Introduction to Astrophysics
Subject to revisions until January 1 2017
- Instructors: Christopher Fassnacht, Stefano Valenti, Matt Richter, Cristian Eduard Rusu
- Prerequisites: Algebra II
- Typical Field Trips: Rotary Community Observatory, Lick Observatory, California Academy of Sciences, NASA Ames
This cluster consists of three interrelated core courses that will be taught throughout the duration of the cluster. The courses are: “Foundations of Astronomy”, “Star and Planet Formation and Evolution”, and "Intro to Cosmology". These courses are intended to provide students with a good background in some of the most important aspects of astrophysics, and then to apply this knowledge to some of the most interesting recent discoveries in the field. In addition, the students will work on research projects in astrophysics.
Foundations of Astronomy
There are some key ideas that every astronomer needs to know, and this course will cover those core concepts. We will discuss the basics of how telescopes work and why different kinds of telescopes are important for different applications. We'll also talk about how astronomers use various types of detectors to measure different frequencies of light, from radio waves all the way up to gamma rays. Students will also learn important astronomy terminology and basic measurement concepts, such as the magnitude system. We will talk about how the sky moves, how astronomers find particular objects in the sky, and the basic methods used to determine the distance to different astronomical objects, a fundamental measurement in astronomy and cosmology. This course will give students a solid grasp of the practical steps necessary to turn light from the sky into a meaningful measurement that tells us about the Universe.
Star and Planet Formation and Evolution
We will examine aspects of the formation and evolution of stars and associated planetary systems from the initial collapse of interstellar gas to the likely consequences as stars no longer fuse hydrogen in their cores. We will discuss methods for detecting and studying pre-stellar material, disks around stars, and planets around stars. This will include discussion of what we know about the chemical makeup of stars and planets of various types.
Introduction to Cosmology
How did the Universe begin? Will it ever end? Are there other universes out there? In this class we will discuss the evidence for the expansion of the Universe, the Big Bang, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and explore what our current understanding of those implies f
or the ultimate fate of the Universe.