69052 - High Energy Astrophysics

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Course contents


  • Recap on emission mechanisms: blackbody/bremsstrahlung/synchrotron/Compton scattering and Inverse Compton scattering, and some examples in the field of high-energy Astrophysics. Line production. Plasma physics (collisional and ionization equilibrium)
  • History of the high-energy Astronomy. Excursus on the properties of the main X-ray/Gamma-ray satellites of the 'golden age'.
  • Detection techniques for high-energy photons. X-ray and Gamma-ray detectors; CCDs in X-rays. Wolter-type telescopes and coded-aperture masks. Cerenkov radiation.


  • Theory, Eddington limit, accretion discs. Accretion and ejection processes (jets, winds)
  • Physics of compact objects: white dwarfs, Chandrasekhar limit, neutron stars, pulsars, black holes (with some mentions on relativistic astrophysics)


  • X-ray emission from Solar System objects.
  • Stellar X-ray Astronomy: main-sequence (MS) and pre-MS stars/very low-mass stars.
  • X-ray binaries: phenomenology, classification and physical properties. Cataclysmic variables,Low- and High-mass X-ray binaries, candidates black holes.
  • The Galactic Center: a multi-wavelength perspective. Emission from point-like and extended X-ray/Gamma-ray sources. Properties of the Fermi bubbles and other extended features. Matter infalling onto SgrA*.
  • Ultraluminous X-ray sources

  • Clusters of galaxies and cooling flows
  • Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN): X-ray spectral components in X-rays: models vs. observations.
  • X-ray surveys in the last decade. AGN contribution to the cosmic X-ray background. Open issues.

  • Gamma ray bursts: phenomenologies, origin and emission mechanisms. Link to Gravitational waves and multi-messenger astrophysics



  • Malcolm S. Longair: "High-Energy Astrophysics", Cambridge University Press


  • George B. Rybicky, Alan P. Lightman: "Radiative Processes in Astrophysics", Wiley
  • J. Frank, A. King & D. Raine: "Accretion Power in Astrophysics", Cambridge University Press

For each lecture, few (at most) selected resources (papers, slides of seminars, web-pages) will be given to complement the material on the Longair's book.

The slides used during the lectures will be also made available, at the end of the lecture.

Teaching methods

Lectures with the aid of slides and blackboard. From time to time, during the lecture we will critically analyze recent publications and/or reviews on the lecture topics. Time will also be devoted to "questions and answer" sessions at the end of the macro-topics.

Assessment methods

Oral exam where the candidate should demonstrate to have an organic view of the discipline. The exam will start with a topic chosen by the student. The candidate should be able to deduce relations among physical quantities related to high-energy astrophysics in a non mnemonic way.

Teaching tools

Blackboard and presentations of powerpoint slides.

Office hours

See the website of Marcella Brusa