Astrophysics is the application of physical principles to astronomical systems. In Physics 341 and 342 you will learn how to use gravity, electromagnetism, and atomic, nuclear, and gas physics to understand planets, stars, galaxies, dark matter, and the Universe as a whole. Gravity is the dominant force in many astronomical systems, and it will be our focus in Physics 341.
Some astrophysical systems are described by equations that are fairly easy to solve, and we will study them. However, many interesting systems cannot be solved exactly. Nevertheless, we can often use physical insight and carefully chosen approximations to understand the key features of a system without sweating the details. One goal of the course is to develop that skill. As you will see, it will take us very far (through the whole Universe, in fact!). Another goal is to learn about recent advances in astrophysics, a very dynamic field of research.
Prerequisites for this class are two semesters of physics and two semesters of calculus. I will briefly review physical principles as we need them, but it is assumed that you have seen them before. I will also assume familiarity with vector calculus. Some of the assignments may involve a bit of computation that can be done with programs like Excel, Google Spreadsheets, Maple, Matlab, or Mathematica.
The recommended textbook for Physics 341 (and 342) is An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics (2nd edition) by Bradley W. Carroll and Dale A. Ostlie (affectionately known as the Big Orange Book). It provides a broad survey of astrophysics and covers the basics thoroughly. However, we will not follow this textbook in sequence, but rather will primarily reference the excellent series of lecture notes written by Prof. Chuck Keeton and updated by Prof. Saurabh Jha and myself. I will draw from other sources as well, letting you know when I do.
Prof. Eric Gawiser
Room 303, Serin Physics Building (across Allison Road from the classroom), Busch campus
Email: gawiser[at]physics.rutgers.edu
Phone: 7324455500 ext. 2733
Office hours: Thursday 1011AM
Grading will be based on weekly problem sets (50%), two inclass midterms (10% each), a final takehome essay (10%), and iClicker scores (20%, with a bonus for active class participation).
Weekly problem sets will be handed out on Thursdays, and will be due the following Thursday at the beginning of class. When necessary, problem sets can also be turned in via our Sakai website in PDF format. It is your responsibility to meet the deadline! No late assignments will be accepted.
You are encouraged to work in groups on the weekly problem sets, but your writeup of the solutions must be your own. You must write down the names of your collaborators on your writeup. You must also cite any external sources you use (other than the class notes I post or the textbook). You may not refer to notes, assignments, or solutions from previous years of Physics 341 or 342.
The final essay must be entirely your own work, without any collaboration with your peers or usage of materials beyond those provided with the course. It will be due at 3:20pm on Tuesday, December 10.
This syllabus may be modified as the semester progresses.
Date 
General concept 
Topics 
Text 
Assignment 
Sep 3, 5 
introduction 
gravity; estimation; dimensional analysis 

Sep 10, 12 
1body problem 
Newton's laws of motion and gravitation; conservation laws 
1.11.2, 2.12.3 
PS1 
Sep 17 
deriving Kepler's Laws 
2.12.3 

Sep 19 
Galactic center 
6.1, 24.4 
PS2  
Sep 24 
Doppler effect; supermassive black holes 
4.3, 25.2, 28.2 

Sep 26 
2body problem 
theory; equivalent 1body problem 
2.3 
PS3 
Oct 1 
binary stars 
7.17.3 

Oct 3 
binary stars; extrasolar planets 
7.4, 23.1 
PS4  
Oct 8 
transiting planets 
7.4, 23.1 

Oct 10 
tidal forces 
19.2, 21.221.3 
PS5  
Oct 15 
3body problem 
Lagrange points; asteroids; close binaries 
18, 22.3 

Oct 17 
Nbody problem and galaxies 
inclass midterm basic properties of galaxies 
24.224.3, 25.125.4 
1st Midterm 
Oct 22 
spiral galaxy rotation curves; dark matter 
24.3, 25.2 

Oct 24, 29 
galactic structure beyond rotation 
24.2, 25.3 
PS6 due Oct 24  
Oct 31 
virial theorem; elliptical galaxies; galaxy interactions 
2.4, 25.4, 26.1 
PS7  
Nov 5, 7 
gravitational lensing 
basic principles; microlensing; galaxy and cluster lensing 
28.4, 24.2 
PS8 
Nov 12 
relativity 
special relativity 
4 (all) 

Nov 14 
introduction to general relativity 
17 (all) 
PS9  
Nov 19 
applications of general relativity 

Nov 21 
black holes 
PS10  
Nov 26 
cosmology 
expanding Universe; geometry and dynamics 
27.12, 29 (all) 

Nov 28 
NO CLASS; Happy Thanksgiving! 

Dec 3 
dark energy; future of the Universe 
PS11  
Dec 5 
inclass midterm 
2nd Midterm  
Dec 10 
final essay due 3:20pm class discussion 
Final Essay 
Here are some web resources you may find illuminating or indispensable:
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Astrophysics at Rutgers • Department of Physics and Astronomy • Rutgers University
Last updated: August 12, 2013 EG