Astronomy

Five-College Radio Telescope

Fall 2007/Spring 2008 Course Catalog

The information below is taken from the printed catalog the college produces each year. For more up to date information, including links to course websites, faculty homepages, reserve readings, and more, use the 'courses' or semester specific link to your left.

11. Introduction to Modern Astronomy. A course reserved exclusively for students not well-versed in the physical sciences. The properties of the astronomical universe and the methods by which astronomers investigate it are discussed. Topics include the nature and properties of stars, our Galaxy, external galaxies, cosmology, the origin and character of the solar system, and black holes. Three one-hour lectures per week.

Enrollment limited. Admission with consent of the instructor. No student who has taken any upper-level math or science course will be admitted. Second semester. Professor Greenstein.

14. Stars and Galaxies. An introductory course appropriate for both physical science majors and students with a strong pre-calculus background. Topics include: the observed properties of stars and the methods used to determine them, the structure and evolution of stars, the end-points of stellar evolution, our Galaxy, the interstellar medium, external galaxies, quasars and cosmology.

Second semester. Professor to be named.

15. Science Play: Astronomy and Physics on the Stage. This course will examine a selection of plays that use astronomy or physics to delve into the scientific process, including plays by Brecht, Frayn, and Stoppard. By focusing on the moments abutting the instant of scientific discovery, these plays expose people at their most exhilarated and vulnerable. This creates an ideal space to explore the scientific idea itself as well as the attending complex human interactions and issues such as gender and genius, the interplay of society and science, and the scientist’s responsibility to society. The course will guide the student through humanity’s evolving view of cosmology, loosely mirroring the arc of the scientific content of the plays and pausing to focus on three pivotal moments in our understanding of the universe. In addition to addressing these key ideas, we will study the theatricality of the plays. We will examine the experiences of the playwright in the writing process, and the director and actor in bringing the play from the page to the stage. Having explored major current topics in astrophysics at a non-technical level as well as the roles of the playwright, director and actor in giving life to the science play, the course will culminate in the translation of these scientific ideas to the stage.

First semester. Professor Mukasa and Teaching Fellow Phillips.

20. Astronomy and Public Policy. Astronomical issues that impact our society will be explored in a seminar format. The approach for each issue will be to pose a question based on a body of scientific evidence with potential consequences for human society. The answers to these questions will be investigated both on scientific and societal grounds. Scientific issues include the potential threat of collisions between the earth and other solar system bodies, and the potential existence of extraterrestrial life. Students will assemble into three teams, two acting as scientists arguing for or against a particular course of action and a third team acting as a congressional subcommittee which must make a policy decision based on the evidence provided, recommending a response and an appropriate level of federal investment. The course bibliography will include primary sources, both from the scientific literature and from congressional records.

Requisites: One semester of calculus and one semester of any physical science. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2006-07.

23. Planetary Science. (ASTFC) An introductory course for physical science majors. Topics include: planetary orbits, rotation and precession; gravitational and tidal interactions; interiors and atmospheres of the Jovian and terrestrial planets; surfaces of the terrestrial planets and satellites; asteroids, comets, and planetary rings; origin and evolution of the planets.

Requisite: One semester of a physical science and one semester of calculus (may be taken concurrently). Some familiarity with physics is essential. First semester. Professor Dyar.

24. Stellar Astronomy. (ASTFC) This is a course on the observational determination of the fundamental properties of stars. It is taught with an inquiry-based approach to learning scientific techniques, including hypothesis formation, pattern recognition, problem solving, data analysis, error analysis, conceptual modeling, numerical computation and quantitative comparison between observation and theory.

Because many of the pedagogical goals of Astronomy 24 and 25 are identical, students are advised not to take both of these courses. Two class meetings per week plus computer laboratories.

Requisite: Mathematics 11 and either an introductory Astronomy or an introductory Physics course. Omitted 2007-08.

25. Galactic and Extragalactic Astronomy: The Dark Matter Problem. This course explores the currently unsolved mystery of dark matter in the universe using an inquiry-based approach to learning. Working with actual and simulated astronomical data, students will explore this issue both individually and in seminar discussions. The course will culminate in a “conference” in which teams present the results of their work.

Because many of the pedagogical goals of Astronomy 24 and 25 are identical, students are advised not to take both of these courses. Students who have taken the First-Year Seminar “The Unseen Universe” may not take Astronomy 25. Two class meetings per week plus computer laboratories.

Requisite: Mathematics 11 and either an introductory Astronomy or an introductory Physics course. Omitted 2006-07.

26. Cosmology. (ASTFC) Cosmological models and the relationship between models and observable parameters. Topics in current astronomy which bear upon cosmological problems, including background electromagnetic radiation, nucleosynthesis, dating methods, determination of the mean density of the universe and the Hubble constant, and tests of gravitational theories. Discussion of some questions concerning the foundations of cosmology and speculations concerning its future as a science.

