Courses

Graduate

ASTR 500: The Physics of Astrophysics

Primarily for incoming students in the Ph.D. program in Astronomy. The basic physics and related mathematics needed to take the advanced graduate courses. Topics in mechanics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, fluid mechanics, special relativity, and electrodynamics with applications to astrophysical systems are covered. 

ASTR 510: Stellar Populations

The stellar populations of our galaxy and galaxies of the Local Group. Topics include the properties of stars and star clusters, stellar evolution, and the structure and evolution of our galaxy. Taught in alternate years.

ASTR 518: Stellar Dynamics

The dynamics and evolution of star clusters; structure and dynamics of our galaxy; theories of spiral structure, dynamical evolution of galaxies.

ASTR 520: Computational Methods in Astrophysics and Geophysics

The analytic and numerical/computational tools necessary for effective research in astronomy, geophysics, and related disciplines. Topics include numerical solutions to differential equations, spectral methods, and Monte Carlo simulations. Applications are made to common astrophysical and geophysical problems including fluids and N-body simulations.

ASTR 525: Advanced Statistical Methods for Astronomy

Statistical techniques for extracting the maximum signal from data. Non-Gaussian probability distributions, optimal noise reduction techniques, period-finding, and parameter estimation using Bayesian and Monte Carlo Markov chain methods. Experience with programming is required.

ASTR 530: Galaxies

This course provides the student with a survey of the content, structure, dynamics, formation and evolution of galaxies. After a detailed overview of the various components of galaxies (disk/spheroid, stars, gas, dark matter, supermassive black holes), their statistical properties (luminosity function, size distribution, color distribution, metallicity distribution), and the corresponding scaling relations, the course focusses on the physical processes underlying galaxy formation and evolution. Topics include Newtonian perturbation theory, the spherical collapse model, formation and structure of dark matter haloes (including Press-Schechter theory), the virial theorem, cooling processes, and an expose of current topics in galaxy formation and evolution. The course also includes a detailed treatment of statistical tools used to describe the large scale distribution of galaxies (n-point correlation functions, galaxy power spectra, counts-in-cells, etc.) and introduces the student to the concepts of galaxy bias and halo occupation modeling. 

ASTR 540: Radiative Processes in Astrophysics / Stellar Atmospheres

Course description TBA.

ASTR 550: Stellar Astrophysics

An introduction to the physics of stellar atmospheres and interiors. The basic equations of stellar structure, nuclear processes, stellar evolution, white dwarfs, and neutron stars.

ASTR 555: Observational Astronomy

The design and use of optical telescopes, cameras, spectrographs, and detectors to make astronomical observations. The reduction and analysis of photometric and spectroscopic observations.

ASTR 560: Interstellar Matter and Star Formation

The composition, extent, temperature, and density structure of the interstellar medium (ISM). Excitation and radiative processes; the properties of dust; the cold and hot ISM in the Milky Way and other galaxies. Dynamics and evolution of the ISM, including interactions between stars and interstellar matter. Physics and chemistry of molecular clouds and the process of star formation.

ASTR 565: The Evolving Universe

Overview of cosmic history from the formation of the first star to the present day, focusing on direct observations of the high-redshift universe.

ASTR 570: High-Energy Astrophysics

A survey of current topics in high-energy astrophysics, including accreting black hole and neutron star systems in our galaxy, pulsars, active galactic nuclei and relativistic jets, gamma-ray bursts, and ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. The basic physical processes underlying the observed high-energy phenomena are also covered.

ASTR 575: Exoplanets

Planet formation, exoplanet detection techniques, and the modeling of observations of exoplanet atmospheres. Solar system architecture compared with other planetary systems. From an Earth-centric perspective, habitability factors of rocky planets and the implications for life elsewhere.

ASTR 580: Research

By arrangement with faculty.

ASTR 585: Radio Astronomy

Introduction to the theory and techniques of radio astronomy, including radio emission mechanisms, propagation effects, antenna theory, interferometry, and spectroscopy. Discussion of specific topics such as Jupiter, radio stars, molecular clouds, radio galaxies, ETI, and the microwave background. Includes observational exercises with a small radio telescope.

ASTR 590: Solar Physics

This course presents a detailed description of the structure of the Sun and its atmosphere and is aimed to give students a good understanding of the underlying physical processes. Topics to be covered include a discussion of the standard solar model, solar atmospheres, solar oscillations, solar magnetic fields, chromosphere and corona, as well as solar winds and eruptions. Particular attention is paid to the solar magnetic cycle since it can affect us on Earth.

ASTR 595: Astrophysical Flows

Fluid dynamics and hydrodynamics from an astrophysical perspective. The course covers the development of the Navier-Stokes equations from first principles, and discusses flows in which viscosity, gravity, radiation, and magnetic fields play dynamical roles (both separately and together). Specific applications to be covered include spherical collapse; the hydrodynamics of disks; and fluid waves, shocks, and fronts in a variety of contexts. We also discuss (and use) a variety of numerical schemes for solving fluid dynamical problems.

ASTR 600: Cosmology

A comprehensive introduction to cosmology at the graduate level. The standard paradigm for the formation, growth, and evolution of structure in the universe is covered in detail. Topics include the inflationary origin of density fluctuations; the thermo­dynamics of the early Universe; assembly of structure at late times; and current status of observations. The basics of general relativity required to understand essential topics in cosmology are covered.

ASTR 610: The Theory of Galaxy Formation

The physical processes of galaxy formation and evolution. Topics include Newtonian perturbation theory, the spherical collapse model, formation and structure of dark matter haloes, cooling and feedback processes, star formation, stellar population synthesis, chemical enrichment, and the statistical treatment of the large-scale distribution of galaxies.

ASTR 620: Advanced Programming Tutorial for Astronomy

Students meet individually with the instructor to ensure they have the computational skills necessary to carry out their research projects. The first part of the course is based on weekly programming and reading assignments, tailored to the level of each student. The second part of the course focuses on putting together a substantial programming project that is directly related to the student’s research interests, ideally in consultation with the student’s likely research supervisor.

ASTR 666: Statistical Thermodynamics for Astrophysics and Geophysics

Classical thermodynamics is derived from statistical thermodynamics. Using the multi­particle nature of physical systems, we derive ergodicity, the central limit theorem, and the elemental description of the second law of thermodynamics. We then develop kinetics, transport theory, and reciprocity from the linear thermodynamics of irreversible processes. Topics of focus include Onsager reciprocal relations, the Fokker-Planck equation, stability in the sense of Lyapunov, and time invariance symmetry. We explore phenomena that are of direct relevance to astrophysical and geophysical settings. No quantum mechanics is necessary as a prerequisite.

ASTR 710: Professional Seminar

A weekly seminar covering science and professional issues in astronomy and ethics.