ASTR 3730: ASTROPHYSICS I - Stellar & Interstellar

Syllabus: Fall 2006

Course Description and Prerequisites :

This course, together with ASTR 3830 in the Spring, form a year-long introduction to Astrophysics.  The aim is to show how basic phyical principles can be applied to understand a variety of astrophysical objects and phenomena.  The first part of the course will be devoted to a study of the physics of photon emission and absorption. We will then move on to study the process of stellar evolution, from the birth of stars to their death. This will lead us to cover an exotic range of objects such as white dwarfs, neturon stars and black holes.  Finally, in the last part of the course, we will discuss star clusters and the structure of the Milky Way galaxy, which will pave the way to the study of other galaxies and cosmology in ASTR 3830 in the Spring.

No prior knowledge of astronomy is assumed.  However, basic physics and algebra will be used extensively.  Whenever more advanced physics concepts are required, they will be appropriately introduced.


The course textbook is "An Introduction to the Theory of Stellar Structure and Evolution" by Dina Prialnik.  This text covers the second part of the course on stars, but it does not cover the first part on radiation processes.  For this part, you may find useful to consult  "Radiative Processes in Astrophysics" by 
Rybicki & Lightman (this is however rather more technical than what required for this course), and "Astrophysical Concepts" by Harwit. Also useful
is the textbook "An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics"  by Carroll & Ostlie.  Class attendance is highly recommended.

Photocopies of the lecture notes will be handed out before each new topic is started.

Course Requirements and Grading Policy:

HomeworksThere will be regular problem sets, which will be returned graded and with solution set. These homeworks will  make up 40% of the final grade. You are welcome to work in groups if you like.  

In-class tests: There will be three in-class tests, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4,  Nov. 3, and Dec. 13.  Each test will cover about 1/3 of the course material.  These tests will make up 40% of your final grade.

Term Paper: You are expected to submit a term paper (of about 8-10 pages or less, word-processed and double-spaced, plus a list of references consulted), by Fri. Nov. 17. You are free to choose the topic of your paper, provided that it relates to the material covered in the course. Grading of the papers will depend on: clarity of writing, relevance to major themes of the course, your demonstrated understanding of the material discussed, and use of references (printed and/or Web-based) other than the assigned textbooks. The paper will make up 20% of your final grade.

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