Astro 405/505: Astrophysics
Fall 2002


Time and Room:
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: 3:10-4:00
43 Physics


Dr. Steven Kawaler
  • Office: A323 Physics
  • Office Hours: whenever you need me
  • Telephone:
      294-9728 (office)
      292-6060 (home; not after 10pm, please)
  • e-mail:
Dr. David Carter-Lewis
  • Office: A415 Physics
  • Office Hours: MWF 1-3
  • Telephone
      294-8269 (Office)
  • email:


Highly Recommended

This text available at the University Bookstore for about $130 (new), or about $90 (used). You can also probably find it for less (and maybe significantly less) at used book sites such as AddAll ( Be sure to get the thick one (orange cover, over 1400 pages) and NOT the '... Stellar Astrophysics' version. Good luck!

Optional, and possibly useful:

This the text used in Astro 346 and is a good general overview of astrophysics.

For stellar astrophysics:

The first is used in Astro 580 (Stellar Interiors). Though the second and third are somewhat dated, they contain very clear presentations of the basic physics of stars. They are reasonably priced, and belong on the book shelf of all astronomers.

and for extragalactic and high-energy asrophysics

For reference 1, two volumes have been published with a third in preparation. The second volume entitled Stars, the Galaxy and the interstellar medium is useful. The second reference presents the basic ideas of the Big Bang clearly and concisely, but obviously is no longer modern! In reference 3, the last two chapters on relativity and cosmology are both concise and readable.
EXAMS: There will be two midterm exams, each worth 35% towards your total grade. They will follow the two basic sections of this course (see below). All exams will be open-book or take-home, at arranged times outside of class.

PROBLEM SETS: Several problem sets will be assigned this term. You may (and are encouraged to) work together on these problems. However, each student is expected to turn in his/her own paper with his/her own work. Identical answers to essay-type questions, or to interpretation of numerical results, will be severely frowned upon. Problems will frequently require computer solutions (just like in real life). Therefore you are all strongly encouraged to have at least a Project Vincent account. Taken together, the problem sets account for 30% of your total grade.

COMPUTATIONS: Astrophyics is now dominated, in both theoretical and observational approaches, by numerical computations using more-or-less standard modeling and data analysis codes. With the abundance of computing equipment available in the department, we can make extensive use of basic astronomical software that run on machines ranging from Vincent systems to PCs and Macs. You should anticpate using some of these software tools with an eye towards solving real problems in addition to supporting analytical exercises. In addition, some of the problem sets will require numerical solutions using tools that you will have to develop on your own... either by writing Fortran or C code, or by intelligent use of packages such as Mathematica.

PRESENTATION: the difference between 405 and 505 By the end of this course, graduate students in this class will be expected to have the ability to read, critically and intelligently, any Astrophysical Journal paper. To demonstrate this, we will have a miniature Astrophysics Symposium. Each graduate student will be required to present a 25 minute talk (20 minute presentation, with 5 minutes for questions) about a paper that has appeared in the literature within the past two years. These talks will be open to the class and any interested members of the Physics and Astronomy department. Refreshments will be provided by your instructor. Papers to be presented will require approval from the instructor one month prior to the Symposium. The presentation (and a general assessment of your class participation) will be taken into account for your total grade in 505. In particular, 90% of your course grade will be determined by exams and homework as above, with the remaining 10% corresponding to the presentation.

COURSE OUTLINE: TENTATIVE!! Note that we have less than 15 weeks to cover this enormous field! Thus the following breakdown in timing is only preliminary. We must reserve some flexibility to ensure that we cover, or at least touch upon, as many of these important topics as possible. Astrophysicists generally call themselves eitehr stellar or extragalactic astronomers, so we will break the course into these two mini-courses.

  1. Introduction (1 week)
    1. The Culture of Astronomy
    2. Tools, Techniques, and Approaches - it ain't Physics!
    3. Astronomy today

  2. Stellar Astronomy (6 weeks)
    1. Introduction (1 day)
    2. Observational stellar astronomy (2 days)
    3. The atmospheres of Stars - Radiation transport and spectra (2 days)
    4. Stellar interior structure (2 days)
    5. Nuclear processes in stellar interiors (2 days)
    6. Evolution of stars (2 days)
    7. Stellar pulsation (1 day)
    8. Supernovae (1 day)
    9. Compact stellar corpses: white dwarfs and neutron stars (2 days)
    10. The interstellar medium (2 days)
    11. Star Formation (1 day)

  3. Digression: Relativity (1 week)
    1. Special Theory (1.5 days)
      1. Introduction
      2. Galilean and Lorentz transformations
      3. 4-vectors and invariants
    2. General Theory (1.5 days)
      1. Equivalence Principle
      2. Curved S-T and geodesics
      3. Black holes revisited

  4. Galaxies (3 weeks)
    1. Overview (2 days)
      1. Classification and comments
      2. Distances and large scale structure
      3. Comments on dark matter
    2. The Milky Way (4 days)
      1. Constituents
      2. Kinematics
      3. Dark matter
      4. Spiral structure
      5. Center
    3. Active Galaxies (3 days)
      1. Observations
      2. Unified model

  5. Cosmology (3 weeks)
    1. Observations (4 days)
      2. Basic observations
      3. Digression: Curved space/R-W metric
      4. Basic observations revisited
      5. The expanding universe
    2. The Big Bang (3 days)
      1. Dynamics
      2. Temperatures
      3. Condensates
    3. Crazy Stuff (2 days)
      1. Inflation
      2. Drivers for expansion
      3. Wormholes, entropy and time, etc.