Contents of the SPaCE master of physics program in astrophysics

The SPaCE program in astrophysics is part of the Aix-Marseille University master of physics.

This 2-year course is organized with lectures in general physics during the first year (M1) and specialized lectures in astrophysics during the second year(M2). Along with supervised projects and internships the students will gradually acquire concepts, tools and methodology to achieve a research work. The proposed projects are defined in close link with lectures in astrophysics. An optional internship in one of our partner universities (Chile, Japan, Poland, Taiwan) is possible between the first and the second year.

A six-week internship in astrophysics is compulsory in M1 and a four-month internship in astrophysics is compulsory at the end of the second year (from March to June).
To perform the SPaCE program in astrophysics, students will have to choose a set of lectures among the one proposed in the Aix-Marseille University master of physics.

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The lectures of this first year (M1) focus on fundamental physics with an introduction to Astrophysics and cosmology. The students are also trained to instrumental and numerical physics. The M1 lectures will take place on the Saint-Charles campus. Astrophysic related projects are hosted at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille. The M1 six-week internship will take place at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille. An optional internship is possible in one of our partner university (Japan, Chile, Poland, Taiwan).

The students master of Marseille are hosted in our laboratories LAM and PIIM in Marseille with dedicated rooms. They regularly meet their teachers and supervisors.

List of the lectures :

Scientific watch

Professional course

English/French course

Laboratory and numerical methods

General astrophysics

Motivation: the goal of this optical lecture is to introduce the main themes of modern astrophysics, insisting in the various physical processes at work.

  1. The birth of modern astrophysics
    1. a brief history of astronomy and cosmology
    2. from astronomy to astrophysics
  2. Sources of information in astronomy
    1. the different part of the electromagnetic spectrum
    2. the main emission processes
    3. measurements :photometry and spectroscopy, ground and space measurements
  3. Scale and measurement of astronomical distances
    1. Stellar distances
    2. the scale of cosmic distances
    3. cosmological distances, redshift
    4. observational biases
  4. Stars,a dense medium
    1. stellar spectra and classification, HR diagram
    2. basics of stellar evolution
  5. The interstellar medium, matter-radiation interaction
    1. basics of radiative transfert :definitions and basic equations
    2. the different phases of the interstellar medium
    3. continuous and nebular emission!
  6. Galaxies and matter distribution in the Universe
    1. Introduction to galaxies
    2. Galaxies spatial distribution
    3. galaxies formation: the present paradigme
  7. Introduction to high-energy phenomena
    1. Introduction to X-rays and gamma rays astronomy
    2. Quasars and galaxy active nuclei
    3. Gamma burst
  8. Star companions, planetary systems
    1. the Solar system
    2. exo---planets


Motivation:the goal of this optional lecture is to introduce general relativity and the subsequent main models of the Universe and tests in observational cosmology.

I. The main observations of the Universe.

  1. Radiation and observations.The observables and their interpretation.
  2. Distribution of the observed matter in the Universe. The baryonic matter: direct and indirect observations
  3. The dark matter and the dark energy
  4. The three pillars of cosmology :galaxies recession, cosmological radiation, elementary particles and primordial nucleosynthesis

II.General relativity

  1. Tensors calculations
  2. Operators,frame transformations, Christoffel symbols, differential
  3. Curve spaces Metric tensors, geodesic tensors, curvature tensors, Einstein tensors
  4. Einstein equations
    1. The principles (equivalence, cosmological, Mach,general relativity,covariance).
    2. Tensor
    3. Energy-momentum
    4. Complete formulation of the Einstein equations

III. The Friedmann --Lemaître models

  1. Expression of the four-dimension metric dimension
  2. Christoffel symbols. Ricci tensor.Scalar curvature.
  3. Energie-momentum tensor and Einstein equations
  4. Expression of the general relativity equations in the Robertson-Walker metric
  5. Unvarying models at null cosmological constant

IV. Properties of the Friedmann--Lemaître models

  1. Observational tests and evolution of the Universe distances, age, Hubble constant, spectral shifts, deceleration parameters, scaling factors, time, energy density, temperature, entropy.
  2. The standard model : successes and difficulties
  3. Inflationary models

V. Introduction to the standard model

  1. The new cosmological tests :anisotropy and cosmological background, baryonic acoustic oscillations, far supernova and gravitational shear
  2. The cosmological parameters and precision cosmology. Acceleration of the Universe.
  3. The Universe contents : baryons, dark matter, dark energy
  4. Structure of the Universe: Amplitude of fluctuations, spectral index, reionization epoch.
  5. Formation of the first stars and galaxies.

Statistical physics


Quantum physics

Mathematics for physics

2 Lectures out of :

Statistics and data analysis


Subatomic and particle physics

The lectures of this second year (M2) are specialized in astrophysics, with possibility to additionnal lecture in any other field (high-energy physics, theoretical physics, atomic and molecular physics). The astrophysics lecture are given at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille.
For both the projects and the four-month long internship the M2 students are hosted at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille with dedicated lecture rooms and library, where they regularly meet their teachers and advisors.

List of the lectures :

Scientific watch

Professional course

numerical and computational modeling

planetary systems

stars and galaxies

atomic and molecular physics, spectroscopy

galaxies and cosmology

instrumentation astronomy from ground and space

radiation matter interaction, radiative transfer

one-week astronomical observations at the Observatoire de Haute-Provence

4-month long internship in astrophysics at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille or elsewhere in France or abroad

List of projects proposed and some illustrations of achievements :

  • Primordial Universe, inflation models
  • White dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes
  • Measuring the expansion of the universe
  • Gravitational lensing
  • How do stars and planets shine?
  • Searching for exoplanets
  • The Solar System beyond Neptun
  • Rendez-vous with a comet nucleus