Physics 341
Principles of Astrophysics
Fall 2017

Tuesdays and Thursdays
3:20 to 4:40pm
ARC 105, Busch campus
Instructor: Alyson Brooks

Description

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.

Grading Policies

  • Grading will be based on weekly problem sets (35%), two in-class midterms (15% each), a final exam (20%), and iClicker scores (15%).
     
  • Weekly problem sets will be posted to Sakai on Thursday afternoons, and will be due the following Thursday at the beginning of class. Problem sets can also be turned in via our Sakai website in PDF format.
     
  • Collaboration with other students is strongly encouraged, but your write-up of the solutions must be your own. You must write down the names of your collaborators on your write-up. You must also cite any external sources you use (other than the textbook). You may not refer to notes, assignments, or solutions from previous years of Physics 341 or 342.
     
  • Always show your work. You will not receive full credit if you do not show your work. I will never look for a specific answer. Rather, I am always looking for the reasoning behind the answer.
     
  • In general, late homework will automatically receive a maximum of half points. Seek arrangement with me at least 24 hours in advance if you think you have a legitimate excuse for late work. After I have graded and handed back homework, I will not accept that homework anymore.
     

    Contact Information

    Prof. Alyson Brooks
    Room 306, Serin Physics Building (across Allison Road from the classroom), Busch campus
    Email: abrooks[at]physics.rutgers.edu
    Phone: 848-445-8877

    Office hours: Tues 10:30-11:30, or by appointment

    The final exam will occur on Friday, Dec 15 at 8am, location SEC 209.

    Schedule: Topics and Assignments

    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. Both books are on reserve at the Library of Science and Medicine.

    Week
    General concept
    Topics
    Text
    Due
    Sept 5, 7 Introduction gravity; estimation; dimensional analysis Ch. 1, Sections 1.1 & 1.2  
    Sept 12, 14 1-body problem Newton's laws of motion and gravitation;
    conservation laws
    Ch. 2;
    CO 1.1,1.2,2.1,2.2
    PS1 due
    Sept 19, 21   deriving Kepler's laws; the Galactic center Ch. 3;
    CO 2.3,6.1,24.4
    PS2 due
    Sept 26, 28   Doppler effect; supermassive black holes Ch. 3, Sections 3.2 and 3.3 PS3 due
    Oct 3, 5 begin 2-body problem 2-body theory; binary stars Ch. 4, Sections 4.1 & 4.2; CO 2.3,5.4,8.1,7.1,7.2,7.3 PS4 due
    Oct 10, 12   binary stars cont'd; extrasolar planets Ch. 4.3; CO 7.5 PS5 due
    Oct 17, 19   tidal forces; midterm exam Ch. 5; CO 19.2 Tues in-class midterm
    Oct 24, 26 N-body problems and galaxies basic properties of galaxies; spiral galaxy rotation curves Ch. 7.1 - 7.3; CO 25.1,25.2,24.1,24.2 PS6 due
    Oct 31, Nov 2   dark matter; virial theorem Ch. 7.3 - 7.4;
    CO 24.3
    PS7 due
    Nov 7, 9 gravitational lensing elliptical galaxies
    lensing principles; microlensing
    Ch.8, Ch. 9.1 - 9.2; CO 2.4,25.4,28.4 PS8 due
    Nov 14, 16   galaxy and cluster lensing Ch. 9.3 Thurs in-class midterm
    Nov 21, 23 relativity special relativity Ch. 10.1 - 10.2;
    CO Ch.4
    Thursday Thanksgiving
    Nov 28, 30   the expanding Universe; the accelerating Universe Ch. 11; CO 27.1,
    27.2,29.1,29.3
    PS9 due
    Dec 5, 7   general relativity; applications of general relativity Ch. 10.3 - 10.5;
    CO 17.1,17.2
    PS10 due
    Dec 12, 14   black holes Ch. 10.6, Ch. 11;
    CO 17.3
    final exam
    SEC 209
    Dec 15, 8-11am

     

    Resources

    Here are some web resources you may find illuminating or indispensable:

    Other Items

    Students will be held to the Rutgers policy on academic integrity.

    Just In Case Web App
    Access helpful mental health information and resources for yourself or a friend in a mental health crisis on your smartphone or tablet and easily contact CAPS or RUPD.

    Counseling, ADAP & Psychiatric Services (CAPS)
    (848) 932-7884 / 17 Senior Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
    CAPS is a University mental health support service that includes counseling, alcohol and other drug assistance, and psychiatric services staffed by a team of professional within Rutgers Health services to support students’ efforts to succeed at Rutgers University. CAPS offers a variety of services that include: individual therapy, group therapy and workshops, crisis intervention, referral to specialists in the community and consultation and collaboration with campus partners.

    Violence Prevention & Victim Assistance (VPVA)
    (848) 932-1181 / 3 Bartlett Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
    The Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance provides confidential crisis intervention, counseling and advocacy for victims of sexual and relationship violence and stalking to students, staff and faculty. To reach staff during office hours when the university is open or to reach an advocate after hours, call 848-932-1181.

    Disability Services
    (848) 445-6800 / Lucy Stone Hall, Suite A145, Livingston Campus, 54 Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854
    Rutgers University welcomes students with disabilities into all of the University's educational programs. In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, a student with a disability must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with a Letter of Accommodations. Share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. To begin this process, please complete the Registration form on the ODS web site.

    Scarlet Listeners
    (732) 247-5555
    Free and confidential peer counseling and referral hotline, providing a comforting and supportive safe space.

    Astrophysics at RutgersDepartment of Physics and AstronomyRutgers University

    Last updated: Aug 02, 2017 by Alyson Brooks