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This unit is available in even numbered years only.


Stellar and Planetary Physics is an advanced unit in the Physics Major focusing on the production of energy in stars and the structure and energy balance of planets, including the Earth-Sun system and the physics of climate. Different sections of the unit concentrate on topics including: the structure of the solar interior and atmosphere; nuclear reaction networks in the Sun and other stars; stellar formation and evolution; radiation transfer through stellar and planetary atmospheres, including the processes of transmission, absorption, scattering and emission; space weather; aurorae and the Earth's magnetic field; remote sensing of the atmosphere and surface of the Earth; seismological probes of planetary and stellar interiors; terrestrial energy balance and climate change; numerical modelling techniques to describe stars, planets, and their atmospheres.

This unit builds upon topics covered in first- and second-year physics units and is recommended for students intending to major in physics. The topics covered are also suitable for students wishing to gain an understanding of the physics of astronomy, climatology, meteorology, Antarctic studies, physical geography, and related areas. The unit is taught only in even-numbered years; it alternates with KYA306, Astrophysics, so that all physics majors have the option to take one of these units treating macroscopic applications of gravitation, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and fluid dynamics. Honours students have the opportunity to take both units by planning accordingly.

Summary 2021

Unit name Stellar and Planetary Physics
Unit code KYA305
Credit points 12.5
Faculty/School College of Sciences and Engineering
School of Natural Sciences
Discipline Physics

Andrew Cole

Available as student elective? No
Breadth Unit? No



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About Census Dates

Learning Outcomes


Apply relevant theoretical knowledge of physical principles to the transfer of radiation through various media, including both stellar and planetary atmospheres.


Explain and apply the observational and computational methods by which data are obtained for stellar and planetary systems including their immediate environs in space and their atmospheres.


Formulate and test hypotheses regarding stellar and planetary systems through practical experimentation.


Analyse the Earth-Sun system to evaluate evidence for and against competing hypotheses in stellar and terrestrial physics, including those regarding anthropogenic influence on climate.


Explain the principles underlying the structure of stars, planetary atmospheres, and their surroundings.




KYA212 Electromagnetism & Thermodynamics AND KMA252 Calculus and Applications 2 OR admission into a Masters of Applied Science course


Teaching Pattern

3 x 180 minute lectures weekly, 1 x 60 minute tutorial weekly, 5 x 600 minute practicals


ATT1 - Stellar physics mid-term test (15%)

ATT2 - Planetary physics mid-term test (15%)

ATT3 - Practical Activity and Report (15%)

ATT4 - Weekly Problem Set Assignments (10%)

ATT5 - Exam (45%)

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