Astrophysics MSc

Year of entry

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Start date
September 2024
Delivery type
On campus
Duration
12 months full time
Entry requirements
A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons)
Full entry requirements
English language requirements
IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component
UK fees
£13,500 (Total)
International fees
£31,000 (Total)

Course overview

Physics with Astrophysics MPhys

Astrophysics is the study of the Universe in all its complexity, from the formation of planets to the large-scale processes driving the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time. Astrophysics is a highly sought-after discipline that encourages the development of novel methods and techniques, placing you at the cutting edge of new discoveries. If you have a sense of wonder at our place in the Universe and how planets, stars and galaxies came to be then this is the right course for you!

At Leeds, we are world-renowned experts in star and planet formation research, using both theory and observations to try and understand the origins of stars and Earth-like planets. During your MSc, you'll be exposed to the forefront of this work and will gain experience in using data from the world’s leading observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array – plus many more.

Our MSc in Astrophysics gives you not just a broad grounding in astrophysical concepts, but also practical skills in observational astronomy, data analysis and digital simulations. Modern astrophysics is also a highly collaborative field, often with large teams working on huge data sets like those from telescopes or detailed astrophysical simulations.

Communicating high level scientific concepts, working in teams and presenting your research are core parts of your studies with us. We aim to develop you into a well-rounded and adaptable scientist, equally capable of further research in Astrophysics or applying your skills to industry.

Why study at Leeds:

  • Our globally-renowned research feeds directly into the course, shaping your learning with the latest thinking.
  • Advance your knowledge and skills in areas such as star and planet formation, cosmology and exoplanetary systems.
  • Conduct an independent research project where you’ll use data analysis, programming and mathematical modelling to solve a real-world problem in astrophysics, supervised and guided by one of our researchers.
  • Access specialist facilities including purpose-built laboratories, a dedicated Astrophysics computer cluster and our own astronomical observatory where you can image objects in the night sky.
  • Experience expert theoretical and practical teaching delivered by a programme team made up of academics who specialise in a wide range of areas in astrophysics.
  • Be part of Yorkshire's fast-growing contribution to the UK's space sector - now worth £15bn annually
  • Study in the Sir William Henry Bragg building which provides excellent facilities and teaching spaces for an outstanding student experience.

Course details

The MSc in Astrophysics is taught through a mix of lectures and practical hands-on modules, with the aim of giving a broad grounding in modern astrophysical concepts and specialist practical skills in observational astronomy, data analysis and simulations.

Throughout the year, you'll study broad concepts such as cosmology, general relativity and the formation of stars and planets, as well as more specialist modules in Exoplanetary Systems and ‘Winds, Bubbles and Explosions’. You'll also undertake dedicated training in astrophysical research skills (data analysis, observational astronomy and computational simulations) via a number of real-world case studies. By attending our regular research seminar programme as part of the Research Communications module you'll learn how to communicate complex concepts to a scientific or technical audience.

Project work

Underpinning all of this is a common platform of teamwork, communication and investigative research skills, culminating in a substantial research project.

You’ll undertake your project in our internationally-recognised Astrophysics research group, choosing a topic in an area that interests you. This project will provide you with the key experience in independent research you need to advance your career.

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

For more information and a full list of typical modules available on this course, please read Astrophysics MSc in the course catalogue

Modules

Compulsory modules

Research Project – 60 credits

You'll carry out an independent and original substantial research project on an area of astrophysics, supervised and guided by one of our renowned researchers. You’ll learn how to solve advanced problems in astrophysics using a combination of data analysis, programming and mathematical modelling. You'll present your results via an oral presentation and written report, gaining experience of how to deliver high level scientific concepts.

Star and Planet Formation* – 15 credits

The study of the physical processes underpinning the formation of stars and planets is fundamental for understanding the origin of the mass distribution of stars in galaxies, the formation of our Solar System and potential sources of the vast diversity of extra-solar planetary systems. This module will cover the physics governing i) the formation of stars, ii) the impact of young stars on their immediate environment and iii) the birth and evolution of (exo)planetary systems.

