AST564/PHY564 -- High Energy Astrophysics

Spring 2016

Class Hours: 14:00 - 15:15 B&L 208B

Prof:     Eric Blackman, Bausch &Lomb 417, 5-0537,

Course Material and Texts:

This course is meant to sample the subject of High Energy Astrophysics.

Typically "High Energy Astrophysics" refers to processes or systems which involve one or more of the following: relativistic phenomena, X-ray emission, Gamma-Ray emission, jet flows, non-thermal particle acceleration, strong magnetic fields, ionized plasmas, compact objects, accretion flows, cosmology of the early universe.

ROUGH OUTLINE OF THE COURSE (subject to adjusment!):

1. Introduction to High Energy Astrophysics (X-ray, Gamma-Ray, and radio source detection)

2. Aspects of Stellar Evolution Relating to Compact Objects

3. Supernovae

4. Compact Objects (Black Holes, White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars)

5. Galactic Center

6. Accretion/ Accretion Disks

7. Accretion in Binary Systems

8. Shocks

9. Cosmic Rays

10. Gamma-Ray Bursts

11. Solar Corona

12. Active Galactic Nuclei and Galaxy Clusters

This list means both the sources, their physics, and in some cases their influence on their enviroments, e.g. generating turbulence, magnetic fields, their role in cosmology, star formation etc.

The material of the course will mix and match from textbooks and journal literature and my own notes. The textbook that offers good topical coverage that balances physics with the astrophysics in a way that I like is High Energy Astrophysics by Malcolm Longair. It is a nice textbook to own.

The course will be graded Pass/Fail. The work will


High Energy Astrophysics (3rd Edition) by Malcolm S. Longair; (strong on theoretical explanation of physical principles and broad topical coverage)

Exploring the X-ray Universe (second edition) by Frederick D. Seward and Phillip A. Charles; (strong on high energy astrophysical phenomenology and observational interpretation)


Radiative Processes (Rybicki and Lightman) (basic widely used text on radiative processes)

Modern Astrophysics (Carroll and Ostlie) (very good comprehensive survey of astrophysics intended for undergradates but useful at any level)

Accretion Power in Astrophysics (J. Frank, A. King, D. Raine) good book on theory of accretion disks)

Black Holes, White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars (S. Shapiro and S. Teukolsky) (a theoretically oriented book on some of the more high energy physics aspects of compact objects)

Frontiers of High Energy Astrophysics (A. Fabian, K. Pounds, Blandford) (A good broad overview, collection of essays/articles of the sub fields of x-ray astronomy and high energy astrophysics from experts)

Theoretical Astrophysics (Padmanabhan) (3 volumes) (comprehensive theoretical treatment of many topics)

Coursework: This will be an informal and interactive course. It is important that you follow the lectures to facilitate your immersion in the material and in class discussions. There will be sporadic homework problems and a serious end of term project in which you are to give two 1/2 hour presentations on a research problem in high energy astrophysics and a final report on this topic. The two presentations you give will be on the same theme-- one near mid term and one near the end. My goal here is to get you to be sufficiently immersed in the topic over a long enough period to gain some depth. The project should focus on a specific unsolved puzzle and address: (1) What is the puzzle? (2) What has been done on this problem? (3) How might his problem be solved? I will help you choose topics.

The course is graded pass-fail.

Lecture Notes:

Lecture 1 Intro to High Energy Astrophysics

Lecture Set 2 Summary of Low Mass Stellar Post-Main Sequence Evolution

Lecture Set 3 Summary of Degeneracy Pressure and First part of High Mass Stellar Post-Main Sequence Evolution

Lecture Set 3a Supplement On Convective Instability

Lecture Set 4 More on core collapse SN and neutrino deposition; difficulties with driving core collapse SN

Lecture Set 5-6 Extraction of rotational energy via Poynting Flux; general concepts and as an alternative SN Model; rotation and neutrinos

Lecture Set 7-8 Supernova shocks, basic shock physics, Sedov-Taylor solution

Lecture Set 9 Need for particle acceleration mechanisms, 2nd order Fermi acceleration from clouds

Lecture Set 10 Shock Fermi Acceleration (1st order Fermi acceleration)

Lecture Set 11 Spherical Accretion

Lecture Set 11aBondi-Hoyle Lyttleton wind accretion (basic)

paper for Lecture 11-13 Disk formation in Bondi-Hoyle Lyttleton wind accretion

Lecture Set 12 Accretion with angular momentum (Roche radius)

Lecture Set 13 Accretion and Torque

Comparative plot of different SN type light curves


1. What might account for one or more of the X-ray mysteries of the Galactic center

2. What determines pulsar breaking index deviations from n=3?

3. What are "Fallback Accretion Disks" and why are they important?

4. What are Ultra Luminous X-ray Sources and why are they important?

5. What causes a supernova explosion and what is the role of angular momentum?

6. How do white dwarfs cool?

7. What have we learned from X-ray observations of Young Stellar Objects tell us?

8. Relativistic X-ray Iron line observations in Active Galactic Nuclei: what have we learned from them? 9..

Some Interesting Links:

On-Line Textbook by Katz on High Energy Astrophysics

V2 Rocket


Chandra Survey

X-ray Telescope Physics

Comparison of X-ray Telescopes Past and Future

Astronomy picture of the day archive .

Crab X-ray (.1 pc) .

Crab Optical (4 pc) .

Cat's Eye X-ray .

Cat's Eye Optical .

Discovery of Spatial and Spectral Structure in the X-Ray Emission from the Crab Nebula !->y