Center for Space Science and Astrophysics

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Courses

Although Stanford University does not have a degree program in astronomy or astrophysics, teaching and research in various branches of these disciplines is an ongoing activity in the departments of Applied Physics, Electrical Engineering, and Physics. For the convenience of students interested in the general areas of astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology, a course program for undergraduate and graduate study is listed below.

The program is especially committed to providing introductory courses for the student who wishes to be informed about the fields of astronomy without the need for prerequisites beyond high school algebra and physics. Astronomy courses numbered below 100 are designed to serve this group of students.

Astronomy courses numbered 100-199 serve the student interested in an initial scientific study of astronomy. The courses numbered 200 and above are for graduate students and advanced undergraduates, subject to prior approval by the course instructor.

Elementary Lecture

Observatory

Advanced Undergraduate

Graduate

Elementary Lecture

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PHYSICS

15A. The Nature of the Universe
Introduction to the structure, origin, and evolution of the universe. The objects which make up the universe: galaxies, stars, planets, etc. Enigmas of modern astronomy: dark matter, quasars, x-ray sources, black holes, and pulsars. Topics: the formation of the sun and planets; the formation and evolution of stars and the dynamics and evolution of our galaxy; the organization and dynamics of luminous and nonluminous matter in the universe; the creation, evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe; and the search for life beyond our solar system. GER:2a (DR:5) 3 units

15B. Cosmic Horizons
Possible topics: the physical laws that govern the universe; its evolution traced from the initial primeval fireball; the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets; and the development of life. Exotic astronomical objects, quasars, pulsars, and black holes. Some algebra used. GER:2a (DR:5) 3 units

18N Stanford Introductory Seminar: Revolutions in Concepts of the Cosmos
Preference to freshman. Faculty led dialogue. Introduction to four revolutionary changes in humanity's concept of the cosmos (explored at the Stanford Observatory): Copernicus' heliocentric model of the solar system, Herschel's concept of the galaxy as a collection of stars, Shapley's model of the Milky Way galaxy, and Hubble's dicovery that the universe is expanding. Enrollment limited to 20 students in one section. GER:2a (DR:5) 4 units

27. Evolution of the Cosmos
Similar to 15A or 15B but at a more quantitative level. The origin and evolution of astronomical objects, planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe at large, emphasizing modern developments in astronomy and elementary particle physics relevant to the subject matter. The development of life and the position of intelligent beings in the universe. Algebra used. Offered occasionally. Recommended: high school physics and calculus. GER:2a (DR:5) 3 units

81Q. Stanford Introductory Dialogue: Lookback Time in Cosmology
Preference to sophomores. The use of telescopes as "time machines" to see the history of the universe. Summary of the big bang, and galaxies and quasars at high redshift. How old is the universe? When did the first objects form? When were the elements created? What is the cosmic dark matter? Can we predict the future evolution of the cosmos? Discussion is at a semi-quantitative level: basic physics concepts are used without calculus. Directed reading, sample exercises, and (weather permitting) a term project observing distant galaxies and quasars at the Stanford teaching observatory. Prerequisites: elementary physics (21-25 or equivalent). 1 unit

82Q. Stanford Introductory Dialogue: Expanding Cosmic Horizons
Preference to sophomores. The history and structure of our cosmic environment. How recent advances in observations at various wavelengths are expanding the horizons of our knowledge. Possible topics: What are the properties of black holes? What is the nature, amount, and distribution of the "dark matter" which appears to dominate the universe? What is the geometry and fate of the universe? Prerequisite: freshman physics or equivalent. 1 unit

Observatory

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The following courses are intended to familiarize students with observational methods and analysis of astronomical data. 100 involves more advanced observations and is intended for students with some background in physics.

PHYSICS

50. Astronomy Laboratory and Observational Astronomy
The theory and use of the optical telescope and the interpretation of basic observational data of planets, stars, and galactic systems. Individual observations with a 14-inch Cassegrain telescope are supplemented by lectures/discussion of basic observational techniques, astronomical catalogs and coordinate systems, and the relation of observations to astrophysical models. Limited enrollment. Lab. GER:2a (DR:5) 3-4 units

100. Introduction to Observational and Laboratory Astronomy
Introduction to observational techniques in astronomy for physical science or engineering students. Emphasis is on measurement of fundamental astronomical parameters such as distance, temperature, mass, and composition of stars. Lecture and observation using the 14-inch telescope at the Stanford Student Observatory. Limited enrollment. Prerequisites: one year of physics, prior or concurrent registration in 25, 65, or 70; and consent of instructor. GER:2a (DR:5) 4 units

Advanced Undergraduate

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The following courses are for students with more advanced knowledge of basic physics and mathematics and form the core courses for a concentration in astrophysics for Physics majors.

ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING

106. Planetary Exploration
The other worlds of our solar system as revealed by recent space missions. Comparative properties of the terrestrial and Jovian planets; planetary atmospheres, surfaces, interiors, and rings; planetary and satellite orbits and spacecraft trajectories, orbital perturbations; properties of the interplanetary gas, dust, comets, and meteorites. What the planets can tell us about potential terrestrial catastrophies (acid rain, ozone depletion, nuclear winter, runaway greenhouse, collision with an asteroid or large comet). Origin and evolution of planetary systems. Remote sensing from spacecraft at radio, infrared, light, and ultraviolet wavelengths. U.S. and Russian space programs and their comparative engineering and scientific aspects. Prerequisite: one year of college engineering, mathematics, or physics.
3 units

GEOPHYSICS

195. Terrestrial Planets
Study of the available data of geology, volcanology, petrology, geodesy, heat flow, high pressure lab work, seismology, and solid state physics for developing an up-to-date understanding of the properties and processes of the interiors of the terrestrial planets. Emphasis is on current unresolved problems, including the formation of the planets and their thermal histories. 2-3 units

PHYSICS

160. Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics
Physics of the sun. Evolution and death of stars. White dwarfs, novae, planetary nebulae, supernovae, neutron stars, pulsars, binary stars, x-ray stars, and black holes. Galactic structure: interstellar medium, molecular clouds, HI and HII regions, star formation and element abundances. Prerequisites: calculus and one year of college physics at the level of the Physics 40 series or equivalent. 3 units

161. Introduction to Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology
Observations of the distances and compositions of objects on cosmic scales: galaxies, galaxy superclusters, quasars and diffuse matter at high redshift. Big bang cosmology, including cosmic expansion, the origin of matter and the elements, inflation, and creation of structure in the universe. Observational evidence for dark matter. Models for the fate of the universe. Emphasis is on physical processes in the early universe. Prerequisites: calculus and one year of college physics at the level of the 40 series. 3 units

169A, B, C. Independent Study in Astrophysics and Honors Thesis
Detailed study of a selected problem in astrophysics with one or more faculty members. While not all projects require three quarters, the sequence below suggests the format most projects are expected to follow. Projects may commerce in any quarter. 169A. Selection of the Problem—Selection of the problem to be studied and development of the theoretical apparatus or initial interpretation of the selected problem. Preparation of a detailed description of the problem and its background and a comprehensive discussion of the work planned in the subsequent two quarters. 1-9 units

169B. Continuation of Project
Substantial completion of the required computations or data analysis for the research project selected. 1-9 units

169C. Completion of Project
Completion of research and writing of a detailed paper presenting methods used and results. 1-9 units

Graduate

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APPLIED PHYSICS

363. Solar and Solar-Terrestrial Physics
Structure, mechanisms, and properties of the sun's interior and atmosphere; solar wind and its variability; solar activity; coronal mass ejections; UV, X-ray, and high-energy particle emission. Earth's magnetosphere. Interaction of the solar wind with the earth's magnetosphere and its terrestrial effects. The sun's electromagnetic radiation effect on the terrestrial environment. Prerequisite: Physics 221 or equivalent. 3 units, alternate years

PHYSICS

260. Introduction to Astrophysics
Basic properties of stars, galaxies, and the universe. Physical processes for production of radiation from cosmic sources. Structure and evolution of the universe and its constituent galaxies and stars. Models of the early universe and the relation between particle physics and cosmology. Prerequisites: 111, 122, 171. 3 units

262. Introduction to Gravitation
Tensor analysis: special relativity, the energy-momentum tensor, and curvature. Einstein's equations: weak fields, tests, spherically-symmetric solutions, gravitational waves. Cosmology, black holes, stellar structure, and other topics in astrophysics, as time permits. Prerequisites: 111, 122. 3 units

301. Astrophysics Laboratory
Combined seminar/lab investigating the fundamental observational basis of physical models of astronomical objects. Observational component uses the 14-inch telescope at the Stanford Observatory and ancillary photometric and spectroscopic instrumentation. Emphasis is on spectroscopic and photometric observation of main sequence, post-main sequence, and variable stars. Limited enrollment. Offered occasionally. Prerequisite: consent of instructor. 3 units

360. Physics of Astrophysics
Theoretical concepts and tools for modern astrophysics. Radiation transfer equations, and scattering and absorption processes: Compton, synchrontron photoionization, lines, and Bremsstrahlung. Equations of state of ideal, interacting, and degenerate gasses. Particle kinetic equations (Boltzmann, Fokker-Planck) and mechanisms for particle acceleration and transport. Application to ionization and dust scattering in HII regions and high-energy astrophysics sources such as accretion disks, X-ray and radio sources. Prerequisites: 122, 171. 3 units

361. Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics
Basic astronomical data on stars, star clusters, interstellar medium, and the Milky Way galaxy. Basic theory of stellar structure; hydrostatic equilibrium, radiation balance, and energy production. Stellar formation, Jean's mass and protostars. Evolution of stars to the main sequence and beyond to red giants, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Structure of the Milky Way; the disk and spiral arms, central bulge or bar, black hole, the halo and mass of the galaxy. Prerequisites: 221, and 260 or 360. 3 units

362. Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology
Basic observational data on galaxies and their activities, cosmic microwave background radiation, gravitational lensing and dark matter in the universe. Models of the origin, structure, and evolution of the universe based on the theory of general relativity. Test of the models. Physics of the early universe, inflation, Baryosynthesis, nucleosynthesis and galaxy formation. Prerequisites: 210, 211, 260 or 360, 262. 3 units

364. Advanced Gravitation
Fundamental principles and experiments. Differential geometry. General structure of Einstein's equations. Major applications from: cosmology, stars, black holes, generation and detection of gravitational radiation. Prerequisites: 220, 221. 3 units

463. Special Topics in Astrophysics
Research level discussions of current topics in astrophysics. Content varies each quarter and year, depending on the interests of staff and students. Topics to be announced. Offered occasionally. 3 units

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