PHYS 541 Radiative Processes

PHYS 541: Radiative Processes in Astrophysics

Course Syllabus
Fall 2006

MWF 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm ; Presentation days may go until 2:15
Room: HBH 254

Instructor: Dr. Patrick Hartigan, Hermann Brown 352 , Phone: X2245

Outline of Course: This course, based on a text of the same name by Rybicki and Lightman, explores what we can learn about astronomical objects by observing the light that they emit. This is a broad topic, and naturally separates into several subclasses, depending on the type of object under study. Rarefied plasmas like those observed in the interstellar medium or as nebulae are far from LTE, but are relatively transparent to radiation. In contrast, the light emitted from opaque objects like stars tends to be closer to that of a blackbody, and it is important to follow how the spectrum changes as the light is absorbed, scattered, and reemitted along the line of sight. The presence of dust along with gas alters the observed spectrum, and specialzed physics is needed to describe relativistic plasmas like those observed around black holes, quasars, and supernova remnants. Chemical processes, photoionization, photodissociation and the like can be important within dark clouds, where molecules and dust dominate the cooling.

Lectures: We will cover roughly a chapter each week in R&L. There will be one or two lectures devoted to the material. Students must read the entire chapter before coming to class. The next class period will be spent mostly on problems, and the one after that on presentations. The presentations, all done by students, will highlight current research relevant to the material in the chapter. On presentation days the class will continue until 2:15.

Grading: Based on class preparation (15%), problems (15%), presentations (20%), and a final exam (50%)

Problems/Honor Code: Problems are an important component to this class, and I will assign them for each section. Most of the problems will come from R&L. Because the answers are in the back of the book, the problems do not account for a large fraction of the total grade. However, questions on the final will resemble the problems in most cases. The final will be closed book, closed notes.

The honor code applies to the problems in the following way. Students are not allowed to look at the solution to any problem until they have spent at least an hour on the problem without help from another person. If the problem is solved within that time, the student should write up their solution and check their result with the one in the back of the book. Any differences should be commented upon in a paragraph that follows the problem.

If the student cannot solve the problem in an hour, the student can keep working on it alone, ask for hints from a classmate who has done the problem, glance at the answer in the back of the book and keep working, or study the answer in the back of the book in more detail. After writing up the problem, students should describe the level of help they required in doing it.

Every problem handed in accordance with the above will be checked off as being submitted, and will count toward the 15% of the grade. Problems are due on the day we discuss them in class. No credit is given for late problems.

Presentations: The class presentations will be based on recent (typically within 10 years) journal articles that apply the principles we are studying in the current chapter. The choice of the article is up to the student, but I must approve the article beforehand. The presentations should be 30 minutes long, and are informal. There is no need to make a fancy powerpoint presentation like you might do for a seminar talk. However, it is important for students to introduce the subject clearly and identify where the paper uses what we are studying. This is one way for students to get some practice teaching. Students should ensure that their classmates and professor have hardcopies of the article they will discuss well in advance of the presentation. Each student will do 4 or 5 presentations during the semester.

Text: Students should purchase a copy of Rybicki and Lightman's book. Because the lectures follow closely with the text, we will not spend time deriving equations on the board that are in the book. Rather, we will spend the classtime answering questions and trying to develop insight into the material. For this approach to work, students must be prepared beforehand, and the grading structure reflects this requirement.

Core Requirements, Prerequisites This is one of the core group options for a graduate degree in physics and astronomy at Rice. Refer to the Departmental website for the most current information. The prerequisites for this class are good undergraduate preparation in quantum mechanics, mechanics, special relativity, thermodynamics, electrodynamics, and optics, with the usual mathematical requirements of multivariate vector calculus, differential equations, familiarity with statistics, integral transforms and series. We will not assume any familiarity with astrophysics, though students with no astrophysics background will likely have to do a bit of extra work to understand the journal articles. While intended as a graduate course, exceptional undergraduate seniors may take the class with permission of the instructor.

Auditors: Should attend class, but can do problems and presentations or not as they wish.

Schedule The following is a target schedule for the semester.

	DATE               TOPIC
       M 8/28          Orientation Meeting 
       W 8/30          Radiative Transfer I
       F 9/1           Radiative Transfer II 

       M 9/4           **LABOR DAY**  no class 
       W 9/6           Radiative Transfer problems [CMJ]
       F 9/8           Radiative Transfer presentations [Naved] [CMJ] 

       M 9/11          Radiation Fields I  [CMJ]
       W 9/13          Radiation Fields II [CMJ]
       F 9/15          Radiation Fields problems [CMJ]

       M 9/18          Radiation Fields presentations [Guy] 
       W 9/20          Radiation From Moving Charges I 
       F 9/22          Radiation From Moving Charges problems

       M 9/25          Radiation From Moving Charges presentations [Naved] 
       W 9/27          Relativistic Covariance I 
       F 9/29          Relativistic Covariance II

       M 10/2          Relativistic Covariance problems
       W 10/4          Bremsstrahlung I                     
       F 10/6          Bremsstrahlung II              

       M 10/9          Bremsstrahlung problems              
       W 10/11         Bremsstrahlung presentations [Eileen]
       F 10/13         Synchrotron Radiation I         

       M 10/16         **RECESS** no class        
       W 10/18         Synchrotron Radiation II
       F 10/20         Synchrotron Radiation problems         

       M 10/23         Relativistic Covariance presentations [Guy] 
       W 10/25         Synchrotron Radiation presentations [Eileen]  
       F 10/27         Compton Scattering I 

       M 10/30         Compton Scattering II
       W 11/1          Compton Scattering problems
       F 11/3          Compton Scattering presentations [Guy]  

       M 11/6          Plasma Effects I
       W 11/8          Plasma Effects problems
       F 11/10         Plasma Effects presentations [Bobby] 

       M 11/13         Atomic Structure I
       W 11/15         Atomic Structure II
       F 11/17         Atomic Structure problems

       M 11/20         Atomic Structure presentations [Eileen]  
       W 11/22         Radiative Transitions I         
       F 11/24         ** THANKSGIVING ** no class 

       M 11/27         Radiative Transitions II  
       W 11/29         ** NO CLASS** pmh on travel
       F 12/1          Radiative Transitions problems   [CMJ?] **pmh on travel**

       M 12/4          Molecular Structure I      
       W 12/6          Molecular Structure problems     
       F 12/8          Radiative Transitions/Molecular Structure presentations [Naved]           

       12/13 	       Final Exam 2pm

Disabled Students: Students with a documented disability that impacts their work in this class should contact me to discuss their needs. Disabled students should also register with the Disability Support Services Office in the Ley Student Center.