Stars are obviously fundamental to the subject of astronomy; its very name means "the study of stars"!
Stars are the building blocks of galaxies, the central bodies of planetary systems, and the nuclear ovens in which all
of the elements heavier than helium were created. Astronomy 352K is a junior/senior-level introduction to stellar
astronomy and astrophysics designed for students majoring in astronomy or physics, or closely related majors. We
will approach the subject the way observational astronomers do, by starting from the observable properties of stars.
"Observables" are quantities that we can measure even from great distances, such as the color and brightness of the
light they emit. By applying basic physical principles, we will show how one can infer the intrinsic (true) properties of
stars - such as surface temperature, radius, and luminosity (total energy output in the form of radiation) - from these
observables. This requires us to understand the properties of light quantitatively, and how to interpret its characteristics
in terms of the physical conditions in and chemical composition of the light source. We will discuss the various instruments
and measurement techniques used by astronomers and what each can tell you. Some of the topics to be covered near the
end of the semester will be determined the interests of the students in this class, through your choices of topics for oral
PREREQUISITE & APPROACH:
Physics: The prerequisites are Physics 316 or equivalent (lower-division E&M), and its
prerequisite, Physics 301 (Mechanics), as well as the accompanying math courses. However,
astronomy draws on such a wide range of branches of physics - e.g. atomic structure,
statistical mechanics, and the theory of radiation - that we cannot expect you to have previously seen all of them.
So we will introduce the necessary physics as we go along. Furthermore, our main interest will lie in applying physical
principles to astronomical situations, rather than in carrying out derivations from scratch, and the mathematical
manipulations you will perform in the homework problems will mostly be at the level of algebra, trigonometry, and
Astronomy: Some of many of you have previously taken an introductory astronomy course such as Astronomy
307 or 301, or even other upper-division astronomy courses. None of these are prerequisites, although it may be helpful
to have some familiarity with common astronomical terms. If you find yourself confused by our obscure vocabulary, please
ask us (the instructor or T.A.) and we will be happy to explain what the terms mean!