AST 201 Fall 1997 Detailed Syllabus and Reading for Unit I.


Light is important because it is the only way to obtain data for almost all astronomical objects. Must understand that light covers entire range of EM spectrum, not just visible light. On the other hand, most astronomical observations have been made in the optical (visible) and radio as these are wavelength regions accessible from the ground (the atmosphere is transparent at those wavelengths).
Reading: Ch. 3.1. Date: 8/25


Astronomical observations are made by remote sensing. These give numerical data. Must have theoretical (mathematical) framework to interpret the numerical data, and infer physical quantities of interest (e.g. temperature, mass, distance of objects). Important to understand interplay between observations, theory and inferred quantities. Must accept that much of the theory is beyond the scope of this class and will just be presented, but can still be used to make inferences.
Date: 8/27

3. Theory I.

Mathematical description of radiation in terms of intensity, flux, luminosity and surface brightness.
Reading: Ch. 4.1. Date: 8/27

4. Theory II.

Mathematical description of blackbody radiation - commonly used as model for radiation from thermal sources (e.g. stars).
Reading: Ch. 5.6. Date: 8/28

5. Observations I.

How optical telescopes and instruments are used to detect the brightness of astronomical objects. Description of photometric data, filters, colors, magnitudes, the effects of the atmosphere.
Reading Ch. 3,4. Date: 8/29

6. Inferences I. Inferring distance - the inverse square law and magnitudes. Inferring temperatures - colors and the blackbody description.
Reading: Ch. 4,5,6. Date: 9/3

9/4 Recitation section

Go over homework problems, lecture questions

7. Theory III.

Atoms and energy levels, spectral line formation, the hydrogen atom.
Reading: Ch. 5. Date: 9/5

8. Observations II.

How radio telescopes and instruments work.
(Guest lecturer Professor S. Simkin) Reading: Ch. 3.4. Date: 9/8

9. Lab problem.

The energy levels of the hydrogen atom (lab problem for homework set #1).
Date: 9/10

9/11 Recitation section

Go over homework problems, lecture questions, continue work on lab if needed.

10. Homework #1 due, Quiz #1 (in class).

Date: 9/12