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Undergraduate Program

Astronomy Courses

The department offers a variety of courses at all levels. Below is a list of all astronomy (AST) courses.

AST 102 RELATIVITY, BLACK HOLES AND THE BIG BANG

A physical and astronomical (but non-mathematical) picture of the workings of Einstein's theories of relativity, and their application to cosmology and to black holes and wormholes, the most exotic and energetic objects known to scientists. Our aims in this course are two: to demystify black holes, big-bang cosmology, and the nature of space and time for non-science majors, in order that they may evaluate critically the frequent references to these esoteric concepts in the press and in popular science and science-fiction literature; and to provide non-science majors with a glimpse of the processes by which scientific theories are conceived and advanced. Typical textbook: Kip Thorne, "Black Holes and Time Warps"

Prerequisites: None.
Last Offered: Spring 2016

AST 104 THE SOLAR SYSTEM

To acquaint the nonphysical science concentrator with aspects of the historical and modern study of the solar system, including results from space probe studies, and with theories dealing with the evolution of the solar system.

Prerequisites: high school math through intermediate algebra; no physics required
Last Offered: Spring 2015

AST 105 INTRO TO THE MILKY WAY GALAXY

In this course we introduce students to our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and use the structure and contents of this normal galaxy to illustrate the origins of stars like the Sun, the origins of the chemical elements from which we are formed, and the evolution of galaxies through the life of the Universe. The emphasis in the presentation is on the descriptive astronomy and the physical principles describing the operation of the various celestial objects, with a minimum of mathematical detail.

Prerequisites: None
Last Offered: Fall 2016

AST 106 COSMIC ORIGINS OF LIFE

A review of the evidence for habitats and the building blocks of life in extraterrestrial space, the possibilities for the development of life elsewhere, and the light that these ideas cast on the origins of life on Earth. We also discuss the future of civilizations like ours, the possibilities of travel to other habitable planets, and communication between advanced cultures spread widely through space. The material we discuss will be drawn very widely from astronomy, physics, geology, chemistry, biology, paleontology and history, presented with a minimum of mathematical complexity. Typical textbook: Neal Evans, "Extraterrestrial Life," fifth edition.

Prerequisites: None
Last Offered: Fall 2017

AST 111 THE SOLAR SYSTEM & ITS ORIGIN

A study of the the structure and composition of the individual planets and smaller solar-system bodies, the orbital dynamics and overall structure of the Solar system and its contents, and the formation of planetary systems like ours. Designed for freshmen who intend to major in science or engineering, the course involves the use of ideas learned in mathematics and physics courses taken concurrently or in high school, such as single-variable calculus, Newton's laws of motion and gravity, and the ideal-gas law. The course also includes a night-time observing project taking CCD images of planets and their satellites using the Mees Observatory 24-inch telescope. Typical textbook: "Fundamental Planetary Science: Physics, Chemistry and Habitability" by Jack J. Lissauer & Imke de Pater

Prerequisites: MTH 161 or MTH 171 (or concurrent enrollment), or instructor permission.
Last Offered: Fall 2017

AST 142 ELEMENTARY ASTROPHYSICS

Application of the physics and math techniques learned in the introductory course sequences, to the study of celestial objects outside the Solar system. We discuss stars and their formation from interstellar matter, the structure of galaxies and their distribution in the Universe, and the origins and large-scale structure of the Universe: all topics that are developed much further in the AST 200-level courses. The course also includes a night-time observing project, based upon student use of professional-style telescopes and CCD cameras. Registration of recitation is required at the time of course registration. Typical textbook: Marck Kutner, "Astronomy" A Physical Perspective," second edition.

Prerequisites: PHY 141-143 or PHY 121- 123 (or concurrent enrollment); MTH 161-165 or MTH 171-174 (or concurrent enrollment), or permission of instructor; AST 111 recommended but not required
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 231 GRAVITATION & GENERAL RELATIVITY

Introduction to special & general relativity with applications to astrophysics & cosmology. A thorough study of special relativity & then on general relativity. The discussion of the latter begins with the connection between geometry and physics, the equivalence principle, and presentation of the metrics (the solutions to the Einstein field equation) for simple geometries. We will discuss first the spherically-symmetric (Schwarzschild) solution as an intro. to spacetime warping in strong & weak gravity; the basic physics of orbits around black holes; the connection of black holes & accretion disks; use the emergent concepts to understand astronomical objects that contain BH-accretion disk combinations, such as X-ray binaries & active galactic nuclei. Discussion on the effect of black hole rotation on the metric. Gravitational lensing will be introduced; homogeneous & isotropic (Roberts-Walker) solution, & apply this metric cosmology & the large-scale structure of the universe.

