  • follow the flow of energy through the different zones of the Sun's interior
  • explain how helioseismology and neutrino counts give information on the Sun's interior
  • recognise different features on the surface of the Sun under quiet and active conditions
  • appreciate the problem posed by coronal heating
  • describe how to measure the electron density and velocity of interplanetary space
  • derive Parker's simple theory of the solar wind and list its limitations
  • estimate the location of the solar wind termination shock and list the limitations of the simple model used to calculate this position

Brief description

This module examines in detail the physics of our nearest star and of its interaction with the Solar System. Topics covered include the Sun's structure, energy production and transport processes, solar activity, the solar wind and its interaction with planets and comets.


Introduction - The Sun and the Heliosphere (1):
Energy flow through the Sun and Interplanetary Space. Radiation, particles and magnetic field.

Sun (6) :
Structure of the Sun. Nuclear processes in the core. Solar neutrinos. Radiative and Convective zones. Solar seismology. Photosphere and Chromosphere. Sunspots, faculae, plages, prominences, filaments.Babcock-Leighton theory.

Solar Atmosphere (7) :
Corona. Coronal Heating.
Plasma density in corona and interplanetary space.
Scattering of light in the solar corona. Space-craft measurements.
Irregularities in corona and interplanetary space : Coronal features.
Dynamics of corona: Movement of visible features in the corona Doppler shift of spectral lines.
Coronal Activity: Flares. Solar radio emission. Bursts. X-Rays. Particle emission.

Solar wind and Heliosphere (5) :
Parker's theory. Solar breeze and solar wind. Effect of conductivity and viscosity. Spiral structure of Interplanetary magnetic field. Acceleration of solar wind near sun. Non-uniform flow and shock fronts. Terminator Shock.
Measurement of the solar wind. Interplanetary Scintillation and in-situ measurements.
Sun-Earth connections: Terrestrial effects of solar variability. Long period variations in activity. Solar wind and cosmic ray shielding. "Space climate".

Comets and Meteoroids (1):
Structure of Comets : Core, Coma, Cloud, Dust Tail, Plasma Tail and Ion Loading. Comets and Meteor Showers.

Transferable skills

Use of solar telescope to observe sunspots.


This module is at CQFW Level 6