Astrophysics deals with some of the most majestic themes known to science. Among these are the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day; the origin and evolution of planets, stars, galaxies, and the elements themselves; the unity of basic physical law; and the connection between the subatomic properties of nature and the observed macroscopic universe.
Three sequences of courses present the study of Astronomy and Astrophysics topics in different scope and depth:
(1) PHSC 11900-12000-12700 is a two- or three-quarter sequence that satisfies the general education requirements in the physical sciences. The first two quarters cover the formation and evolution of stars, the galaxy, and the extragalactic universe; and the third quarter deals with the solar system. NTSC 10100-10200-10300-10400 is a four-quarter sequence that satisfies the general education requirements in physical sciences and biological sciences. NTSC 10200 deals with the evolution of the universe.
(2) For students seeking a more in-depth examination of selected astrophysical topics, astronomy courses numbered in the 18000s are offered, usually to be taken in their second year or later. These courses are intended for students from throughout the College.
(3) For students considering graduate work in astrophysics, the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics recommends the program leading to a degree of B.A. in Physics with Specialization in Astrophysics. For details, see the Physics section of this catalog. Tutorial and research courses are available in addition to more informal opportunities for work and study in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Participation in a weekly seminar on current topics in astrophysical research is also recommended.
ASTR 18100. The Milky Way
ASTR 18200. The Origin and Evolution of the Universe
This course discusses how the laws of nature allow us to understand the origin, evolution, and large-scale structure of the universe. After a review of the history of cosmology, we see how discoveries in the twentieth century (i.e., the expansion of the universe and the cosmic background radiation) form the basis of the hot Big Bang model. Within the context of the Big Bang, we learn how our universe evolved from the primeval fireball.
ASTR 18300. Searching Between the Stars
With the advent of modern observational techniques such as radio and satellite astronomy, it has become possible to study free atoms, molecules, and dust in the vast space between the stars. The observation of interstellar matter provides information on the physical and chemical conditions of space and on the formation and evolution of stars.
ASTR 18500. The Lives and Deaths of Stars
In this course we study the observed properties of stars and the physics that enables us to understand them. Star formation, stellar evolution, and the deaths of stars are discussed. (Offered in alternate years.)
ASTR 20000. Tutorial in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Students in this tutorial read topics in astronomy and astrophysics under the supervision of a faculty member. Students meet with the instructor in groups of one to three for approximately two hours per week to discuss readings on mutually agreed-upon topics.
ASTR 21300. Origin and Evolution of the Solar System
Representative topics include abundance and origin of the elements; formation, condensation, and age of the solar system; meteorites and the historical record of the solar system they preserve; comets and asteroids; the planets and their satellites; temperatures and atmospheres of the planets; and the origin of the Earth's lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
ASTR 23000. Looking for Ourselves Elsewhere
Science and religion are two ways, among many others, that people can seek to know about reality: how do we construct ordered pictures of the whole—cosmos or civilization—and how do we relate to them in terms of action? How do we know what we do not know, and what does that kind of “knowledge” mean for the orientation and direction of human existence? How would cultural biases be affected by knowing that there are others “out there” in the universe, should we discover them? From various perspectives, this course addresses these questions of the origins, structures, and ends of reality as we look for ourselves—seek understanding of the human condition—in the cosmos but also in complex religious and cultural traditions. Whereas in our popular culture, science is often identified with the realm of knowledge and religion is simply “belief” or “practice,” the course also seeks to trace the rational limits of science and the rational force of religion with respect to the ethical problem of the right and good conduct of human life. (Offered in alternate years.)
ASTR 24100. The Physics of Stars and Stellar Systems
Building upon a student's previous knowledge of physics, this course introduces the astrophysics of stars and stellar systems with an emphasis on the physical nature of stars. Topics include the tools of astronomy, both observational and theoretical Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams, structure and evolution of stars, binary stars, star clusters, and end states of stars such as white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes.
ASTR 24200. The Physical Universe
Physical laws are applied in the study of the structures and evolution of galaxies, quasars, clusters of galaxies, and the universe at large.