Prerequisites: PHY 143 or 123, AST 111 or 143, and MTH 171-174 or 161-165; at least concurrent enrollment in MTH 281, PHY 235 helpful.
Last Offered: Fall 2016

AST 232 THE MILKY WAY GALAXY

Introduction to the internal physics and astronomy of galaxies using the Milky Way as a primary example. The course will focus on the dynamics of stars and gas inside galaxies and how gravity works therein to produce the observed stellar motions and internal structures. The course will address both the observations and the theory of galactic structure.

Prerequisites: PHY 143 or 123, AST 111 or 142, and MTH 171-174 or 161-165; at least concurrent enrollment MTH 281. PHY 235 helpful.
Last Offered: Fall 2017

AST 232W THE MILKYWAY GALAXY

Class focuses on our home galaxy and all that's in it. Adter a review of some aspects of fundamental astrophysics, students learn about the Interstellar Medium (ISM) and its life cycle, the role of stars and stellar evolution in determining the characteristics of the ISM, star formation, stellar death, supernova, planetary nebulae, glalactic structure, galactic kinematics, spiral wave theory, and the galactic center. This course may be used towards satisfying the upper level writing requirement.

Prerequisites: Familiarity with PHY 235 and AST 142 is advised
Last Offered: Fall 2011

AST 233 ASTRODYNAMICS

Survey of the dynamics of planetary systems and galaxies

Prerequisites: PHY 113 & 114 or PHY 121 & 122 & 123 or PHY 141 & 142 & 143, plus MTH 163 or 165
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 241 STELLAR ASTROPHYSICS

This introduction to the physics of stars is taken primarily by juniors and seniors majoring in physics and astronomy, physics, optics, or mathematics. The elements of radiative transfer and gas dynamics are presented and applied to the study of the atmospheres of stars. The interior structure and evolution of stars of various types are also discussed.

Prerequisites: PHY 237 (may be taken concurrently); familiarity with the subject matter of AST 111 and/or AST 142 is advised.
Last Offered: Spring 2015

AST 242 ASTROPHYSICAL FLUID DYNAMICS

An Introduction to Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics. This class explores topics in astrophysics while giving a solid foundation in the fundamentals of fluid mechanics. We introduce the theory of the motion of gases and fluids necessary to understand and explore a wide range of astronomical phenomena including stellar structure, supernovae blast waves and accretion discs. We will cover ideal fluid mechanics, Eulerian and Lagrangian views, conservations laws, hydrostatic equilibrium, self-similar flows, blast waves, spherical accretion and wind flows, astrophysics shocks, viscous flows, vorticity, accretion disks, atmospheric waves, hydrodynamic instabilities, and radiative heating and cooling. We will introduce finite difference numerical techniques so that dynamics in 1 dimension can be explored numerically. At the end of the term we will explore topics of recent interest such as gamma ray bursts, astrophysical turbulence or winds from exoplanets.

Prerequisites: PHY 237 (may be taken concurrently); familiarity with the subject matter of AST 142 and/or AST 111 is advised
Last Offered: Spring 2016

AST 383 SPECIAL TOPICS IN ASTRONOMY

Selected topics offered when justified by sufficient interest.

AST 390 SUPERVISED TEACHING

Introduction to the techniques of physics instruction, active observation, and participation in the teaching of an undergraduate course under the guidance of a faculty member. (Same as AST 390).

Prerequisites: Permission of Instructor
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 391 INDEPENDENT STUDY

Normally open to seniors concentrating in physics and astronomy. Independent study project under the direction of a faculty member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 391W INDEPENDENT STUDY

Normally open to seniors concentrating in physics and astronomy. Independent study project under the direction of a faculty member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. This course can be used towards satisfying the upper level writing requirement.

Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 393 SENIOR PROJECT

Completion of an independent research project under the direction of a faculty member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 393W SENIOR THESIS

Completion of an independent research project under the direction of a faculty member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. This course includes a writing component and can be used to satisfy part of the upper-level writing requirement.

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 395 SPECIAL TOPICS

Completion of an independent research project under the direction of a faculty member.

Prerequisites: Instructors permission.
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 395W INDEPENDENT STUDY

Independent research project under the direction of a faculty member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. This course includes a writing component and can be used to satisfy part of the upper-level writing requirement.

