PC 358 - Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology

Block 7, 2019

Course Information

About 14 billion years ago, all of the universe that we see today was contained in a vanishingly small volume. Since then, the universe has expanded at a sometimes explosive rate. It could well be that during the earliest epoch of expansion the universe increased in size by a factor of about 1043 in about 10-34seconds! A few minutes after this exponential expansion the primordial atoms of hydrogen and helium were formed. As the universe expanded and cooled the atoms fell together and coalesced to form all that we see today—stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies. Many galaxies contain supermassive black holes that power huge jets of material that spew from the galaxy's center. The universe contains a myriad of exotic objects. Understanding how the universe developed and how these exotic objects work is the goal of this course. We will start by studying our own galaxy and then explore the workings of other galaxies, and finally study the universe as a whole. We will try to understand how the universe developed, what it is made of, and try to predict it's ultimate fate.


Shane Burns
e-mail: sburns@coloradocollege.edu
Phone: 6580
Course web site: http://faculty1.coloradocollege.edu/~sburns/Courses/18-19/PC358


The text for the course is An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics: 2nd edition by Carroll and Ostlie. The book, often called BOB for "big orange book", is big, but it contains everything. We will be covering most of the last half of the book in this course. This part of the book covers extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. The first half of the book covers stellar astrophysics and is covered in PC 357 - Astrophysics. If you plan on taking the PC 357, keep the book. It's an outstanding reference that covers all of astrophysics. If you plan a career in astronomy or some related field, keep it as a reference.


Tentative reading and homework assignments are listed in the course schedule. The problems listed on the schedule are the ones that I consider absolutely essential and will be the ones assigned grades. We will spend most of each class discussing the text and problems assigned the previous day. I suggest that you read the text with a pencil and paper handy to fill-in steps in derivations and jot down questions to ask in class. Working problems is essential to understanding the material. In physics, one learns by doing.

The grading scheme for the homework is designed to encourage you to make a serious attempt at the problems before coming to class, but not to penalize you significantly if you don’t get it the first time. You will be given full credit for each problem correctly finished before class starts and 80% credit for problems attempted before class and corrected by 3:00 PM that day. I’ll give 50% credit if you have finished the problem correctly by 3:00 PM, but didn’t attempt it before class. No credit will be given for late homework without prior approval.

Work together! I strongly encourage everyone in the class to work together on the homework problems. The class includes me. We will typically have the afternoons free. I’ll do my best to either be in my office or in the classroom every afternoon to help with reading and homework.

Homework Solutions will be kept in a three ring binder in the seminar room. Solutions will be put in the binder after 4:00 PM on the day the homework is due.

Honor System

Colorado College operates on a student-run Honor System. Here is how the Honor Code applies to this course.

Disability Accommodations

If you experience any kind of disability, whether apparent or non-apparent, learning, physical, or cognitive, and you need some accommodations in this course please feel free to speak with me privately as soon as possible to discuss reasonable accommodations. Given the pace of the block plan, retroactive accommodations are often impossible. If you have not already done so, please register with Accessibility Services (Armstrong 211, 719-227-8285), the office responsible for coordinating accommodations and services for students with disabilities.

Diversity Commitment

Colorado College is committed to building and maintaining a more diverse and inclusive institution. I want you to know that I am personally committed to creating an inclusive environment in this course—one that values diversity. However, because of my limited background, I might say or do something that is contrary to that goal. I assure you that if I do this, it is because of my naivete and not on purpose. If I do say something that you find offensive or insensitive, please let me know. I want to learn how to be more sensitive to these issues.


See the course schedule for dates.

Homework 20%
Quizzes (2 at 20% each) 40%
Final Exam 40%