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 2021 Undergraduate Courses
Instructors: Christopher F. Chyba, Michael Abram Strauss
Topics in Modern Astronomy
The solar system and planets around other stars; the structure and evolution of stars; supernovae, neutron stars, and black holes; gravitational waves; the formation and structure of galaxies; cosmology, dark matter, dark energy, and the history of the entire universe. Compared to AST 203, this course employs more mathematics and physics. Intended for quantitatively-oriented students.
Instructors: Joshua Nathan Winn
The Science of Fission and Fusion Energy
Power from the nucleus offers a low-carbon source of electricity. However, fission power also carries significant risks: nuclear proliferation (North Korea, Iran), major accidents (Chernobyl, Fukushima), and waste disposal (Yucca Mountain). Fusion carries fewer risks, but the timetable for its commercialization is uncertain. We will delve into the scientific underpinnings of these two energy sources, so you can assess them for yourselves. A benefit of this course is that you will expand your scientific and computational 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 ISM and of stars. 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: Eve Charis Ostriker