Prerequisites: Permission of instructor
Last Offered: Fall 2017

AST 403 EXPERIMENTAL TECHNIQUES IN ASTRONOMY

This course is an introduction to the tools of modern observation astronomy. We discuss geometrical and physical optics applied to telescopes and astronomical cameras; the physics of light detection at radio, infrared, visible, X-ray, and y-ray wavelengths; and the instruments and techniques used for observations of faint celestial objects over the faull useful range of spectral and angular resolution. The intention is to provide to students the preparation necessary to design, build and optimize astronomical instruments. However, the material should be useful to anyone who will be using remote-sensing instruments, astronomical or otherwise, or is seeking to understand measurements made with these devices.

Prerequisites: The equivalent of PHY 217, 218 MTh 281 & PHY 227.

AST 450 STELLAR ATMOSPHERES

Spectra of main sequence stars. Radiative transfer. The gray atmosphere. Opacities and non-gray model atmospheres. Theory of line formation and broadening: curve of growth analyses of stellar spectra.

Prerequisites: PHY 407, PHY 408 and PHY 418, in the past or concurrently

AST 453 INTRODUCTION TO STELLAR INTERIORS & ATMOSPHERES

A first course on stellar interiors and atmospheres in which approximately 50 percent of a semester is devoted to each. Stellar Interiors topics cover hydrostatic equilibrium, the Virial theorem, energy generation and transport, overview of stellar evolution, PMS Evolution, main sequence evolution, late evolution, evolution in close binary systems, stellar modelling (in part), the approach to real models. Stellar Atmospheres topics cover basic Radiative Transphere, transport Equation, Eddington-Barbier approximation, line and continuum transfer in LTE, radiative transfer in static Plane-Parallel stars. exponential integrals and the Schwarzshild-Milne equations, Lambda, Phi and Chi operators, various Eddington approximations, Atmospheres of Static Plane-Parallel Stars, pressure stratification, temperature stratification, radiative equilibrium, Gray-atmosphere approximation, spectra from static Plane-Parallel stars. line broadening mechanisms, spectral line formation. See A450 & A553 for full-fledged courses.

Prerequisites: PHY 407, PHY 408, PHY 418, or concurrently
Last Offered: Fall 2012

AST 455 ASTRONOMICAL INTERFEROMETRY

his course is an introduction to the principal technique of modern radio astronomy, and an increasingly important tool for infrared and visible wavelengths: spatial interferometry. We discuss the elements of physical optics, coherence theory, and the physics of detectors and receivers that bear on astronomical interferometry. We follow this formal development with a detailed account of the practice of interferometry, calibration, and data reduction. The intention is to provide to students all they need to know to understand, plan, propose, and analyze observations with such instruments as the Very Large Array (VLA), the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), the Owens Valley Radio Observatory's (OVRO) Millimeter Array, and the Berkeley-Illinois-Maryland Array (BIMA) at Hat Creek Radio Observatory.

Prerequisites: AST 403 and PHY 415

AST 461 PHYSICS OF ASTROPHYSICS I

One half of the required 2 part sequence (can be taken before or after AST 462). Focuses on the physics of radiation production by ionized and atomic matter, the transfer of radiation through matter, and what we measure from astrophysical objects. Concepts are developed from first principles and many applications in astrophysics are studied. (course is cross-listed with PHY 451).

Prerequisites: PHY 407, PHY 408, PHY 415, PHY 418, in the past or concurrently.
Last Offered: Spring 2016

AST 462 PHYSICS OF ASTROPHYSICS II

One half of the required 2 part sequence (can be taken before or after AST 461). Focuses on hydrodynamic and plasma processes relevant to astrophysics. Fundamentals of fluid dynamics and magnetohydrodynamics, fluid, MHD, and thermal instabilities, turbulence, supersonic and subsonic flow. Accretion physics, shocks, dynamos, particle accelerations in plasmas, dynamics of magnetic fields. Concepts are developed from first principles and many applications in astrophysics are studies. (Cross-listed with PHY 452).

Prerequisites: None.
Last Offered: Fall 2017

AST 465 OBSERVATIONAL GALATIC STRUCTURE

Star, gas, and dust distribution in our galaxy. Structure studies and classification of other galaxies. Clusters of galaxies, red shifts, Seyfert galaxies, peculiar galaxies, quasars.

Prerequisites: Permission of instructor

AST 551 DIFFUSE MATTER IN SPACE

Physical state of gas and dust. Heating and cooling mechanisms. Grain and molecular formation. Gas dynamics, ionization fronts, SN explosions.

