Jones & Lambourne, Galaxies and Cosmolgy

On-Line Syllabus, Spring 2005

ASTR 414:
Introductory Astrophysics

Dr. Richard Gelderman
230 Thompson Complex, Central Wing
Dept of Physics and Astronomy
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, KY 42101-3576

  • Course Description

    PHYS 414 is a 4-credit lecture course covering topics such as extragalactic astrophysics, cosmology, and General Relativity, designed for science majors at the junior or senior level.

  • Required Text
  • Course Goals and Philosophy

    There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers
    exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here,
    it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
    There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
    --- Douglas Adams

    In past decade, our understanding of the cosmos has ceased to be a matter of philosophic speculation and grown into a field of quantifiably precise scientific investigation. A fairly clear understanding of the structure of the universe is one of the most remarkable achievements of the 20th century. Starting with an understanding of galaxies, we will use the observed properties of galaxies to trace the large scale structure and evolution of our universe.

    It is important that students take responsibility for their education. Ask questions, both inside and outside the classroom. Discuss the material with friends and classmates how this course relates to the real world. Manage your time and do not cram for exams. The student and professor make a team, you both want to learn the material and earn a good grade. Click here to view a brief essay on how to achieve academic success.

    NOTICES: Bulletins, schedule changes, and general announcements will be made in class. Please check frequently. Homework solutions will be available on the course homepage.

  • Students with Disabilities

    Students with disabilities who require accomodations (academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids or services) for this course must contact the Office for Student Disability Service, 445 Potter Hall, (270) 745-5004 V/TDD. Please do not request accomodations directly from the professor without a letter from the office of Student Disability Services.

  • Grading

    The final grade will be determined from the following formula:
    Final Grade = 10% Homework Avg + 20% lab exercises + 20% midterm exam + 20% final exam + 15% Research Paper #1 + 15% Research Paper #2

    Your grade for the course will be determined by your ultimate point total in comparison with the rest of the class. Appeals of test and homework grades will be considered up to a week after return of work. Later changes in grades are entirely at my discretion!

  • Office Hours

    I consider myself to be open and accessible to my students. You are always welcome to drop by my office to seek advice, discuss your progress, or ask questions. If my door is open and I am around, then I will do my best to make time to sit down with you. Anyone who finds that my availability does not live up to my desires can catch me during my scheduled office hours or make an appointment at our mutual convenience.

  • Attendance Policy

    I expect prompt and regular attendance. Material presented in lecture takes precedence over the text. Lectures will largely follow the order of the book, though lecture content may differ somewhat from the text. Students are advised to keep their notes up to date and to read the text as an accompaniment to their notes. Missed classes should be covered by obtaining notes from other students.

    You must attend all tests and the final exam at the scheduled times. If you are unable to take an exam with the rest of the class you must notify the instructor before the regularly scheduled exam time. The only makeup exams allowed after the class takes the test will be for students with a verified excuse of illness or extraordinary crisis. A missed exam will otherwise be scored as a zero.

  • Policy on Collaboration

    All work turned in for a grade must be your own. Collaboration is allowed only up to the point at which you determine the approach to solving a problem. When it comes time to actually solve a given problem and recordthe answer for grading, each student must work independently. No credit will be given for work that is not demonstrably your own. When solutions which are too similar are submitted for grading, a grade of zero will result for all parties involved. With the above restrictions in mind, studying and working in groups is strongly encouraged.

  • About the Homework

    Neatness and organization count! Make certain that the work you turn in for a grade is concise, legible, and easy to follow. The grader will not give credit if the solution is not complete or not easy to follow. State your assumptions, define your variables, give the relevant equations, and show the steps as you manipulate the formulae to solve the problem. It is strongly advised that you do not substitute numerical values for variables and constants until the final step. Clearly indicate your final answer. Clear, logically outlined homework will be valuable study aids when it is time to study for exams.

    Homework assignments are due at the time and date given in the course schedule. Solutions will be distributed in class, either during the lecture for which the homework was due or during the following lecture. No homework will be accepted after homework solutions are distributed. Assignments turned in after lecture begins, but before the solutions are posted, will be assessed a 50% penalty. The instructor will make every attempt to return the graded homework within a week. Appeals of homework grades will be considered up to one week after work is first returned to the class. Later changes in grades are entirely at the instructor's discretion.

  • About the Exams

    The questions will be primarily quantitative problems. A diligent effort to solve assigned homework and additional problems is the best strategy for a passing grade. However, be aware that the problems on the exams will be variations of the homework; a firm grasp of the big picture is needed to score high on exams.

    You are required to bring pencils and a calculator to each exam. The instructor will supply a sheet for each test with formulae and constants. No other outside material, notes, texts, etc., will be allowed.

    Individual exam grades will not be curved. Appeals of exam grades will be considered up to one week after tests are first returned to the class. Later changes in grades are entirely at the instructor's discretion.

  • About the Research Projects

    Each student will prepare and submit two separate papers, each of which discussing one of the outstanding research areas in astrophysics. The paper will be written in the form of a committee report establishing the nature and importance of some unsolved problem and providing demonstrable strategies for arriving at a solution for the chosen problem. For example, imagine the President of the United States decides to change the national funding priorities for astrophysics and has appointed you to lead the sub-panel to direct how agencies such as NASA, NSF, DOE, etc. should allocate money in order to arrive at a solution to one of the major unsolved problems. Your report will convince the reader why your particular topic is worthy of receiving this attention, clearly explain what is known and what is still unsolved about the topic (referencing current literature), and provide a logical plan for attacking the problem. Specifically, the simulated committee report must include:

    1. introduction section (150 to 250 words) -- establishes the connection of this report to the "big picture"; explicitly defines the area to be addressed and establishes why resolution of this issue is worthy of the cost
    2. background (500 to 1500 words) -- survey of the published research in this area, including citations to at least three review papers and at least twelve journal papers
    3. specific proposal to address the outstanding research area (1000 to 1500 words) -
    4. estimated timeline and required resources (one to three pages) -

    Paper 1, due at the beginning of class on 25 February, will report on unsolved problems related to normal galaxies.

    - age of globular clusters
    - forming/maintaining of bars in spirals, and effect on gas
    - forming/maintaining triaxial kinematics in ellipticals, and effects on star formation
    - formation/evolution of various types galaxies, and relationship between types
    - cannibalism/mergers of galaxies and effects on evolution of the galaxies

    Paper 2, due at the beginning of class on 22 April, will report on unsolved problems related to General Relativity and Cosmology.

    - gravitational waves
    - matter dominated universes
    - evidence for a cosmological constant
    - neutrino astronomy

    Students may choose from the above lists or, with instructor approval, may develop an alternative topic.

  • Course Schedule A weekly schedule of the material to be presented, with appropriate sections of the textbook, is available: ASTR 414 Course Schedule.

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