Stockholm university
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The course addresses extragalactic astronomy with emphasis on understanding the astrophysical processes underlying how different types of galaxies may have very different properties. The course has a strong connection to research and contains two mandatory seminar sessions where the students discuss recent research literature.

Spiral galaxy NGC 3627 (M66)
Spiral galaxy NGC 3627 (M66). Credit: ESO/P. Barthel

The focus of the course is on properties of different types of galaxies, but mainly on processes that are especially important for how galaxies evolve: star formation, dynamic processes within and between galaxies, and active galactic nuclei. The following subjects will be covered (main subjects in bold font):

  • Stellar structure and evolution.
  • The Milky Way.
  • Stellar orbits in galaxies.
  • Our extragalactic neighbourhood, the Local group.
  • Disk galaxies.
  • Star formation in galaxies.
  • The interstellar medium.
  • Elliptical galaxies.
  • Dark matter in and around galaxies.
  • Galaxy clusters.
  • Active galactic nuclei.
  • The first galaxies.

After taking the course you are expected to have acquired advanced knowledge on galaxies and the underlying astrophysical processes that govern their formation and evolution. Specifically, you should be able to:

  • describe different types of galaxies, and the astrophysical processes that give rise to the observable properties of them
  • qualitatively describe star formation in galaxies, galaxy dynamics, chemical enrichment in galaxies, and the electromagnetic spectrum of galaxies
  • solve calculation problems relating to star formation in galaxies, galaxy dynamics, chemical enrichment in galaxies, and the electromagnetic spectrum of galaxies
  • show understanding for how galaxies are affected, quantitatively and qualitatively, as they evolve and interact
  • show good insight in, and understanding of, modern extragalactic research, as well as discuss this at seminars.
  • Course structure

    The course is given during day time, and is part of the Master’s programme in Astronomy. It can also be taken as a free-standing course. The course is normally given in English.

    Teaching format

    The teaching is devised to make it possible for you to reach the goals for the course. To achieve them we will use a combination of methods that all have one thing in common: they should activate the students during the sessions and thereby provide a good environment for deep learning and understanding of the subjects. There are 16 teaching sessions for the course out of which 14 are interactive lectures and 2 are seminars. The sessions are a critical part of the course. The seminars are compulsory and the interactive lectures are semi-compulsory.

    Interactive lectures
    These 2x45 minute sessions contains four different parts where the subject of the day is covered, both in terms of understanding key concepts and problem solving. To get the most out from the sessions you are supposed to have worked through the material before coming by reading the relevant sections in the course book and solving the recommended problems. All lectures but the first and last will contain these four parts:

    • Multiple choice test (~10 min.). We will start each session with a small test on the recommended reading material. You will hand in your answers for two questions. Correct answers will count towards your grade, since each question is worth 1.5 grade credit (see below). The lectures are thus semi-compulsory and you will not be able to achieve the highest grade without attending the interactive lectures (but it is possible to pass the course without).
    • Traditional lecture (~30 min.). I will give a short lecture on the subject of the day highlighting the important concepts and setting the stage for the later parts.
    • Discussion exercises (~25 min). You will be divided into groups of 3–4 persons, which will each get a question to answer and discuss. After half time you will reconvene with the full class and tell the other groups your conclusions.
    • Problem solving (~25 min). During this part of the lecture we will work through one or two problems together. We will also discuss implications and connections to the theoretical parts covered earlier during the session. The last interactive lecture will be focused on preparing for the exam by reviewing the key concepts of the course and working with old exams.

    For each seminar you will be given two journal articles to read thoroughly, and will prepare a
    short (5-7 minutes) presentation in pairs for one of them. You will also read the abstract for all of the other articles read by the group. After each presentation we will have time for questions and discussion. The seminars are compulsory and you will be graded based on the quality of your presentation and level of activity during the seminar. Each seminar session can give up to 10 grade credits, and put together they account for 20% of your course grade. If you are unable to attend a seminar you need to contact the teacher to get an individual examination of that particular session.


    To pass the course (grade E) you need to have collected at least 50 grade credits and have attended both seminar sessions. At least 30 of the grade credits need to have come from the result of the written exam (which corresponds to one half correct answers on the exam). A total of 100 grade credits can be collected from the written exam (60 p. max), seminars (20 p. max), and multiple choice tests (20 p. max).


    Matthew Hayes


  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course literature

    Note that the course literature can be changed up to two months before the start of the course.

    Cimatti, Fraternali, & Nipoti: “Introduction to Galaxy Formation and Evolution”, 2020, Cambridge University Press.

  • Contact

    The academic advisor and student office can be contacted via

    Course coordinator and teacher:
    Jens Melinder,