Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics

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.

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Course Structure

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

Course Materials

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About Professor Charles Bailyn

Charles Bailyn is the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Astronomy and Physics and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Astronomy at Yale. He earned a B.S. in astronomy and physics from Yale in 1981 and a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard in 1987. His recent research efforts have focused on observations of binary star systems containing black holes and on stellar collisions in dense star clusters. He has lectured on "How To See a Black Hole" to school groups, Yale alumni, and amateur astronomical societies. He is the author of over 100 scientific papers, and his work was featured in the PBS mini-series, Mysteries of Deep Space.

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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.

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