ASTR 28200. Special Topics (Exoplanets)
A special topic in astrophysics to round out offerings to upper level physics majors in the concentration in astrophysics. The most recent example is given here:
As recently as 20 years ago astronomers did not yet know if planets existed around other stars. Now, more than 700 so-called exoplanets are known and astronomers are quickly closing in on the discovery of the first Earth twin. This course will review the current state of knowledge about exoplanets. Topics to be covered include how exoplanets are found and studied, the properties of known exoplanets, and the connection between exoplanets and the origins of our own Solar System. There will be particular emphasis on hans-on activities like working with real astronomical data to find and characterize exoplanets. New discoveries are made at a rapid pace in this field, and we will analyze new results as they are announced during course of the quarter.
ASTR 29700. Participation In Research: Astronomy and Astrophysics
Students are assigned to work in the research group of a member of the faculty. Participation in research may take the form of independent work on a small project or assistance to an advanced graduate student or faculty member in his or her research.
ASTR 49800. Advanced Graduate Research Seminar
Each week, a graduate student seminar is held. It is scheduled for one hour, but at a time such that no one has to leave if the discussion goes longer. The instructor picks a topic of the semester, and assigns papers that develop the topic from the earliest times to the most recent results. Students each present papers during the course, as assigned and lead a discussion. The purpose is to give students practice in analyzing the literature and in presenting to their peers, as well to assure breadth in the topics covered during their time at Chicago. Starting with the new class entering in Sept. 2012, students stay involved until they graduatewith extra, assigned work by agreement with instructor.
NTSC 10200. Evolution of the Universe
The course provides a comprehensive introductory survey of the physical universe. It starts with a brief history of physics and astronomy from antiquity, including the development of physical science. A survey of modern physics summarizes how the universe unfolds as a series of transformations of matter and energy in space and time, based on precisely defined mathematical laws. This physical foundation is used to explain how the universe behaves on the largest scales, how it originated, and how it has evolved since the beginning. The course emphasizes how this model of reality is supported by quantitative physical evidence. Students also get hands-on experience in laboratory sections.
PHSC 11900. Stellar Astronomy and Astrophysics
This course explores the observational and theoretical bases for our present understanding of the structures and evolution of stars. After a brief introduction to descriptive astronomy and a servey and interpretation of the relevant observations, we develop the theoretical principles governing the physical properties and dynamics of stars. Subsequently, we apply such observational and theoretical methods to studies of the formation of stars and their planetary systems, the life and death of stars, and the formation of the chemical elements.
*This course also will be offered to students in the Paris study abroad program in the Spring quarters.
PHSC 12000. Origin of the Universe and How We Know
The universe is made of galaxies, which are made of aggregates of stars. Stellar aggregates allow us to map the positions of the galaxies in the universe. Studies of galaxy motions and of supernovae allow us to explore the nature of space to the edge of the visible universe. Our description of space allows us to build falsifiable models of cosmology, the origin of all that exists. The course consists of exploring how we know what we know about cosmology and why our perceptions have gradually changed over 2000 years. The fundamental theories and observations on which our knowledge rests are explored in detail.
*This course also will be offered to students in the Paris study abroad program in Spring quarter.
PHSC 12700. Planets, Comets and Asteroids
PHSC 12800. European Astronomy & Astrophysics
Modern Astronomy was born in Erope in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, led by Nicolaus Copernicus of Poland, who simplified the description of the solar system by moving the Sun to the center of the Universe. The Italian, Galileo Galilei, forst pointed a telescope at the sky in 1609 and discovered the moons of Jupiter, sunspots, the stellar composition of the Milky Way, and craters of the Moon. Tycho Brahe of Denmark studied planetary motions in great detail, allowing Johannes Kepler of Germany to define the principles of the orbits of the planets by 1615. Isaac Newton of England discovered the laws of gravity and of motion, and built the reflecting telescope later in the seventeenth century. By 1774, French astronomer Charles Messier began the explosion of our current knowledge of the Universe when he catalogued what are now known to be other galaxies. Building upon this history, this course also explores recent developments in European astronomical and astrophysical technology that allows a modern exploration of the deepest regions of the Universe using a wide range of telescopes.
*This course is offered only in Paris in Spring quarter.
