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ASTR 367 – Astrophysics I: Fall 2023

Instructor: Dr. Maura Mclaughlin

Contact details:


Aim: The goal of this course is to give you a good working understanding of stellar properties, how stars generate energy, and how stars are born and die. We will become familiar with the properties (e.g. temperatures, ages, chemical compositions) of stars and the different states of matter that make up stars. We will understand hydrostatic equilibrium, nuclear fusion and energy transport. We will follow the lifecycles of different types of stars and understand the properties of the different end-points.

We will concentrate on understanding the physics of stars using simple calculations covering a very large range of physical principles. Many of our calculations will be order-of-magnitude and back-of-the-envelope. Secondary goals of the course are to understand what the current important problems in the field are, and to be able to interpret and communicate scientific results that are related to the topics we will cover in the course.

While this course is designed to prepare students for careers as astrophysicists, the physics we will cover has a very broad range of applications, and the approach to problems should help in tackling difficult problems in many areas of physics.

Prerequisites: No astronomy knowledge is required. Introductory physics and calculus are mandatory. Modern physics is desirable but not required.

Text: The (mostly) required textbook for this course is

An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics by Carroll and Ostlie

This is available in the campus bookstore. Other textbooks that I will use are

An Introduction to the Theory of Stellar Structure and Evolution by Prialnik
Radiative Processes in Astrophysics by Rybicki and Lightman
Principles and Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis by Clayton
Black Holes, White Dwarfs and Neutron Stars by Shapiro and Teukolsky
Introductory Astronomy and Astrophysics by Zeilik and Gregory

These texts are on reserve at the library.

I have have MANY introductory astronomy texts in my office (free samples from publishers) that you are MORE than welcome to borrow if you would like to brush up on the basics.


Homeworks and Exams: Homework will be assigned roughly weekly, to be due IN CLASS one week later. I encourage you to talk with each other about the homework, but the actual solutions must be your own. Late homeworks will not be accepted, but I will drop the lowest one. There will be two in-class exams and a final exam, which will not be cumulative. These obviously must be done completely on your own! If you cannot make an exam, please let me know in advance so you can take a makeup exam in advance. If you miss the exam without letting me know in advance you will receive a zero grade.

Attendance: There is no specific attendance requirement for this course. However, since we will have lots of class discussions and since I will pull material from several different sources for the lectures, you will do much better in the course if you attend.

Grading: Your grade will be comprised of the following parts:

You will get at least the following letter grades for the following percentage grades in this course.