Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics

Course Number
ASTR 160
About the Course

This course focuses on three particularly interesting areas of astronomy that are advancing very rapidly: Extra-Solar Planets, Black Holes, and Dark Energy. Particular attention is paid to current projects that promise to improve our understanding significantly over the next few years. The course explores not just what is known, but what is currently not known, and how astronomers are going about trying to find out.

Course Structure
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2007.

Syllabus

Professor
Charles Bailyn, Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Astronomy and Physics
Description

This course focuses on three particularly interesting areas of astronomy that are advancing very rapidly: Extra-Solar Planets, Black Holes, and Dark Energy. Particular attention is paid to current projects that promise to improve our understanding significantly over the next few years. The course explores not just what is known, but what is currently not known, and how astronomers are going about trying to find out.

Texts

See reading assignments for individual lectures

Requirements

There will be weekly problem sets that contain both quantitative problems and essay-type questions. Policies for lateness and collaboration on problem sets are described in the short essay, Problem Sets in Theory and Practice [PDF].

There will be two in-class tests, and a final exam. All of these exams will be open book, but electronic aids, including calculators, are not allowed.

Discussion sections are required and will form a crucial part of the course: part of each section will be devoted to understanding the current problem set. There will be an optional 6-12 page paper [PDF]. It will be worth 10% and will reduce the weight of the weakest major portion of the grade from 30% to 15%. However, no problems sets or tests can be dropped altogether.

Grading

Problem sets: 30%
Two in-class exams: 30% (20% for the stronger grade, 10% for the weaker one)
Discussion section attendance and participation: 10%
Final examination: 30%

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Course Books and Other Related Titles

Yale University Press offers a 10% discount on the books used in ASTR 160 that it publishes, as well as on other related titles. A portion of the proceeds from your purchases will be donated for the ongoing support and development of the Open Yale Courses program.