ASTR 30100. Stars (Detailed Outline)
Introduction to stars (physical and observational), hydrodynamics of self-gravitating fluids, statistical mechanics and equations of state, energy transport, astrophysical nuclear reactions, stellar models, advanced topics.
ASTR 30300. Interstellar Matter (Detailed Outline)
Interstellar medium, collisionless systems, distribution of stars in the solar neighborhood, stellar kinematics/dynamics, observations of galactic large-scale structure, theory of galactic structure and evolution. (This course is being modified due to curriculum changes 4/19/13.)
ASTR 30400. Galaxies (Detailed Outline)
The observed universe, the universe at high redshift, early universe microwave background radiation, relativistic homogeneous isotropic cosmologies, evolution of structure in the universe, primordial nucleosynthesis. (This course is being modified due to curriculum changes 4/19/13.)
ASTR 30600. Radiation Measurements in Astrophysics (Detailed Outline)
Radiation as a random process, optical coherence, and signal analysis in spatial and temporal domains, along with the detection and measurement of radiation with astronomical instruments. (This course is being modified due to curriculum changes 4/19/13.)
ASTR 31000. Cosmology I
This course is being redesigned to fit into the new curriculum. 4/19/13.
ASTR 31100. High Energy Astrophysics
This course is being redesigned to fit into the new curriculum. 4/19/13.
ASTR 31300. Extragalactic Studies
The course will begin with a historical overview of observations of external galaxies and proceed with discussions of on-going research topics in extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. These include known correlations and scaling relations between different galaxy properties, empirical techniques for determining different physical quantities (such as redshifts, ISM metallicity, and mass), formation of elliptical galaxies, chemical evolution, and the re-ionization epoch. (Offered biannually.)
ASTR 31500. Dynamics I (Fluids)
Principles of hydrodynamics and hydromagnetics. Equilibrium and stability of fluid systems in astrophysics. Waves. Shocks. Turbulence. (Offered biannually.)
ASTR 31600. Dynamics of Particles
Dynamics of collisionless plasmas and stellar systems. Stochastic processes and kinetic equations. Dynamics of galaxies and star clusters. Astrophysical plasmas. (Offered biannually.)
ASTR 32000. Relativistic Astrophysics
Special and General relativity and the experimental tests, with applications to astrophysical problems such as super-massive stars, black holes, relativistic star clusters, and gravitational radiation. (Offered biannually.)
ASTR 32100. Cosmology II
Study of physical cosmology with emphasis on the standard big-bang model and its observational and experimental tests. (Offered biannually.)
ASTR 33000. Computational Physics and Astrophysics
Basic computational methods useful for astrophysics, supplemented by specific examples drawn primarily from astrophysics. Starting with basics (e.g., precision, errors and error analysis) and basic computational methods (differentiation, integration/quadrature, Monte Carlo, numerical linear algebra), and then discussing solution of problems posed in terms of ordinary and partial differential equations.
ASTR 34000. Statistical Methods in Astronomy and Astrophysics
An exploration of the variety of statistical methods used in modern astrophysics. (Offered biannually.)
ASTR 35800. Extrasolar Planets
Extrasolar planets, a.k.a. exoplanets, are planets orbiting other stars. First definitively detected in the mid 1990s, the planet count has rapidly expanded and their physical characterization has sharpened with improved observational techniques. Theoretical studies of planetary formation and evolution are now attempting to understand this statistical sample. The field also aspires to address questions about life in the universe. This course emphasizes hands-on activities, like working with real astronomical data to find and characterize exoplanets. Topics are the radial velocity, transit, and other discovery and characterization techniques; statistical distributions of known planets; comparisons among planet structure and planetary system types; formation in a protoplanetary disk and subsequent dynamical evolution; the goal of finding life on an exoplanet; colonization of exoplanets and the Fermi paradox.
ASTR 36100. Interstellar Medium
Advanced topics in interstellar matter, depending on current forefront reseach and interest of the instructor. (Offered biannually.)
ASTR 36101. Quantum Mechanics of the Interstellar Medium
The physics of interstellar gases can be determined from the ionization and excitation state of interstellar atoms and molecules. The conditions so determined can be used to determine, in turn, the more general physics of the Universe, the large scale clustering of gas, the properties of star-forming clouds and the causes of the state of the Galactic interstellar medium and of the intercluster medium, beyond the Galaxy.