Requisite: One semester of calculus and one semester of some physical science; no Astronomy requisite. First semester. Professor Greenstein.

30. Seminar: Topics in Astrophysics. Devoted each year to a particular topic, this course will commence with a few lectures in which a scientific problem is laid out, but then quickly move to a seminar format. In class discussions a set of problems will be formulated, each designed to illuminate a significant aspect of the topic at hand. The problems will be substantial in difficulty and broad in scope: their solution, worked out individually and in class discussions, will constitute the real work of the course. Students will gain experience in both oral and written presentation.

Requisite: Astronomy 23 and at least three college-level courses in astronomy, physics or geology. Omitted 2007-08.

35. Introduction to Astrophysics. How do astronomers determine the nature and extent of the universe? Following the theme of the “cosmic distance ladder,” we explore how our understanding of astrophysics allows us to evaluate the size of the observable universe. We begin with direct determinations of distances in the solar system and to nearby stars. We then move on to spectroscopic distances of more distant stars, star counts and the structure of our Galaxy, Cepheid variables and the distances of other galaxies, the Hubble Law and large-scale structure in the universe, quasars and the Lyman-alpha forest.

Requisites: One Astronomy course at the 20-level or higher and Physics 24. First semester. Professor Wilson.

37. Observational Techniques in Optical and Infrared Astronomy. Offered in alternate years with Astronomy 38. An introduction to the techniques of gathering and analyzing astronomical data, particularly in the optical and infrared regions of the spectrum. Telescope design and optics. Instrumentation for imaging, photometry, and spectroscopy. Astronomical detectors. Computer graphics and image processing. Error analysis and curve fitting. Data analysis and astrophysical interpretation. Evening laboratories to be arranged.

Requisite: Two courses of Physics and either Astronomy 24, 30, 35 or 51. Not open to first-year students. Second semester. Professor Lowenthal.

38. Techniques of Radio Astronomy. (ASTFC) Offered in alternate years with Astronomy 37. Introduction to the equipment and techniques of radio Astronomy. With lab. Equipment, techniques, nature of cosmic radio sources. Radio receiver and antenna theory. Radio flux, brightness temperature and the transfer of radio radiation in cosmic sources. Effect of noise, sensitivity, bandwidth, and antenna efficiency. Techniques of beam switching, interferometry and aperture synthesis. Basic types of radio astronomical sources: ionized plasmas, masers, recombination and hyperfine transitions; nonthermal sources. Applications to the sun, interstellar clouds, and extragalactic objects.

Requisite: Physics 24, Mathematics 11 and some familiarity with Astronomy. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2006-07.

51. Astrophysics I: Stars and Stellar Evolution. Physical principles governing the properties of stars, their formation and evolution: radiation laws and the determination of stellar temperatures and luminosities; Newton’s laws and the determination of stellar masses; the hydrostatic equation and the thermodynamics of gas and radiation; nuclear fusion and stellar energy generation; physics of degenerate matter and the evolution of stars to white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes; nucleosynthesis in supernova explosions; dynamics of mass transfer in binary systems; viscous accretion disks in star formation and x-ray binaries.

Requisite: Four semesters of Physics. Omitted 2006-07.

52. Astrophysics II: Galaxies. (ASTFC) Physical processes in the gaseous interstellar medium: photoionization in HII regions and planetary nebulae; shocks in supernova remnants and stellar jets; energy balance in molecular clouds. Dynamics of stellar systems: star clusters and the Virial Theorem; galaxy rotation and the presence of dark matter in the universe; spiral density waves. Quasars and active galactic nuclei: synchrotron radiation; accretion disks; supermassive black holes.

Requisite: Four semesters of Physics. Second semester. Professor Mo

73, 74. Reading Course. Students electing this course will be required to do extensive reading in the areas of astronomy and space science. Two term papers will be prepared during the year on topics acceptable to the Department.

Open to seniors. First and second semesters. The Department.

77, 78. Senior Departmental Honors. Opportunities for theoretical and observational work on the frontiers of science are available in cosmology, cosmogony, radio astronomy, planetary atmospheres, relativistic astrophysics, laboratory astrophysics, gravitational theory, infrared balloon astronomy, stellar astrophysics, spectroscopy, and exobiology. Facilities include the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Laboratory for Infrared Astrophysics, balloon astronomy equipment (16-inch telescope, cryogenic detectors), and modern 24- and 16-inch Cassegrain reflectors. An Honors candidate must submit an acceptable thesis and pass an oral examination. The oral examination will consider the subject matter of the thesis and other areas of astronomy specifically discussed in Astronomy courses.

Open to seniors. Required of Honors students. First and second semesters. The Department.

97, 98. Special Topics. Independent Reading Course.

First and second semesters. The Department.

 

 

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