Submitted by Fulvio Melia (inactive) on Wednesday, 8/17/2011, at 5:03 PM


  • Cracking the Einstein Code (2009), Melia, F. (The University of Chicago Press; ISBN-13: 978-0226519517)
  • The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy (2003), Melia, F. (Princeton University Press; ISBN-13: 978-0691095059)
  • The Edge of Infinity: Supermassive Black Holes in the Universe (2003), Melia, F. (Cambridge University Press; ISBN-13: 978-0521814058)

Topics covered during the semester


  • Ancient astronomy
  • Powers of 10
  • Our place in the Universe
  • Basic astronomical terms and concepts

Birth of Modern Astronomy

(The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy: Chapter 3)
  • The Copernican revolution
  • Galileo's experiments
  • Kepler's laws
  • Newton's description of nature

The Earth-Sun-Moon System

  • Types of motion
  • Newtonian mechanics
  • Application to the solar system


(The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy: Chapter 2)
  • Protostars
  • Spectral types
  • The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram
  • Binary stars
  • Stellar explosions

Space and Time: the language of Astronomy

(Cracking the Einstein Code: Chapters 1-9)
  • Special Relativity
  • Time dilation
  • Frames of reference and Simultaneity
  • The Equivalence Principle
  • General Relativity
  • Black Holes
  • Gravitational lensing
  • Gravitational waves


(The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy: Chapter 6; The Edge of Infinity: Chapters 1, 2, 4)
  • Supermassive Black Holes
  • Our Galactic center
  • The extragalactic universe
  • Distance scales

The Expanding Universe

  • Doppler shifts
  • The Hubble law
  • The Cosmological Principle
  • Cosmological models

The Big Bang

  • The Cosmic Microwave Background
  • The first three minutes
  • The origin of elements
  • The missing mass and Dark Matter

Large-scale Structure Formation

(The Edge of Infinity: Chapters 5, 6)
  • The formation of structure and galaxies
  • Galactic evolution
  • Galaxy types
  • Quasars and supermassive black holes

Our Place in the Universe

  • Measuring the Hubble constant
  • The age of the Universe
  • The Anthropic Principle
  • Where are they? (Are we alone?)
  • The ultimate fate of the Universe