Introduction to Astrophysics: Course Description

ASTR 350 (Introduction to Astrophysics: Stars) and ASTR 360 (Galaxies and Cosmology) provide a year-long introduction to the branch of physics that deals with celestial objects. The courses may be taken in either order. Both are required for the BS degree in Astrophysics and the BA in Astronomy. Nearly all majors take ASTR 350 as juniors; however, it is not uncommon to have sophomores in the ASTR 360 class. Occasionally majors outside of physics will either audit or take these classes for credit. The graduate level version of these courses is 451 and 452. ASTR 350 and ASTR 360 prepare our majors for these graduate courses, which are standard at schools throughout the country.

In Astr 350, we begin by following the calculations of Kepler and Newton to derive the equations that describe the motions of celestial objects under the influence of gravity, and will apply these equations to various phenomena of interest in astronomy such as binary stars, cometary orbits, tides, and planetary rings. After some discussion of observational astronomy and modern physics we will be able to determine how stars (including the Sun) are born, why they shine, what happens as they age, and how they die. We then consider the bizarre world of compact objects, where gravity bends light and time is slowed. At the end of the course we will touch upon the subject of stellar atmospheres, something covered in detail in ASTR 451.

Much of the physics and mathematics needed to study astrophysics is first learned as juniors and seniors, so complete mathematical rigor is not possible. However, I will strive to present as clear and complete a picture as possible given the time constraints of the course. More rigorous derivations will appear in ASTR 451 and ASTR 452.

The instructor for Fall 2017 is Dr. Hartigan.

I've included a brief discussion of Rice's degrees in astrophysics on a separate web page.