AST 552 GALACTIC DYNAMICS

Boltzmann equation and collision theory. Structure and evolution of clusters, numerical experiments, Galactic hydrodynamics, wave theory of spiral arms, models of galactic nucleus regions, superdense cluster theory.

Last Offered: Fall 2011

AST 553 STELLAR INTERIORS

Quantitative theory of model integration and description of early stages of evolution. Variable stars and rotational models. Later stages of evolution, white dwarfs, neutron stars, nucleosynthesis, supernova models.

Prerequisites: AST 461, AST 462 or AST 453

AST 554 COSMOLOGY

Introduction to cosmology, covering the following broad topics: Introduction to the universe, introduction to general relativity, cosmological models and the Fridemann-Walker universe, thermodynamics of the early universe, particle physics of the early universe, and the formation of large-scale structure (same as PHY 554).

Prerequisites: None.
Last Offered: Fall 2015

AST 563 SEMINAR ON RADIO ASTRONOMY & INFRARED ASTRONOMY

A survey of current research reports in scientific journals on topics including research on pulsars, quasars, and radio and infrared observations of the interstellar medium.

AST 564 HIGH-ENERGY ASTROPHYSICS

A survey of current research in high energy astrophysics. Topics drawn from X-ray and gamma x-ray astrophysics, supernovae and planetary nebulae, binary accretors, astrophysics of compact objects (black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs, plasma astrophysics, magnetic field-particle interactions, cosmic rays, astrophysical jets, active galactic nuclei. (cross-list PHY 564).

Prerequisites: AST 461, AST 462
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 565 FORMATION OF STARS & PLANETARY SYSTEMS

Survey of theory and multi-wavelength observations related to the formation of early evolution of stars and planets. Interstellar medium, interstellar dust, molecular clouds, protostars, T Tauri stars, circumstellar disks, pre-main sequence stellar evolution, extrasolar planets and substellar objects, constraints on the protosolar nebula from meteorites and the planets.

Prerequisites: PHY 235, PHY 227, AST 241 (AST 461 & 462 are helpful), or with instructor's permission
Last Offered: Fall 2010

AST 570 SOLAR SYSTEM DYNAMICS

Dynamics of bodies in the solar system and exo-solar systems will be explored with an emphasis on applying results to the interpretation exo-planetary systems. Topics covered will be Two body problem. Orbital elements. f and g functions. Universal variables for hyperbolic and eccentric orbits. Hamiltonian formulation. Cannonical transformations. Symplectic integrators. Hyperbolic orbits, Impulse approximations. Dynamical friction. Gravitational stirring. Three body problem. Jacobi integral. Tisser and relation. Disturbing function. Low eccentricity expansions. Secular perturbations, Mean motion resonances, resonant trapping, Dust dynamics, Yarkosky effect. Collision cascades. Debris disks. Planetesimal size distributions. Spiral density waves, Torque formulas, gap opening, planet migration, stability of N-body systems. Resonance overlap, Chaos. Tidal evolution. Planet and planetesimal formation, disk clearing, Nice model.

Prerequisites: AST 461, 462, 465.
Last Offered: Spring 2013

AST 591 PHD READINGS IN ASTROPHYSICS

Special study or work, arranged individually.

Prerequisites: Instructors permisson
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 593 ASTRO THEORY SEMINAR

Current theoretical topics of interest are explored in considerable detail. Topics vary from year to year and reflect research interests of staff.

Prerequisites: Instructor's permission
Last Offered: Spring 2013

AST 594 ASTRO OBSERVATIONAL SEMINAR

Current topics of observational or experimental interest are explored in considerable detail. Topics vary from year to year and reflect research interests of staff.

Prerequisites: Instructor's permission
Last Offered: Fall 2013

AST 595 PHD RESEARCH IN ASTROPHYSICS

Special topics in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Prerequisites: Instructor's permission
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 595A PHD RESEARCH IN ABSENTIA

Special topics in astronomy or astrophysics

Prerequisites: Instructor's permission
Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 890 SUMMER IN RESIDENCE - MA

No description

Last Offered: Summer 2011

AST 895 CONT OF MASTERS ENROLLMENT

No description

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 899 MASTER'S DISSERTATION

No description

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 985 LEAVE OF ABSENCE

No description

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 990 SUMMER IN RESIDENCE

No description

Last Offered: Summer 2011

AST 995 CONT OF DOCTORAL ENROLLMENT

No description

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 997 DOCTORAL DISSERTATION

No description

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 999 DOCTORAL DISSERTATION

No description

Last Offered: Spring 2018

AST 999A DOCT DISSERTATN IN ABSENTIA

No description

Last Offered: Spring 2018