Institute of Astronomy

Introduction to Astrophysics

Introduction to Astrophysics (non-examinable) 

Michaelmas Term, 24 Lectures – Professor C. Mackay 

  1. Basics: Scale and content of Universe: Sizes and masses. Magnitudes, HR diagram, Distance determination, The Sun as a typical star, overview of stellar lifecycles, Newtonian mechanics, orbits, tides, blackbodies, continuum radiation mechanisms, spectra and line radiation. [4] 

  1. Telescopes, Instruments, and Observational Techniques: E-M radiation, gamma-rays, X-rays, UV, visible, IR, mm, radio, transparency of the atmosphere, Major space-based and ground-based facilities, S/N calculations. [2] 

  1. White Dwarfs and Neutron Stars: WD origin, structure, neutron star origin, structure, discovery of pulsars, observed properties, evolution, beaming, magnetic fields, magnetic dipoles, pulse timing, the utility of pulsaras, gravitational waves. [3] 

  1. Close Binary Stars: Observations, visual binaries, spectroscopic binaries, eclipsing binaries, masses and radii, consequences of a supernova, equipotentials, mass transfer, accretion discs, magnetic stars, evolution in binary systems, cataclysmic variables, the variety of binary systems, stellar mass black holes. [3] 

  1. Supernovae and Hypernovae: Types, energetics, rates, light curves, spectra, pre-cursors, remnants, radio-active decay, Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs), discovery, searches, observations, long and short duration GRBs, collapsar-hypernova model, merging of neutron stars and black holes, fireball-shock model, beaming. QSOs as a probe of the intergalactic medium. [3] 

  1. Active Galactic Nuclei: Discovery, observations, classification, energetics, standard model, host galaxies, reverberation mapping, jets, superluminal motion, unified models, QSO population evolution, black holes in non-AGN galaxies. [3] 

  1. Galaxies and Clusters of Galaxies: Structure and content, galaxies within them, hot X-ray gas, magnetic fields, dark matter, virial mass, tidal stripping, S-Z effect, cooling flows. [2] 

  1. Gravitational Lenses: Basic physics, Young diagrams, Einstein rings, critical surface mass density, strong lensing by galaxy clusters, caustics and critical lines, cluster masses, weak lensing, determining the hubble constant, micro-lensing, constraints on halo objects. [2] 

  1. Exoplanets: Discovery methods, statistics of known exoplanets, pulsar planets, hot jupiters, transits, planet formation, dust, proto-planetary discs, Hill radius, future observations, life. [2] 


Recommended Reading 

  • Shu, F.H., The Physical Universe, chaps. 5-10, University Science Books, California, (1982). 
  • Accretion Power in Astrophysics (Cambridge Astrophysics) Hardcover – 17 Jan. 2002 by Juhan Frank, Andrew King, Derek Raine. CUP 
  • † Carroll, B.W. & Ostlie, D.A. An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics (Addison-Wesley) 2017. 
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