Gravitational dynamics and galaxy formation

Course content

The course will cover the most important ideas in the field of galaxy formation and chemical enrichment. We will discuss primordial density fluctuations, linear and nonlinear growth of pertubations, violent relaxation, reionization of the intergalactic medium, observations of high-redshift galaxies. In parallel we will work with the properties of structures (consisting of dark matter, stars, and/or gas) formed by gravity.


M.Sc. Physics

Learning outcome


  • the most likely origin of primordial density fluctuations
  • how pertubations grow during the radiation, matter and dark energy dominated phases of the cosmic history
  • methods by which to observationally detect high-redshift galaxies and their limitations and biases.
  • Dark matter, stellar and gas structures. Their properties, creation and development.
  • Hydrostatic equilibrium, and its application on galaxies and galaxy clusters.
  • Jeans equation, the solution hereof, and application on realistic systems.
  • Equilibrium of collisionsless systems, Boltzmann equation. Potential theory. Stellar motions.
  • Jeans theorem. Eddingtons method for equlibrated structures.
  • Phase mixing and violent relaxation. Dynamical friction.



  • Account for the most likely origin of primordial density fluctuations
  • the ability to derive from first principles how linear pertubations grow during the radiation, matter and dark energy dominated phases of the cosmic history.
  • the ability to estimate chemical abundances from spectra of high-redshift quasars and gamma-ray bursts
  • Deep insight and certain application of the basic equations for cosmological structures.
  • Superior description of the physics responsible for the structure of cosmological structures, including motions of stars, phase mixing, violent relaxation and dynamical friction.
  • Detailed knowledge of the solutions of the Jeans equation, and its application to realistic systems.
  • Detailed knowledge of the application of hydrostatic equilibrium for realistic systems.
  • The ability to critically interpret scientific overview articles within the subject.



This course will provide the student with a qualitative understanding of cosmological structures. The student will also develop the conceptual, mathematical and numerical skills needed when studying the literature within the subject and in wider astrophysical connections. The course will establish a solid foundation for a M.Sc. project in phenomenological, theoretical or observational astrophysics.

lectures, exercises, student presentations

Houjon Mo, Frank van den Bosch: Galaxy Formation and Evolution. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 978-0-521-85793-2, samt noter.

equivalent to the content of the first four astronomy specialization courses in the B.Sc.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 minutes
oral exam with exam questions known beforehand. 30 minutes including grading. No preparation time.
Only certain aids allowed

the student may bring a piece of paper for each exam question.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

see "learning outcome"

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Exercises
  • 40
  • Preparation
  • 126
  • English
  • 206