Academic Year 2022/2023 - Teacher: MARIA LETIZIA PIERA PUMO

Expected Learning Outcomes

The purpose of the course is to provide basic knowledge on some calculation tools and methods, developed and used in the field of astrophysics. In particular, with reference to the so-called Dublin Descriptors, the course aims to provide the following knowledge and skills.

Knowledge and understanding abilities: knowledge of the main numerical techniques for solving "astrophysical problems", paying particular attention to methods for "data modeling" and for solving systems of algebraic equations and systems of differential equations.

Applying knowledge and understanding abilities: ability to use the above mentioned numerical techniques, also including the development of software programs.

Making judgements: ability to choose between different numerical techniques. Development and strengthening of the ability to argue personal interpretations of physical phenomena, through the critical analysis of the obtained scientific results and the comparison with what is reported in the literature.

Communication skills: ability to communicate in the advanced fields of Physics, presenting one's own research activity or a review topic to different audiences (specialists or not-specialists). Strengthen the ability to write a report on the carried out activities. These skills will be developed in the context of the topics covered by this course.

Learning skills: ability to transform theoretical knowledge into applications aimed at solving "astrophysical problems". Ability to exploit databases and bibliographical and scientific resources in one’s study and research work, strengthening one’s self-updating and self-learning skills.

Course Structure

The didactic activity consists of lectures and laboratory activities with computer exercises (for a total of 6 ECTS, of which 4 of lectures and 2 of laboratory activities). In particular, the laboratory activities foresee the development, both guided and autonomous, of software programs (mainly in Fortran90 programming language) that use the numerical techniques presented in the lectures. Where possible, innovative teaching and learning strategies are used. During each lesson, moreover, space is left to students for questions, curiosities and comments, in order to maximize teacher-student interaction.

NB: Should the circumstances require online or blended teaching, appropriate modifications to what is hereby stated may be introduced, in order to achieve the main objectives of the course and the curriculum, described in the "Expected Learning Outcomes" and "Detailed Course Content" sections.

Required Prerequisites

Basic knowledge of computer science and astrophysics.

Attendance of Lessons

Attendance at the course is usually compulsory.

Detailed Course Content

Introduction. Observational data, models of astrophysical phenomena.

Numerical analysis algorithms. Linear algebraic equations, interpolation and extrapolation, statistical description and modelling of data, integration of ordinary differential equations, boundary value problems, integration of partial differential equations (brief overview).

Programming languages. Introduction to computers, history and evolution of Fortran, basic elements of Fortran 90/95, program design, branching structures, loops, I/O statements, arrays, procedures.

Textbook Information

1. Press, Teukolsky, Vetterling, Flannery - Numerical Recipes. The Art of Parallel Scientific Computing - Cambridge University Press - 2nd Edition.
2. Chapman - Fortran 90/95 for Scientists and Engineers - McGraw-Hill Higher Education - 2nd Edition.

Course Planning

 SubjectsText References
1Observational data (5 hours)Lecture notes by the teacher (provided in PDF format)
2Models of astrophysical phenomena (5 hours)Lecture notes by the teacher
3Numerical analysis algorithms (24 hours, of which 9 of lectures and 15 of laboratory activities)Textbook 1 and lecture notes by the teacher
4Programming languages (24 hours, of which 9 of lectures and 15 of laboratory activities)Textbook 2 and lecture notes by the teacher


Learning Assessment Procedures

The final exam consists of a preliminary part (i.e. writing a report on an astrophysical issue that requires a numerical approach) followed by an oral exam. The oral exam lasts about 50-60 min. It consists in the treatment of at least three distinct topics of the course contents and in the oral presentation of the report. The astrophysics issue addressed in the report will be chosen by the student in agreement with the teacher. The report must be delivered to the teacher at least three days before the final exam and must contain a description of the addressed astrophysical issues in addition to a description of the results obtained both from a numerical and a scientific point of view. The oral presentation of the report has to be performed using a program for presentations.
The clarity and mastery of the addressed topics (both from a qualitative and quantitative point of view), the critical vision of these topics and the presentation skills will contribute in equal measure to the formulation of the final grade.
NB: Exams may take place online on the TEAMS platform, depending on circumstances.


Dates of the exams
Check the following web pages:


Please note that exam booking is MANDATORY and has to be done online through the Smart_Edu platform. Students without a regular booked exam cannot take exams.

Examples of frequently asked questions and / or exercises

The questions asked during the oral exam will be related to the topics of the course contents. For example (the following questions are not an exhaustive list but are just a few examples): "Present and discuss the numerical methods usually used to solve sistems of algebraic equations", "Tell me about the boundary value problems", "Say what is meant by round-off error", etc.