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Dark Matter and Dark Energy


Key information

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Module description

Module description

This module is designed to give an up to date course on dark matter and dark energy, explaining what we do and don't know about these two very different phenomena. We will look at how observations force us to propose the existence of these two components of the Universe and tell us something about their properties. We will introduce the different theories which physicists think might be responsible for the phenomena.

We will concentrate on the particle nature of different dark matter candidates and how astronomical observations inform us about this particle physics. For dark energy we will look at what different models have been suggested and how the data may distinguish between these models.

Learning aims & outcomes

After successfully completing this module, students will have a good understanding of how we measure the properties of dark matter and dark energy. They will learn a great deal about different properties of these two separate phenomena, how we measure them in the Universe and how we re-produce them in different theoretical scenarios.

They will understand the theories which hope to explain these phenomena, what makes a good theory and how a wrong theory can be ruled out by the data. Students will be equipped to read research papers at the forefront of this field and will have an understanding of the basic techniques and methodology relevant for investigating theories of dark matter and dark energy and finding out how they compare to the data. They will be able to critically read current literature and start to make informed conclusions about the validity and value of research level literature.

The module will demonstrate how gravity and particle physics combine in order to understand the Universe. This is a good demonstration of how research naturally pushes us towards interdisciplinary areas and will hopefully show how often this happens in life. The main transferable skill will be the background knowledge to start to do graduate research in these areas. Students will also be able to disseminate information to the public about these topics much more effectively.

Students will understand the theories which exist to explain these phenomena and the mathematical descriptions underlying those theories.They will be develop knowledge in a range of areas in astrophysics, cosmology and particle physics as set out more comprehensively in the detailed topic list provided.


Students are expected to have some knowledge of particle physics comparable to the UG 3rd year particle physics modules 6CCP3241 Particle Physics and 6CCP3630 General Relativity and Cosmology, or equivalent. We also want students to have worked with the FRW equations in a UG astronomy or cosmology module.


Assessment details

Please note that if students are in attendance for semester 1 only they will be set alternative assessment before they return to their home institution. Further information will be provided by your lecturer.

Teaching pattern

3 hours of lectures per week