Rutgers University Department of Physics and Astronomy

High Energy Astrophysics and Radiative Processes
Ph 442 --- Fall 2009

This is an advanced undergraduate-level course on some of the most energetic objects and phenomena in the universe. Examples are supernovae, gamma ray bursts, and neutron stars and black holes that are accreting matter from their surroundings. Most of what we know about such objects comes from the study of X-ray and gamma-ray photons arriving at Earth. Some information also arrives in the form of energetic elementary particles --- cosmic rays. The processes that produce these energetic photons and particles are often non-thermal, i.e., the spectrum is far from that of a black body, so we will need to study these processes in order to deduce the properties of the source from the emitted spectrum. We will also study how X-rays and gamma-rays are detected.

High energy astrophysics is a very active area of astronomy today, with at least eight orbiting observatories in operation. As part of the class, you will analyze data from some current and past satellites.

Prerequisite: Physics 361 - Quantum Mechanics and Atomic Physics; Physics 385-386 - Electromagnetism

Professor: Dr. Tad Pryor, Serin 302W, 732-445-5500 x5462,
Lectures: Tuesday and Thursday, period 4 (1:40 - 3:00 PM for classes on Busch Campus)
Location: ARC 205, Busch Campus
Office Hours: 2:00 - 4:00 PM, Wednesday; call or email to arrange other times.
Text: Introduction to High Energy Astrophysics by Rosswog & Bruggen (ISBN 978-0-521-85769-7)This is a good, up-to-date introduction to the field at the advanced undergraduate level. Its main weakness is sparse coverage of how X-rays and gamma-rays are detected and I will provide supplementary material on that topic and the existing ground-based and satellite observatories. Rather than progressing directly through the text, we will start with Chapter~4 on supernovae and skip back to earlier chapters to introduce physical processes as they are needed.

Other texts that could be useful as reference material are listed on the class syllabus. Some of these are on reserve at the Physics Library.

Figures -- Above Left: The supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, taken with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The low, medium, and higher X-ray energies of the Chandra data are shown as red, green, and blue respectively ( more information). Above Right: The nebula in the vicinity of the pulsar in the Crab supernova remnant ( more information). The appearance of this nebula shows changes over even a few months.

Class Calendar

An approximate schedule of lecture topics and homework due dates. Also has links to my power-point slides.


Other Resources

Active High Energy Astronomical Observatories

Past High Energy Astronomical Observatories

Some Ultraviolet Telescopes

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Revised September 14, 2009