The course examines the energy-level diagrams of the elements of the periodic table and the molecules they form, to explore how the abundances of the first elements from the BIg Bang are determined (D, He, Li); how the clustering of dark matter in the cosmic web can be read in the abundant hydrogen clouds in space; how the temperature of the cosmic background and its evolution in redshift can be determined (CN, diffuse interstellar bands, CO); how the ionization state of the intergalactic medium can be determined; how molecular hydrogen reveals the radiation density and the particle density in diffuse molecular clouds; how the cosmic evolution of the elements can be determined, within galaxies and in the intergalactic medium; among other such topics.
ASTR 37100. Pre-Candidacy Research
Supervised research of students normally in their first two years of graduate study.
ASTR 37200. Readings in Astronomy and Astrophysics
The course instructor guides readings and discussions thereon on exploratory research topics or more general topics for students-at-large. Generally, one-on-one.
ASTR 38000. History of the Telescope
The history of the idea of telescopes, and of telescopes as working devices, is covered. Following a short discussion of the ideas of "seeing at a distance" in the pre-telescopic world, Galileo's astronomical discoveries are noted. The evolution of the telescope through the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries are then described. The key developments in telescope systems in each century are highlighted. These include optics, platforms and clocks, structures, rockets, computers, instruments, detectors and observatory sites. The roles of amateur astronomers, wealthy patrons, wealthy entrepreneurs and governments in bringing about these developments are emphasized, and the impact on society of the discoveries made with telescopes is outlined. Serendipitous discovery, personal stories of the main actors on the stage and the feedback between the development of modern civilization and the tools of astronomy are features of the story. (Offered biannually.)
ASTR 38100. General History of Astrophysics
ASTR 38800. Galileo's Astronomy and Conflicts with the Church
This course is devoted to Galileo's work in astronomy, above all the Dialogue on the Two Great Systems of the World, and his conflicts with the Church concerning the interpretation of Scripture and the attempt to prove the Copernican theory.
ASTR 38x00. Topics in History of Astronomy
depending on interests of the instructor.
ASTR 39900. Reading/Research in Astrophysics
Specialized and Advanced Graduate Courses
Courses numbered 40000 - 48000 are lecture or seminar courses taught from time to time in specialized or advanced topics in fields in which members of the department are working. Admission to any of these is by permission of the instructor. Typical courses include:
ASTR 40100. Practical Data Analysis
ASTR 40200. Particle Astrophysics
ASTR 40300. Structure Formation in the Universe
ASTR 40400. QSOs in the SDSS
One of the main classes of spectroscopic targets of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has been quasars. The SDSS database contains high-quality spectra for over 100,000 quasars, a sample that can be evaluated statistically because the sample selection is known to high precision. This course will explore the range of research enabled by these data, both spectroscopic and photometric.
ASTR 40600. Gravitational Lensing
Theory of bending of light by gravitational potentials followed by astrophysical and cosmological applications including: microlensing, planetary searches, strong lensing, and weak lensing. In different years, a subsample of these topics may be taught, based on interests of the instructor.
ASTR 40700. AstroPolitics
ASTR 40800. The Perturbed Universe
ASTR 40900. Topics in Observational Cosmology
Specialized problems in the field, depending on current forefront areas and interest of the instructor. A recent offering discussed the requirements for the Dark Energy Survey in its early planning stages. (Offered in alternate years.)
ASTR 41100. Science of the Dark Energy
ASTR 41300. Topics in Stellar Astronomy
Specialized problems in the field, depending on current forefront areas and interest of the instructor. A recent offering discussed the requirements for the Dark Energy Survey in its early planning stages.
ASTR 41400. Advanced Fluid Dynamics
ASTR 41500. Astrophysical Jets
ASTR 41600. Intergalactic Medium
Specialized topics based on forefront topics in the field and on interests of the instructor.
