This course, whose subject matter covers the entire universe, targets the frontiers of modern astrophysics. Topics include the planets of our solar system; the search for extrasolar planets and extraterrestrial life and intelligence; the birth, life, and death of stars; black holes; the zoo of galaxies and their evolution; the Big Bang and the expanding universe; and dark matter, dark energy, and the large-scale structure of the universe. This course is designed for the non-science major and has no prerequisites past high school algebra and geometry. High school physics would be useful, but is not required.
Spring 2019 Undergraduate Courses
Instructors: Christopher F. Chyba, Jo Dunkley, Goni Halevi, Mackenzie Moody, Justin Lloyd Ripley, Michael Abram Strauss
Topics in Modern Astronomy
This course provides a broad overview of modern astronomy and astrophysics for students in the sciences. Emphasis is on the application of basic physics to understanding of astronomical systems. Topics include the Solar System; planetary systems and exoplanets; the birth, life, and death of stars; white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; the Milky Way and distant galaxies; cosmology, dark matter and dark energy, and the history of the Universe.
Instructors: Scott Gwin Carlsten, Vassilis Tsiolis, Joshua Nathan Winn
The Science of Fission and Fusion Energy
Nuclear fission power offers a low-carbon source of electricity. However it also carries with it significant risks: nuclear proliferation (North Korea and Iran), major accidents (Fukushima), and waste disposal (Yucca Mountain). Fusion energy is moving towards realization as an alternative low-carbon source of energy from the nucleus. It carries fewer risks, but the timetable for its commercialization is not yet known. We will delve into the physics of these energy sources, so you can understand the issues for yourself. A benefit of this course is that you will expand your scientific skills by applying them to important real-world problems.
Instructors: Robert James Goldston
Stars and Star Formation
Stars form from interstellar gas, and eventually return material to the interstellar medium (ISM). Nuclear fusion powers stars, and is also the main energy source in the ISM. This course discusses the structure and evolution of the gaseous and stellar components of galaxies. Topics include: physical properties and methods for studying ionized, atomic, and molecular gas in the ISM; dynamics of magnetized gas flows and turbulence; gravitational collapse and star formation; the structure of stellar interiors; production of energy by nucleosynthesis; stellar evolution and end states; the effects of stars on the interstellar environment.
Instructors: Alwin Mao, Eve Charis Ostriker