Cosmology* – 15 credits

An introduction to modern Cosmology. You'll see how the geometry of the Universe affects its evolution and how the contents of the Universe shape its geometry. You'll study how we make measurements of distant stars and galaxies to study the properties of the expansion of the Universe, as well as studying the physics of the early Universe, when the seeds of the objects that turned into the Galaxies around us were first created. You'll cover from the first 10-43 seconds through to the present day.

General Relativity – 15 credits

You’ll be introduced to General Relativity and learn how to utilise techniques appropriate to differential geometry for familiar problems from Special Relativity. You’ll then move onto the study of how these methods can be used to derive the optimal means of studying particle dynamics in a curved space-time and how physical laws can be translated into the same framework. You'll conclude with a study of applications of General Relativity including Cosmology and Black Holes.

Winds, Bubbles and Explosions – 15 credits

Massive stars inject radiative and mechanical energy into the interstellar medium via their intense photon fluxes, powerful winds and SN explosions. This “feedback” is at least partially responsible for dispersing the molecular gas from massive star-forming regions. On larger scales, the energy injected from groups of massive stars powers galactic fountains and superwinds. This module covers the theory behind these processes and the necessary background to understand them.

Exoplanetary Systems – 15 credits

With the number of known exoplanets up to 5000 and counting, studies of exo-solar planets has become one of the fastest growing topics in astrophysics, underpinned by ongoing development of cutting-edge astronomical telescopes and space missions. In this module, you'll learn about the observational characterisation of exoplanets, the physics of planet formation and structure and evolution of exoplanetary atmospheres. These concepts will be placed in the context of the Solar System and of the search for habitable planets and extra-terrestrial life. Theoretical understanding will be supported by worked examples, use of astronomical data and problem-solving techniques.

Research Skills in Astrophysics – 30 credits

Learn the research skills needed by an astrophysicist by carrying out a number of open-ended astrophysical case studies. You'll hone your skills in data handling and analysis, programming and computational simulations. Expertise in analysing astronomical data will be gained through case studies using recent data from world-leading astronomical observatories.

Current Research Topics in Physics – 15 credits

This module will introduce you to the most modern elements of astrophysics, through a series of seminars delivered by leading astrophysicists. You'll learn how to present high level scientific concepts and research the concepts covered at greater detail, before choosing a topic to present in the style of a conference poster.

*If you’ve previously studied these modules at Leeds, you’ll not be required to undertake them again. Instead, you’ll have the choice to study up to 30 credits in other physics modules if you wish, but your choice must be approved in advance by your Programme Leader.

Learning and teaching

Teaching will be delivered through lectures, seminars, problem classes and practical activities. A large emphasis is placed on active learning where you learn by carrying out real-world activities and exercises, for example in our Research Skills module or your research project.

Our School’s research feeds directly into our teaching, and you’ll have regular contact with staff who are at the forefront of astrophysics. You’ll have regular contact with them through lectures, seminars, tutorials, small group work and project meetings.

Independent learning is a key part of postgraduate study and in your research project you will take ownership of an original piece of research. This will let you practise the skills and techniques you have learned and apply them to a new astrophysical investigation.

Specialist facilities

A group of people on the roof looking at the observatory at the University of Leeds.

The School of Physics and Astronomy is housed in the University’s Sir William Henry Bragg Building – an impressive development bringing together our friendly, supportive and diverse community of students, researchers and academics to collaborate in the same modern space. We encourage a hands-on approach throughout the course and therefore have purpose-built laboratories and a dedicated Astrophysics computer cluster to support your studies.

You’ll also have access to our own astronomical observatory – situated at the top of the Bragg building. This purpose-built facility includes two 35cm telescopes, complete with sensitive CCD detectors capable of multi-wavelength imaging.

