Classes

Graduate Level

  • ASTR 300: Graduate Astronomy Seminar (1 credit hour)
    A one-hour seminar on a current topic of interest in the field of astronomy & astrophysics. This is meant to give the graduate students a cursory knowledge of the field.
  • ASTR 310 : Radiative Processes (3 credit hours; Holley-Bockelmann)
    Electromagnetic radiation from astrophysical sources. Radiative transfer; blackbody radiation; atomic and molecular absorption and emission; radiation from moving charges; reativistic beaming; Bremsstrahlung; synchrotron radiation; Compton scattering.
  • ASTR 322: Observational Astronomy Laboratory (3 credit hours; Stassun)
    Principles and techniques including accurate measurement of astronomical distance, data handling and error analysis, computer programming. Four to six experiments such as determination of the Earth’s radius, distance to the Moon, refraction by the atmosphere, distance to a star cluster. Scheduled evening sessions at Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory.
  • ASTR 352: Stellar Astrophysics (3 credit hours; Berlind)
    The physics of stars. Observations of stellar properties. Equations of stellar structure; equations of state; energy generation by nuclear reactions; heat transfer by radiation, conduction and convection; opacity sources. Stellar evolution. Numerical stellar models.
  • ASTR 353: The Structure and Dynamics of Galaxies (3 credit hours; Holley-Bockelmann)
    The stellar, gaseous, and dark matter content of galaxies, their internal bulk properties, structure, kinematics and dynamics. Equilibrium and stability of stellar systems. Orbit theory, the gravitational N-body problem, relaxation, dynamical friction and the Fokker-Planck equation. Galaxy evolution from the standpoint of stellar populations, the initial mass function, chemical evolution and galaxy interactions.
  • ASTR 354: Structure Formation in the Universe (3 credit hours; Berlind)
    Dark matter and dark energy. Growth of linear and non-linear density fluctuations. Density and velocity fields, perturbation theory and non-linear collapse models. Cosmological N-body simulations and the formation of dark matter halos. Galaxy clustering measurements and galaxy formation physics. The physics behind experimental cosmological probes of dark matter and dark energy.
  • ASTR 355: Order of Magnitude Astrophysics (1 credit hour; Berlind & Holley-Bockelmann)
    Starting from basic physical principles, students will learn to make order-of-magnitude estimates on a wide variety of astrophysical problems. Class centers around the students working through problems together, moderated by the instructors. Course can be taken multiple times to develop problem-solving skills, physical intuition, and the ability to improvise.
  • PHYS 360a-b: General Relativity & Cosmology (3 credit hours; Weiler)
    Einstein’s geometric theory of gravity in terms of tensor analysis and differential geometry. Einstein’s field equations are derived and solutions are discussed. Applications of general relativity are explored, including those to very strong gravitational fields, gravitational collapse, neutron stars, black holes, and quantum gravity. Topics in cosmology will include red shifts and cosmic distance relations, big bang cosmology, primordial nucleosynthesis, the very early universe and inflationary cosmologies.

Undergraduate Level

  • ASTR 102: Introduction to Astronomy (3 credit hours)
    This is a general introductory astronomy course intended primarily for non-science majors. This course explores the Universe with a focus on the physical processes that have led to the evolution of life on Earth. A separate course (Astro 201) focuses on the solar system in detail. Students interested in a more rigorous, math- and physics-based introdution to astrophysics are encouraged to take Astro 175.
  • ASTR 103: Introductory Astronomy Lab (1 credit hour)
    This is a lab attachment to ASTR 102 but does not have to be taken simultaneously. The lab meets once a week for 3 hours to work on either computer-based or observing labs. The aims of this class is to gain a familiarity with the night sky, perform observations of planets and stars, and to learn how astronomers may draw conclusions from and figure out the limitations of observations.
  • ASTR 201: The Solar System (3 credit hours)
    This course presents a thorough overview of the solar system. For the most part, the material is qualitative and factual. While there are some equations and quantitative descriptions, these are so few and basic so as not to be a major challenge to non-physics majors.Topics covered include the formation of the solar system [nebular theory], the Sun as our star, the planets: including an historical overview of the how and why of their observation – Kepler’s laws, distances and masses, terrestrial planets: their atmospheres and physical properties, Jovian planets: atmospheres, structures and magnetic fields, comets and asteroids, and extra-solar planets.
  • ASTR 203: Theories of the Universe (3 credit hours; Weintraub)
    This course is about the trial of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Inquisition in 1633. In order to understand why Galileo was on trial and to discuss and evaluate both the cases for the prosecution and for the defense, we must understand Galileo’s astronomy and why his astronomy was an issue for the Roman Catholic Church. Hence, the class begins by looking at the interdependence of cosmological theories and religious teachings from the eighth century B.C.E. to the middle of the seventeenth century via examination of scientific works and religious texts, including those of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Copernicus, Luther, and Galileo.
  • ASTR 205: Principles of Astrophysics (3 credit hours)
    This is an introductory astrophysics course intended for physics majors (especially those on the astronomy/astrophysics track), astronomy minors, other science and engineering majors, or any student interested in a rigorous, math- and physics-based introduction to astronomy. Prerequisites are one semester each of college-level physics and calculus. Students who do not meet these prerequisites are encouraged to take Astro 102.
  • ASTR 222: Observational Astronomy Laboratory (3 credit hours; Stassun)
    See ASTR 322 for description.
  • ASTR 250: Undergraduate Astronomy Seminar
    A one-hour seminar in Astronomy which reviews current topics of interest in the field. A required course for undergraduate departmental majors and a course for any undergraduate interested in learning a little more about Astronomy. The exact topic varies from semester to semester. Past opics include the Cosmic Distance Ladder, Hot Topics in Astronomy, and Extreme Astrophysics.
  • ASTR 252: Stellar Astrophysics (3 credit hours; Berlind)
    See ASTR 352 for description.
  • ASTR 253: Galactic Astrophysics (3 credit hours; Holley-Bockelmann)
    See ASTR 353 for description.
  • ASTR 254: Structure Formation in the Universe (3 credit hours; Berlind)
    See ASTR 354 for description.
  • ASTR 260: General Relativity & Cosmology (3 credit hours; not in current rotation)
    An upper-division undergraduate introduction for to one of the two main theories that revolutionized Physics in the 20th century (the other, of course, being Quantum Mechanics). We will discuss the mathematics of describing kinematics in curved space-time, introduce Einstein’s field equations, and apply these to various situations such as stars and black holes, gravitational waves, and cosmology.