PHY 29: Introduction to Astrophysics         Fall 2021

Class Schedule: ??? Professor: Steve Liebling
Classroom: Pell Hall 209 Office:  Pell Hall 210
Text: Ostlie & Carroll's An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics 2nd Edition Recommended supplement: Bennett, et al's: The Cosmic Perspective Any edition Office Hours: M W 1:00-2:00pm and by appt.
Web: Phone: 299-3439
Pre-requisites: PHY 3, 4, & 19; MATH 9 (or co-requisite) Email:
Course credit: 3 credit-hours

Course Description: This course studies a variety of astronomical processes and structures using a physical approach to understanding the dynamics. Topics include stellar evolution, galaxy structure, cosmology, as well as various high energy events such as supernovae and gamma ray bursts.

Course Objective: The objectives for the class are for students to: (i) understand and appreciate the application of a range of physics (optics, electricity & magnetism, relativity, etc) to astronomical processes, and (ii) learn about the structure and dynamics of the universe.

Grading Policy:

Homework 25%
Test 1 25%  
Test 2 25%
Final Exam 25%
Extra Credit: There will be no extra credit or extra credit papers, Do the homework, and take the tests. As the semester progresses, there is less and less to be done to increase your grade.

Homework: Homework assignments will be presented in class and will generally consist of problems from the required text. Homework problems must be done in order to gain mastery of the material and skills necessary for the tests.

Tests: The class will have two tests as indicated on the syllabus. Each test will cover the material presented since the previous test (to be precise, much of what we will learn applies throughout all the chapters, however, the questions will be geared towards specifically covering material presented between the tests). The tests will be given during classtime.

Final: The final will be held during the time dictated by the Registrar during Exam Week.

Cheating: You are encouraged to work on homework problems with others, but what you turn in must be your own work in your own words. However, you must work alone on tests. On exams you may use only a calculator and writing utensils; I will give you a copy of the equation sheet linked above.

Other Resources: Tutors, library books, office hours, and supplemental texts. I'd also recommend the books from my course for nonscientists, especially the quantum mechanics and relativity books.

Syllabus: Below is the anticipated schedule of what we'll cover. Near the end of the semester, I generally have flexibility in what we cover. If you have a preference for what we might cover, please feel free to provide feedback.

Week 1 Sept. 8 The Celestial Sphere   Ch. 1 HW1: 4, 5
Week 2 Sept. 13 Celestial Mechanics  Ch. 2 HW2: 4, 6a-c, 12;
(1) Compute freq. at which 2
solar mass NSs orbit if separated by 1 AU. Then
evaluate how will such a system obeys the Virial Thm.
Using Eq.(2.5) and the following data: star S2
has eccentricity 0.88 in its orbit about Sag A*,
has a mass of one solar mass,
with period 15.559years, and its distance at perihelion is 1.835E13 m, calculate the mass of Sag A* (in solar masses).
Sept. 15   Ch. 2  
Week 3 Sept. 20 The Continuous Spectrum of Light   Ch. 3 (selected)   HW3: 3a, 5a, 8
Sept. 22   Ch. 3 
Week 4 Sept. 27 The Interaction of Light and Matter  Ch. 5 (selected)   HW5: 1a, 4, 7, 9, 10, 12
Sept. 29 Telescopes   Ch. 6   HW6: 7, 12
Week 5 Oct. 4 Test 1  Test 1 
Oct. 6 The Classification of Stellar Spectra   Ch. 8   HW8: 15;
Line Spectra and
HR Diagrams Exercises
Week 6 Oct. 11 NO Class Columbus Day
Oct. 13 The Interior of Stars   Ch. 10   HW10: 13b, 14
Week 7 Oct. 18 Main Sequence and Post-Main-Seq. Stel. Ev.   Ch. 13   HW13: 2, 8
Oct. 20   Chs. 8, 10, & 13  
Week 8 Oct. 25 The Fate of Massive Stars   Ch. 15   HW15: 3, 12, 15, 17
Oct. 27 The Degenerate Remnants of Stars  Ch. 16  HW16: 9, 10, 12, 14, 21, 24
Week 9 Nov. 1   Ch. 16  
Nov. 3   Review  
Week 10 Nov. 8 Test 2  Test 2 
Nov. 10 GR & BHs   Ch. 17   HW17: 4, 7a-e, 12, 22
Week 11 Nov. 15  The Structure of the Universe  Ch. 27  
Nov. 17  Active Galaxies   Ch. 28  
Week 12 Nov. 22 Cosmology   Ch. 29  
Nov. 24 Nov. 22 NO Class
Week 13 Nov. 29   Ch. 29  
Dec. 1 The Early Universe   Ch. 30  
Week 14 Dec. 6    
Dec. 8      
Week 15 Dec. 13   Ch. 30 and Review for Final  
Dec. 16-22 Final Exam   Final Exam  

Last updated November 28, 2021.
Steve Liebling (home)