Programme team

The wider programme team is made up of researchers and academics from the School of Physics and Astronomy who have extensive expertise across a variety of astrophysics and physics disciplines.

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.

Assessment

You'll be assessed by a variety of methods during your MSc, including examinations, written reports, presentations and practical investigations. Astrophysicists are well known for their critical and analytical abilities, and for developing new techniques to tackle original problems. Our aim is to develop you into a capable and well-rounded scientist with expertise that can equally be applied to solving the mysteries of the Universe or to solving problems in industry.

We place an emphasis on active learning and assessments that are relevant and authentic to developing your critical and analytical abilities. Communication is a key part of this and we will assess your communication skills through reports and oral presentations.

Applying

Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with 2:1 (hons) in physics or a related subject (such as geophysics, natural sciences, or mathematics).

Applicants with engineering degrees will normally not be considered, unless they have a strong background in at least two of the following areas: astrophysics, quantum physics, biophysics, soft matter, or condensed matter.

Applicants with a chemistry degree will normally not be considered, unless they have a strong background in mathematics.

We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. For more information, please contact the Admissions Team.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

How to apply

Applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible.

30 June 2024 – International applicants

8 September 2024 – UK applicants

Click below to access the University’s online application system and find out more about the application process.

If you're still unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

The UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) operates a scheme called the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). If you are an international (non-EU/EEA or Swiss citizen) applicant and require a student visa to study in the UK then you will need an ATAS certificate to study this course at the University of Leeds.

To apply for an ATAS certificate online, you will need your programme details and the relevant Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) code and descriptor. For this course, the CAH code is: CAH07-01-01 and the descriptor is: Physics. Your supervisor will be René Oudmaijer.

More information and details on how to apply for your ATAS certificate can be found at GOV.UK.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Admissions Policy 2025

Contact us

School of Physics and Astronomy Admissions Team

Email: phymscadmin@leeds.ac.uk
Telephone:

Fees

UK: £13,500 (Total)

International: £31,000 (Total)

Read more about paying fees and charges.

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Additional cost information

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more on our living costs and budgeting page.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.

Career opportunities

Astrophysicists are particularly known for their enquiring minds, critical and analytical capabilities, and the ability to develop new methods and techniques to understand complex and often data-poor situations. These skills are also in high demand across numerous industries, which is why astrophysics graduates are sought after for many highly paid and satisfying careers.

From finance to energy, aerospace to electronics — the industries open to you with an Astrophysics MSc from Leeds are vast. Our MSc will ground you with a high level of numeracy and mathematical competence, computer skills and extensive technical academic scientific knowledge, all of which are valued by employers.

Our MSc is also the perfect foundation for continuing postgraduate research and will provide you with the advanced knowledge and skills required to move onto a PhD.

Plus, the University of Leeds is in the top 5 most targeted universities in the UK by graduate recruiters, according to High Fliers’ The Graduate Market in 2024 report.

Careers support

At Leeds, we help you to prepare for your future from day one. We have a wide range of careers resources — including our award-winning Employability team who are in contact with many employers around the country and advertise placements and jobs. They are also on hand to provide guidance and support, ensuring you are prepared to take your next steps after graduation and get you where you want to be.

  • Employability events — we run a full range of events including careers fairs in specialist areas and across broader industries — all with employers who are actively recruiting for roles.
  • MyCareer system — on your course and after you graduate, you’ll have access to a dedicated careers portal where you can book appointments with our team, get information on careers and see job vacancies and upcoming events.
  • Qualified careers consultants — gain guidance, support and information to help you choose a career path. You’ll have access to 1-2-1 meetings and events to learn how to find employers to target, write your CV and cover letter, research before interviews and brush up on your interview skills.
  • Opportunities at Leeds — there are plenty of exciting opportunities offered by our Leeds University Union, including volunteering and over 300 clubs and societies to get involved in.

Find out more about career support.