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Astronomy 352K - Fall 2007
TTh 9:30-10:45 · RLM 15.216B · Unique No. 50620


Harriet Dinerstein

Office: RLM 16.324
Hours: M 1-2, W 10:30-11:30
Phone: (512) 471-3449

Course Website

ngc 2170


Amanda Bayless


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 presentations.


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 simple calculus.

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!

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31 August 2007
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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