PHYSICS_3471 "Introductory Astrophysics" Fall 2016

Class Home page:

Instructor:  Dr. Jason Pinkney
Class time and place:  MWF, 2:00-2:50 pm,   SA 116B
Department:  Physics and Astronomy
Office hours:  in 111 Science Annex at  these times .
Email: or call 419-772-2740. 
Instructor's Home page:
CRN: 23420
Credit Hours: 3 hrs

Text: Modern Astrophysics ,(2nd Ed, 2007)   by B.W. Carroll, and D.A Ostlie F.  ISBN # 0-201-54730-9.
Used copies of BOB (the Big Orange Book) can be purchased online for a reasonable price, or in the bookstore.   It helps if you have had some intro astronomy (especially PHYS 1061) before taking this course. Introductory astronomy textbooks are kept on hand in SA 116 for reference. These may be handy when researching your presentation topic.

Course Description:
In this introduction to astrophysics, we will apply physics to the awesome phenomena of the universe. PHYS 3471 will go into detail when describing certain aspects of planets, stars and galaxies, while PHYS 1051 and 1061 cover a wider range of phenomena much less quantitatively. Our topics will include the celestial coordinate system, orbital dynamics of the planets and binary stars (Kepler's laws), light from stars and blackbodies, galaxies, and cosmology. You will learn of the most recent developments in astrophysics through student presentations during the last two weeks. We will primarily use intermediate-level math: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, derivatives and integrals. Your primary goal should be to acquire the physics and math tools needed to better understand the observations of astronomers.  You will strengthen your knowledge of mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetic theory and get possibly your first glimpses of quantum physics and relativity.   There is an observational component to this course whereby each student will obtain hands-on experience with telescopes and CCD detectors at the ONU Observatory .

A tentative calendar of topics is outlined below.

     (Watch this spot for new links, outlines, solutions, etc.)

Week 1 outline. PDF (use adobe acrobat or xpdf)

Schedule ( Tentative )

Exams: There will be a midterm exam and a final. 45%
Quizzes.  Expect 7-10 quizzes.  20%
Homework.  Approximately weekly. 
Presentation on "New Developments in ____________"
Observing. 4 visits and quiz questions. 5%

Your final letter grade is assigned roughly as follows:


I will not to grade any "harder" than the above. However, as the class mean drops below ~75, I will grade more leniently. 

Week of Topic Chapter(s) Graded material
8/22,24,26 The Naked Eye Universe (history, coordinate systems, motions)

The Sky, Telescopes and detectors.
1, 6.2
quiz1,  Hwk1
Labor Day

Celestial Mechanics  -- Planets. 2, 18.1
Celestial Mechanics  --  Planets, Binary stars.
2, 7.2
quiz2, Hwk3
Celestial Mechanics -- Virial Theorem, clusters. 2, 27.3 quiz3,  Hwk4
Light -- parallax, magnitudes, light as a wave
3 quiz4, Hwk 5
Light -- blackbodies, spectroscopy
3, 5
quiz5, Hwk 6
10/10,11 FALL BREAK

10/12,14 Light -- Light as a particle, Bohr atom, quantum #s 5, 9.2 EXAM
10/17,19,21 Stellar properties -- spectral types, binaries
Hwk 7
10/24,26,28 Stellar properties -- binary stars, interiors   [Presentation topics.] 7, 10 quiz6, Hwk 8
10/31,11/2,4 Milky Way - star counting
24 quiz 7, Hwk 9
11/7,9,11 Galaxies
25, 26 quiz8, Hwk 10
11/14,16,18 Galaxies - active, black holes 28 quiz9, Hwk 11
11/21-25 Thanksgiving Recess
11/28,30,12/2 Presentations / Cosmology 29 quiz10, Hwk 12
12/5,7,9 Presentations / Cosmology. 29 Presentation
 12/12 Mon 2:00-4:00   Final, in usual classroom. _ Final EXAM.

Course Policies

Attendance is important for doing well in this course.  Absenteeism can directly lower your grade if you miss a quiz or a homework discussion.  Let me know in advance (e-mail is good) if you plan to miss for a valid reason (e.g. your team is on the road, you are sick, you have a family emergency).  If you miss a quiz or exam because of an emergency, let me know as soon as possible, and provide proof of the emergency.

Homework will consist mainly of astrophysics problems. There may be other in-class worksheets that are included in the homework grade. Reading and preparing to discuss the textbook is important. Your homework will not be accepted after the majority of the grading is done. If you foresee yourself missing a deadline because of an excusable absence, again, let me know ahead of time.  I encourage you to discuss homework with your classmates unless otherwise specified.

Quizzes may be given on non-exam weeks, with the first one on a Monday. They cover the assigned reading and especially the material discussed in class.  You can only make up a quiz that was missed because of a valid conflict or emergency.  Also, you can only make up the quiz before the answers are revealed (usually the next period). 

Exams will weigh most heavily towards your class grade.  There will be a midterm and a final, roughly equally weighted.  The final exam will be comprehensive, but will emphasize the last material. 

Final Presentation - you will give a presentation during the last 2 weeks of class on new discoveries made in some major subfield of astronomy since ~2000.  I'd like to fit 2 presentations in a class period, so aim for a 15-20 minute presentation (Powerpoint) and it will be followed by 5-10 minutes of discussion.  Each presentation should be on a different topic.  I'll provide suggestions along the way.  Choose a topic and tell me your choice by week 10. 

Observing at the ONU Observatory .   I will try to have several opportunities for you to visit the ONU Observatory . I have to be there to let you in. I'd like you to visit during Public Events (about every other Friday) and with the Astronomy Club (every other Wednesday, beginning 8/27, from about 9-10:30). I may also schedule some special meetings for this class to show you our telescopes and CCD detectors. You are required to visit 4 times for full credit. Use the legal pad at the observatory to sign in.  Dress more warmly than you normally do when walking outside.
   I will lecture on telescopes and the basics of CCD image reduction. Quiz questions on this material will determine about half your grade in the "Observing" category which makes up 5\% of your overall grade.

Disruptions. If you are interfering with the learning of the class, or you are distracting the teacher, you need to stop.   Texting and surfing the web are considered disruptive. Don't arrive too late or leave too early without an urgent personal reason.  

Cheating during quizzes and exams will not be tolerated. You may get one warning before you get a zero on that test. For homework assignments, it is usually acceptable and even encouraged to work in groups. However, you should not copy entire solutions from another person without trying to do the problem yourself. Show me some evidence of your "honest" effort. I will devise penalties for obvious copying if the need arises.
Here is the Code of Academic Student Conduct from the College of A&S:
The University expects its students to conduct themselves in a dignified and honorable manner as mature members of the academic community and assumes that individually and collectively they will discourage acts of academic dishonesty. The University also expects cooperation among administrators, faculty, staff, and students in preventing acts of academic dishonesty, in detecting such acts, reporting them, and identifying those who commit them, and in providing appropriate punishment for offenders. The University Code of Academic Student Conduct is found in Appendix C of the Student Handbook:

Tutoring is provided by yours truly.

  Astronomy Links Pinkney's Homepage The ONU Physics Homepage
NED (NASA Extragalactic Database) LANL arXive/astro-ph (abstract service) ADS (abstract service)