Course Meeting Times
Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 1 hour / session
Topics include: planets, planet formation; stars, the Sun, “normal” stars, star formation; stellar evolution, supernovae, compact objects (white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes), plusars, binary X-ray sources; star clusters, globular and open clusters; interstellar medium, gas, dust, magnetic fields, cosmic rays; distance ladder; galaxies, normal and active galaxies, jets; gravitational lensing; large scaling structure; Newtonian cosmology, dynamical expansion and thermal history of the Universe; cosmic microwave background radiation; big-bang nucleosynthesis. No prior knowledge of astronomy is necessary.
Zeilik, Michael, and Stephen A. Gregory. Introductory Astronomy and Astrophysics. 4th ed. Fort Worth, TX: Saunders College Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 9780030062285.
The course grade will be based on:
|Weekly Problem Sets||20%|
|Two One-hour Quizzes (20% Each)||40%|
|Three-hour Final Exam||40%|
Required Physics and Math
- Classical Mechanics at the 8.01 level.
- A few basic results from classical Electricity and Magnetism, Special Relativity, Statistical Mechanics, and Quantum Mechanics will be introduced without proof.
- Basic Calculus at the 18.01 level.
- A few elementary differential equations will be introduced - with explanation.
Optional Aspects of the Course
- We plan to hold a few informal observing sessions on the rooftop of an MIT building where we have some 8-inch telescopes. If there is sufficient interest we will also have a session at the Wallace Observatory in Westford, MA, where we have larger telescopes and darker skies. These sessions will begin after spring break. Any student desiring a weekly observational opportunity should consider taking 12.409 (Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets) as an additional course.
- We will provide each interested student with a simple spectrometer kit which he or she can put together in about 10 minutes. The spectrometer can be used to view spectral lines from common light sources as well as from the Sun.
- For those students who would like to learn something about computational astrophysics, there are a number of projects that we can provide you with.
|1||Course Organization; Introduction|
|3-4||Astronomy in the Era of Copernicus, Tycho, Kepler, and Galileo; Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion|
|5||Review of Classical Mechanics; Circular Orbits|
|6-7||Full Kepler Orbit Problem|
|8||Introduction to Electromagnetic Waves; Doppler Effect|
|9-10||Reflection, Refraction, and Optics|
|11-12||Optical, Radio, and X-Ray Telescopes|
|13-14||Distances and Magnitudes|
|18||Initial Mass Function; Olbert’s Paradox; Galaxy Rotation Curves|
|19-20||Measuring the Size and Rotation Curve of the Milky Way|
|22-23||Stellar Structure and Evolution|
|24||Nuclear Reactions in Stars|
|25||Star Formation; Virial Theorem|
|26||Fermi Pressure, White Dwarf Stars, and the Chandrasekhar Limit|
|27-28||Neutron Stars, Supernovae, and Black Holes|
|29||Cepheid Variables; Mass Transfer Binaries|
|32||HII Regions; Galaxy Types|
|33||Masses of Galaxies and Galaxy Clusters; Distance Ladder|
|34||Age and Large Scale Structure of the Universe; Intergalactic Medium|
|35||Active Galactic Nuclei|
|37||Thermal History of the Universe|