ASTR 41800. Introduction to Intergalactic Medium Studies
Introduction to intergalactic medium studies. The course will begin with a historical overview of absorption-line studies and proceed with in-depth discussion of on-going research topics. These include the re-ionization epoch, chemical enrichment of the universe, and association between luminous matter traced by galaxies and gaseous clouds probed by absorption-line observations.
ASTR 42200. Early Universe Cosmology
ASTR 42700. Atomic Structure and Spectra
ASTR 43000. Plasma Astrophysics
ASTR 43100. Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays
ASTR 43200. High Energy Cosmic Particles
This graduate level course will focus on high energy particle astrophysics from basic facts to recent discoveries in the study of cosmic rays, gamma-rays, and neutrinos. The course will introduce the main concepts of proposed mechanisms for generating these particles, the past and current detections techniques and observatories, and recent observations. Some particle physics and cosmology will be covered including models of dark matter particles and the effect of cosmic backgrounds on high energy cosmic particles.
ASTR 43300. Accretion Disks
ASTR 43600. Theory of Supernovae
ASTR 44200. Topics in Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
ASTR 44800. Cosmic Microwave Background
ASTR 45000. Extreme Optics
Frontiers in optics will be a review of the state of the art in optics as it paplies to astronomy. Topics to be covered will include
(1) Single dish optics : adaptive optics, building large telescopes and coronography
(2) Interferometers using multiple telescopes
(3) Lasers for guide stars and wavelength control
(4) LIGO and LISA
ASTR 45100. High Resolution Imaging
ASTR 45200. Primer on the SDSS
ASTR 45300. Computational Cosmology
ASTR 45400. Image Processing (Analysis)
The courses focuses on how to extract information from astronomical raw images on a pixel basis, in situations involving low source light levels relative to background brightnesses. Specific cases considered include detection of AGN variability, high resolution imaging of galactic nuclei, star-galaxy separation, image shear measurements, supernova detection and characterization, planetary transit photometry and direct planet detection. Techniques for accomplishing such tasks include wavelet analysis, deconvolution, image subtraction, adaptive-optics photometry and interferometry. While our main source of information will be the journal articles, the monograph "Astronomical Image and Data Analysis" by Jean-Luc Stark and Fionn Murtagh, Springer 2006, may be a useful reference and is freely available:
ASTR 45800. Exoplanets
The study of exoplanets, planets associated with stars other than the Sun, has become one of the most exciting and rapidly evolving areas of
modern astronomy. This new course will address general questions concerning the detection and characterization of exoplanets and of what we have already learned about the origin and properties of exoplanetary systems and of how they compare with those of the Solar System. This discussion will be placed in the context of models of planet formation in protoplanetary disks, their structure and composition, and their
dynamical interactions with the natal disk, the parent star, and other planets. The course will make use of seminal papers on these topics
and will encourage active participation by the students.
ASTR 45900. What Make a Planet Habitable?
*Dorian Abbot, Fred Ciesla (GEOS 32060) cross listed.*
This course explores the factors that determine how habitable planets form and evolve. We will discuss a range of topics, from the formation of planets around stars and the delivery of water, to the formation of atmospheres, climate dynamics, and the conditions that allow for the development of life and the evolution of complex life. Students will be responsible for reading and discussing papers in peer-reviewed journals each meeting and for periodically preparing presentations and leading the discussion.
ASTR 46400. Nuclear Astrophysics
ASTR 46500. Atomic Spectra
ASTR 47100. Evolution of Galaxies
ASTR 47200. Star Clusters
ASTR 47300. Distant Galaxies
ASTR 48000. Current Topics in Astrophysics (Graduate)
ASTR 48100. Advanced Computational Techniques
ASTR 48200. Dark Energy and Cosmic Acceleration
ASTR 49400. Postcandidacy Research in Astrophysics
ASTR 49900. Graduate Research Seminar
Each week, a graduate student seminar is held. It is scheduled for one hour, but at a time such that no one has to leave if the discussion goes longer. The instructor picks a topic of the semester, and assigns papers that develop the topic from the earliest times to the most recent results. Students each present papers during the course, as assigned and lead a discussion. The purpose is to give students practice in analyzing the literature and in presenting to their peers, as well to assure breadth in the topics covered during their time at Chicago. Starting with the new class entering in Sept. 2012, students stay involved until they graduate.