Physics 341, Fall 2019
Course Information:
Prof. Matthew Buckley (office: Serin W329, mbuckley@physics.rutgers.edu)
Lectures: Tuesdays/Thursdays 3:20-4:40, ARC 105 (Busch)
Office Hours: Wednesdays 3:00-4:00 and TBA (Serin W329)
Course 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.) In addition, you may find reading in An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics by Carroll and Ostlie helpful, though this book is not required and you should not feel obligated to purchase it. That said, Carroll and Ostlie is a standard reference in astrophysics, so if you are thinking of pursuing a career in this field, you will likely find this book useful in the future.
The Canvas website for the class is here, where enrolled students can find and submit homework.
Grading
Grading will be based on weekly problem sets (35%), two in-class midterms (15% each), a final exam (20%), and iClicker scores (15%).
Weekly homework will be assigned on Thursday in class and due on the following Thursday in class.
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.
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.
Student Accommodations
If you require special accommodation in the course, please speak with me as early in the semester as possible. Visit this link for information on Rutgers policies.
Course Schedule
(subject to change)
Week |
General concept |
Topics |
Text |
Due |
Sept 3, 5 | Introduction | gravity; estimation; dimensional analysis | Ch. 1, Sections 1.1 & 1.2 | |
Sept 10, 12 | 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 17, 19 | deriving Kepler's laws; the Galactic center | Ch. 3; CO 2.3,6.1,24.4 |
PS2 due | |
Sept 24, 26 | Doppler effect; supermassive black holes | Ch. 3, Sections 3.2 and 3.3 | PS3 due | |
Oct 1, 3 | 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 8, 10 | binary stars cont'd; midterm exam | Ch. 4.3; CO 7.5 | Thurs in-class midterm | |
Oct 15, 17 | extrasolar planets; tidal forces | Ch. 5; CO 19.2 | PS5 due | |
Oct 22, 24 | 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 29, Oct 31 | dark matter; virial theorem | Ch. 7.3 - 7.4; CO 24.3 |
PS7 due | |
Nov 5, 7 | gravitational lensing | elliptical galaxies lensing principles |
Ch.8, Ch. 9.1 - 9.2; CO 2.4,25.4,28.4 | PS8 due |
Nov 12, 14 | lensing principles; microlensing | Ch.8, Ch. 9.1 - 9.2; CO 2.4,25.4,28.4 | Thurs in-class midterm | |
Nov 19, 21 | galaxy and cluster lensing | Ch. 9.3, 10.1-10.2 CO Ch.4 |
Thursday Thanksgiving | |
Nov 26, 28 | relativistic cosmology | the expanding Universe; the accelerating Universe | Ch. 11; CO 27.1, 27.2,29.1,29.3 |
PS9 due |
Dec 3, 5 | general relativity; applications of general relativity | Ch. 10.3 - 10.5; CO 17.1,17.2 |
PS10 due | |
Dec 10 | black holes | Ch. 10.6, Ch. 11; CO 17.3 |
final exam TBA |