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Observational Cosmology

Observational Cosmology

Course Outline: 

The aim of this course is to prepare students for research in observational cosmology and the testing of theoretical models of the early and late universe. The emphasis is on building experience in cutting edge techniques needed for research on the key topics of cosmology in the coming decade. A secondary emphasis will be on training students to use SALT and KAT/SKA effectively for cosmology. Tutorials will consist of various exercises and some modeling/data analysis. Marks will be assigned flexibly via a combination of oral presentation, project and term paper with an emphasis on testing understanding.


  • Introduction: A brief history of the understanding of our cosmos. The extra-galactic distance scale. A history of cosmic acceleration and dark energy. The community of modern cosmologists.
  • Extracting information from the cosmos: Imaging versus spectroscopy, optical, IR and radio wavelengths. Potential targets for large surveys.
  • Tests of dark energy: The luminosity and angular-diameter distances, why are supernovae Ia standard candles?, the CMB, baryon acoustic oscillations and the Alcock-Paczynski test.
  • Practical tools of cosmology: N-body simulations of structure formation. CMBFAST and related codes. Key statistics, parameter estimation and model selection. Cross-correlations.
  • The Dark Cosmos: Hot and Cold Dark Matter. Large galaxy surveys. Bias. Models of dark energy. The evolution of structure as a test of the dark cosmos. High-energy physics predictions for the late universe: variation of the fine-structure constant. Constraining neutrino masses with cosmology. The ISW-LSS connection. Constraining dark energy with galaxy clusters and the cosmic chronometer method. The Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect and reionisation.
  • The future landscape: Major surveys to be conducted from 2006-2020: from the SDSS to SKA; key unsolved questions in cosmology.
  • South African Facilities for cosmology: Strengths, capabilities and timelines of each of SALT, HESS, KAT/SKA.


  • Dodelson, S., Modern Cosmology. ISBN 0122191412
  • Peacock, J. A., Cosmological Physics, Cambridge University Press

Programmes | by Dr. Radut