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AST 352K · Stellar Astronomy    1   2   3   4  


In case you are not aware of the following resources, if you have questions or problems regarding this class that is not resolved by discussions with the instructor or T.A., you may consult other departmental personnel with responsibility for student matters. The key people include:

  • Char Burke, Student Coordinator, RLM 15.202AA, 471-3350,
  • Prof. Gregory Shields, Undergraduate Studies Chair, 471-1402,
  • Prof. Shardha Jogee, Undergraduate Majors Advisor, 471-1395,
  • Prof. Neal Evans, Department Chair, 471-3302,
Finally, you should be aware of the Astronomy Weekly Calendar, which lists all seminars and colloquia for the current week, at The Astronomy department sponsors a lively set of talks on current research in astronomy every week, given by members of our community ranging from graduate students (and sometimes undergraduates), postdoctoral fellows, faculty and research scientists, and visitors. As long as a seminar is listed on the calendar, it is open to anyone. You should feel free to sit in on talks that look interesting. Even if you only understand a small fraction of what is said, you'll have learned something! In particular, keep an eye on the Stellar Seminar, on Wednesdays from noon to 1 PM. (Yes, you can bring your lunch!)

PRELIMINARY LIST OF TOPICS: Below is a list of topics that I have included in previous offerings of Ast 352K. The order in which we cover these topics may be somewhat different from that shown below, and some topics may be omitted while others are added. In particular, some topics that are not on the list may be covered in the student presentations. (Note: One of the reasons for covering positional astronomy and the basics of stellar photometry early in the semester is to coordinate this classroom-style course with the accompanying lab, Ast 152M.)

  • Positions of Stars on the Sky: celestial sphere, astronomical coordinate systems, precession
  • Radiation: electromagnetic spectrum, quantities of radiation (intensity, flux), blackbodies
  • Photometric Properties of Stars: luminosity, magnitude scale, filter photometry, color index
  • Effects of the Earth's Atmosphere: extinction, refraction,"seeing," emission
  • Telescopes and Techniques, astronomical instrumentation and detectors
  • The Physics of Spectral Lines: Bohr atom, absorption and emission lines, Doppler shift
  • Spectroscopic Properties of Stars: spectral types, Boltzmann and Saha equations
  • The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram: the key to understanding stellar evolution
  • General Motions of Stars: proper motion and radial velocity, moving groups
  • Orbital Motions of Stars: types of binary stars, derivation of stellar masses
  • Stellar Ensembles: star clusters, stellar populations in the Milky Way

The University of Texas at Austin requires students to take a certain number of courses with a substantial writing component (SWC), in order to provide training in a skill - effective communication through writing - that is essential for almost any profession or career. A similar skill, that is also necessary for professional scientists and people in many fields of endeavor, is the ability to give oral presentations that engage an audience and effectively convey information. In Ast 352K, I include practice in oral communication as a secondary goal for the course. Towards the end of the semester - either in mid-November or during the last two weeks of the semester (to be determined) - each student in the class will give a roughly 20 minute presentation on a topic which they have researched in depth. This research will include dipping into the professional astronomical literature. Some sample topics from previous years include Adaptive Optics, Spectra of Brown Dwarfs, Searches for Exoplanets, Protostars, and many others. (Note: If you pick a popular topic, you may have to split it with someone else!)

As a warm-up for this exercise (and an incentive for taking good notes in class), students will also have to prepare brief summaries of the material covered in a given class and present them at the beginning of the following class. This task includes preparing a 1 - 2 page written version of the summary. On average, each student will have to give two summaries. The summaries will be posted on the class website, and will also be used as study tools.

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