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 Principles of Astrophysics: Using Gravity and Stellar Physics to Explore the Cosmos, by Prof. Chuck Keeton. (It was written specifically for this course.)
Auditors are welcome. Please let me know if you are interested in auditing the class.
Students with disabilities should consult the department policy.
Prof. Alyson Brooks
Room 306, Serin Physics Building (across Allison Road from the classroom), Busch campus
Office hours: TBD, or by appointment
This syllabus may be modified as the semester progresses.
Note: Under the "Text" column, "Ch" mark the Chapters in Keeton. "CO" refers to Carroll & Ostlie, on reserve at the Library of Science and Medicine
|Sept 6, 8||Introduction||gravity; estimation; dimensional analysis||Ch. 1, Sections 1.1 & 1.2|
|Sept 13, 15||1-body problem|| Newton's laws of motion and gravitation;
|Ch. 2||PS1 due|
|Sept 20, 22||deriving Kepler's laws; the Galactic center||Ch. 3||PS2 due|
|Sept 27, 29||Doppler effect; supermassive black holes||Ch. 3, Sections 3.2 and 3.3||PS3 due|
|Oct 4, 6||begin 2-body problem||2-body theory; binary stars||Ch. 4, Sections 4.1 & 4.2||PS4 due|
|Oct 11, 13||extrasolar planets; tidal forces||Ch. 4.3; Ch. 5||PS5 due|
|Oct 18, 20||3-body problem||3-body problems; midterm exam||Ch. 6||Thurs in-class midterm|
|Oct 25, 27||N-body problems and galaxies||basic properties of galaxies; spiral galaxy rotation curves||Ch. 7.1 - 7.3|
|Nov 1, 3||dark matter; galactic structure beyond rotation||Ch. 7.3 - 7.4||PS6 due|
|Nov 8, 10||gravitational lensing|| virial theorem; elliptical galaxies
lensing principles; microlensing
|Ch.8, Ch. 9.1 - 9.2||PS7 due|
|Nov 15, 17||relativity||galaxy and cluster lensing||Ch. 9.3||PS8 due|
|Nov 22, 24||relativity||special relativity||Ch. 10.1 - 10.2||Thursday Thanksgiving|
|Nov 29, Dec 1||general relativity; applications of general relativity||Ch. 10.3 - 10.5||PS9 due|
|Dec 6, 8|| black holes
expanding Universe; geometry and dynamics
|Ch. 10.6, Ch. 11||PS10 due|
|Dec 13||dark energy; future of the Universe||Ch. 11|
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Astrophysics at Rutgers • Department of Physics and Astronomy • Rutgers University
Last updated: April 15, 2016 by Alyson Brooks