ASP3162 - Computational astrophysics and the extreme universe - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

School of Physics and Astronomy

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Rosemary Mardling


Dr Rosemary Mardling

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2019 (On-campus)


ASP2062 and one of (MTH2010 or MTH2015 or ENG2005)

and one of (MTH2032 or MTH2040)


In this unit students will learn the basic principles of astrophysical fluid dynamics and how it can be used to model the most extreme events in the universe. The unit covers the basic equations of compressible hydrodynamics, including the behaviour of linear waves, the transition to shocks and the behaviour of fluids at high Mach number. Students will apply this to understand the physical processes that power accreting sources including white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes, and the physics behind the explosion of stars as supernovae. Students will gain practical experience in computational fluid dynamics including basic programming skills and an understanding of how large scale astrophysical simulations are performed.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a basic understanding of astrophysical fluid dynamics, involving the physics of fluids at high Mach number, including sound waves and shocks.
  2. Demonstrate practical skills in scientific computing, computational modelling, data analysis and visualisation.
  3. Perform computer simulations of astrophysical flows using advanced astrophysical simulation codes, and demonstrate an understanding of the physics and mathematics behind modern large-scale astrophysical simulations.


NOTE: From 1 July 2019, the duration of all exams is changing to combine reading and writing time. The new exam duration for this unit is 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Examination (3 hours): 50%

Workshops: 30% (Hurdle)

Assignments: 20%

Hurdle: Students must pass the workshop component of this unit in order to pass the unit.

Workload requirements

The workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours spread across the semester (roughly 12 hours per week) - approximately an even mixture of attendance at scheduled activities and self-scheduled study time. Learning activities comprise a mixture of instructor directed, peer directed and self-directed learning, which includes face-to-face and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study