Physics 110      Astronomy & Cosmology

Fall Semester, 2000


Instructor:      Dr. Terry Matilsky

                        304 Physics & Astronomy Building, Busch Campus

                        (732) 445-3876  (voice)         (732) 445-4343  (fax)


                        Office Hour: Wednesday 2:30 - 4:00 pm


Course Web Page:


Lectures:  Wednesdays 11:30 – 12:50 pm, Fridays 1:10 – 2:30 pm  (W3F4), 135 Scott Hall,

      College Avenue Campus


Overview: This course will provide a basic overview and introduction to astrophysics outside of our solar system, and will cover the structure and evolution of stars, galaxies, and our current understanding of modern cosmology as it relates to the past, present and future of the Universe.  These topics are very active and fast-moving areas of scientific research, and we will attempt to convey some of the more exciting results and discoveries in the field. A basic theme of the class will be to understand not only what we currently believe about the universe, but also why we believe it.  Some history and philosophy of science will aid us in this endeavor.  Physics concepts will be introduced as needed.   There are no college-level prerequisites, but typical high school algebra and science preparation are assumed.  The companion class, Physics 109, describes the historical foundations of astronomy, the tools and techniques used by modern astronomers, the Sun, planets, moons, and minor bodies of our solar system, and the processes by which they formed.  The two courses are independent; if you wish to take both, they can be taken in either order or concurrently.


Texts:             The Cosmic Perspective by Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, & Voit 

(ISBN 0-201-87878-X)

            Student Guide to WebAssign and Access Code  (ISBN 1-928550-19-3)

Texts are available at the Rutgers Bookstores, New Jersey Books, or on-line through


Homework: Homework will be assigned at weekly intervals, using the on-line WebAssign system (see  You must purchase a WebAssign access code (available at the bookstores), and all assignments must be submitted through the web, using a browser.   You can use your own computer, or any of the Rutgers student computing center machines (see  Assignments will be due by Wednesday midnight each week, beginning 9/13; no late homework submissions will be accepted.  Assignments will be graded and returned via WebAssign approximately one week after the due date.


ALL STUDENTS, PLEASE CHECK HERE . IF YOUR NAME IS ON THIS LIST, I DO NOT HAVE AN E-MAIL ADDRESS FOR YOU. If you are not on this list, and have properly registered for the course before September 7th, you don't need to respond. IF YOU HAVE NOT SET UP YOUR E-MAIL ACCOUNT AT RUTGERS YET, YOU MUST DO SO IMMEDIATELY, AND SEND ME E-MAIL TO THAT EFFECT. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE ON THIS LIST, YOUR USERNAME HAS BEEN CREATED (AS INDICATED) SO THAT YOU CAN ACCESS WEB-ASSIGN. FOR THOSE STUDENTS WITH VALID RUTGERS E-MAIL ACCOUNTS, YOUR WEB-ASSIGN USERNAME IS THE SAME AS THE ONE YOU USE FOR YOUR EDEN ACCOUNT. IF YOU HAVE ADDED THIS CLASS RECENTLY (AND CONSEQUENTLY, DO NOT APPEAR ON THE ROSTER) YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET INTO WEB-ASSIGN UNTIL YOU E-MAIL ME WITH YOUR USERNAME AND SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER. Everyone will initially have their social security number as their password (do NOT use any dashes). You can (and should) change your password once you log into Web-Assign. Please note the following: the institution name that you enter for Web-Assign is "rutgers" (small "r" and WITHOUT the quotes). Also, if your Social Security Number begins with a zero, DO NOT enter the leading zeroes for your password (example: if your SSN is: 001025728, you would enter 1025728).


Exams: There will be one class hour exam, on October 18, and a final exam on December 21.  The location for the class hour exam will be Scott 135.  The location for the final exam will be announced later.  All exams will be multiple choice, computer graded, and closed book.  Material from the text, lectures, and homework assignments will be used in selecting exam questions.  The final exam is cumulative (life is cumulative!).  A single cumulative make-up exam will be offered at the end of the semester for those with excused absences at any of the two exams.


Grades: Course grades will be based on your best 10 homework scores (weight 40%) and the two exam scores (weight 20% for hourly and 40% for the final). 


Learning Centers: The Learning Resource Centers (see provide support services for this course.  All will have copies of   previous years’ exams, which can be photocopied.  The center on Busch Campus also offers tutoring help for this course.  The schedules are posted weekly on the LRC web site and may vary because of the availability of tutors.  In addition, the Math and Science Learning Center (see offers videotapes and computer demonstrations.


Observing: Viewing sessions using the telescopes located on the roof of the Physics & Astronomy Building (Busch campus) are held on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month when the sky is clear, beginning at 8 pm or 1 hour after sunset, whichever is later.   This fall is an ideal time for telescopic viewing.  At the beginning of September, in particular, Saturn and Jupiter are well visible starting at about 2 am.  (There are only two things worth getting up for at 2 am, and Saturn is one of them!)  But the planets will rise earlier and earlier as the semester goes on, and you are urged to participate in these observing sessions.  They are quite worthwhile. Attendance at these sessions is optional.    For more information, see:


Students with Disabilities: If you have a disability, you are urged to speak to Dr. Matilsky early in the semester to make the necessary arrangements to support a successful learning experience.  Also, you must submit a letter to Dr. Matilsky from your Disability Concerns Coordinator verifying that you have a disability.  If you do not know whom your Coordinator is, please contact the Office of the New Brunswick Campus Coordinator for the Concerns of Students with Disabilities at 732-932-1711 or send email to


Class Calendar:  The schedule for lectures, readings, and exams during the semester is presented below.  You should read the appropriate text sections before each class in order to obtain the maximum benefit from lectures, which will not be merely material taken from the book.  Some topics treated in depth may only be mentioned (or not even appear) in the book.  Skipping class is at your own risk, since any material presented in lecture may appear on exams or in homework questions.



Lecture Topic



Lecture Topic






Binary Stars and X-ray sources



Our Sun and Light

 7 & 14.1-14.2


New X-ray Observations


Our Sun and Matter

5 &14.3


Our Milky Way Galaxy



Nearby stars



Types of Galaxies



Gravitation and Stellar Masses

6.4 & 15.4


Dark Matter



The HR diagram



Trouble in Paradise: Alternatives to Dark Matter



Stellar birth



Galaxy Clusters



Life on the Lower Main Sequence



Galaxy Evolution



The Mid-life Crisis: Red Giants






Life in the Fast Lane: Massive Stars



The Cosmic Distance Scale



Things That Go Bang! In the Night: Supernovae & Gamma Ray Bursts



The Age of the Universe



White Dwarfs and Neutron Stars



The Big Bang



Mid-term Exam



Modern Cosmology



Black Holes



Is Anybody Out There?

13.4-13.6 & S6


*  meets 4th period