White dwarfs, neutron stars and solar mass black holes — are the final remnants of stars, after they have exhausted their nuclear power. Supermassive black holes instead have still unknown origins, despite the increasing number of observations placing them at centre of galaxies with their masses in excess of hundred thousand times that of our Sun. Compact objects are fascinated because they are unique astrophysical probes of general relativity and extreme nuclear physics and magnetism. Moreover, their gravitational field can generate powerful accretion of matter and channel the released energy in radiation and particle outflows.
In this course, we will discuss the following topics
- historical overview on compact objects
- theory and observations of white dwarfs, neutron stars and stellar black holes
- theory and observations of supermassive black holes
- brief introduction on hydrodynamics in plasma
- theory of accretion discs around compact objects in different accretion regimes
- observation of accretion discs
- reviewing classical papers and summary of open questions
The student will learn how to extract physical information on matter in extreme conditions through a combination of theory and observations. Specifically he will learn how masses, spins, temperature and densities can be constraints and the physical consequences/implications of these measurements. He will also learn the physics of accretion which, for its ubiquity, is relevant to understand many other astrophysical objects.
See MSc schedules
Mode of instruction
A course of lectures, homework and astrophysical paper reading and presentation.
Homework during the course and an oral exam or written exam at the end of the course.
No, but a course website will be made available (see below).
The course is based on classical articles and loosely on “Black Holes, white Dwarfs and Neutron Stars: The Physics of Compact Objects” by Shapiro & Teukolsky and on “Accretion power in Astrophysics” by Frank & King.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.