Class Information

Aim of the Course

The aim of the course is to show you how gravity interacts with matter and radiation to create the dazzling variety of astronomical objects and environments that we see, from the small (our Solar System) to the large (the Universe).

The emphasis of the course is on the physics of astronomy. As far as possible, we start from physical principles and show how they manifest themselves in the sky. We try to avoid making an inventory of astronomical objects and explaining how each object works in turn. Apart from anything else, there are a lot of different objects in astronomy, and it is hard to keep track of them this way!

The course aims to foster quantitative as well as qualitative understanding. However, the calculations we do are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Usually, we will be satisfied with order-of-magnitude estimates -- an important skill for anyone from a practising astrophysicist to an ecologist to an investment banker. Sometimes, when the physics is more subtle, we will turn to a rigorous calculation, but always for a system that is clean enough to allow an elegant, instructive analysis.


Physics 7A and 7B. Math 1A and 1B. In addition, Astro 7A (Fall) is strongly recommended as a prerequisite for Astro 7B (Spring).

I will assume that

If any of these things does not apply to you, please arrange to see me as soon as possible. Also, see me if you do not have access to a computer for Web surfing.

I know that people come to the course from different backgrounds. Rest assured that everything new will be explained fully in lectures. Even some of the things you should already know will be reviewed, albeit briefly, and you will have the chance to develop your understanding through frequent homework problems. However, you must please tell me or the GSIs right away if we assume knowledge you do not have, or if you are becoming lost generally, so that we can help before it is too late.

Supplementary General Texts

On closed reserve.

Back to Main