Homepage for Ay121 (Fall 2007): Radiative Processes

Instructor:         Marc Kamionkowski
                        Bridge Annex 120
                        [email protected]
TAs:                Walter Max-Moerbeck
                        Robinson 053
                        [email protected]


                        Yacine Ali-Hamoud
                        Robinson 053
                        [email protected]                                       

The purpose of this class will be to learn about the various physical processes that produce the radiation (radio, IR, optical, UV, x-ray, gamma-ray) that we see from a variety of astrophysical sources.

Class times:    Tuesdays and Thursdays. 1-2:30pm, Robinson 105

Class structure:  The class will follow very closely the textbook by Rybicki
 and Lightman, with some additions from elsewhere.

Prerequisites:  This is a class on astrophysical applications of electrodynamics, special relativity, quantum mechanics (atomic physics), and some very basic optics, and it is assumed that you have studied these subjects at the advanced undergraduate level.  In particular, you should be familiar and have some facility with special relativity (Lorentz transformations), Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves, statistical mechanics (Maxwell-Boltzman, Fermi-Dirac, and Bose-Einstein distributions), quantum mechnics including the hydrogen atom and perturbation theory.  If any of these subjects are not familiar to you, please see the instructor or a TA for suggestions on background reading.

Homework:  There will be problem sets assigned almost weekly.  It is imperative that you do these problem sets.   This class is meant to provide you with valuable tools that can be applied in all areas of astronomy (and physics).   Moreover, since class time is limited, there will be some topics that you work out on your own in the problem sets. Iwill try to find problem sets that involve application of the subjects studied in class, and I will try to avoid problems that involve excessive and pointless algebra.  You should first try to do all of the problems by yourself.  If you run into trouble, you may consult with classmates and attempt to work out the problems together.  However, when you have figured out the solution, you should go your separate ways and then each write up the solutions from scratch.

Problem sets are due in class; there will be no extensions granted, and there will be no credit given for late homeworks.  In return for being diligent about turning in problem sets on time, solutions will be handed out the day the problem sets are due. 

Grade:     50% homework,  50% final exam.  The final exam will be closed book and closed notes.  To help you study, the test problems will be picked from a list of Rybicki and Lightman problems that will be provided well before the test.

Required Text:    Radiative Processes for Astrophysics by Rybicki and Lightman

Additional Suggested Text:     Interpreting Astronomical Spectra  by Emerson

Some other related and possibly useful books (on reserve in the astronomy library):
           The Physics of Astrophysics, Vol 1: Radiation  by Frank Shu
                        (lectures notes on the subject)
         Molecules and Radiation, by Seinfeld (about molecules)
         Spectroscopy of astrophysical plasmas, ed by Dalgarno and Layzer
                        (a collection of review articles on astrophysical spectroscopy;
                             in particular, a good article on x-ray spectroscopy by McCray)
         Astrophysics of gaseous nebula, Donald E. Osterbrock
         Classical electrodynamics, John David Jackson  (EM text)
           The classical theory of fields, L.D. Landau,        (EM text)
         Galactic and extragalactic radio astronomy,
         Principles of modern physics, Robert B. Leighton
         Radio astrophysics: nonthermal processes... ,A.G. Pacholczyk
         Stellar atmospheres, Dimitri Mihalas
         Theory of stellar spectra, V.V. Sobolev

Relevant Library Web Pages:

            Caltech Library Services webpage

          Astronomy library webpage

          Ay121 course reserves


Here is a list of problems from which the final-exam problems will be chosen.

Homework 1, due in class, 11 October 2007

Homework 2, due in class, 18 October 2007

Homework 3, due 25 October 2007

Homework 4, due 1 November 2007

Homework 5, due 8 November 2007

Homework 6, due 15 November 2007

Homework 7, due 29 November 2007

Homework 8, due 11 December 2007

FINAL EXAM:  The final exam is a 3-hour closed-book exam.  You can do the exam anytime between now and 5pm on Tues, Dec. 18.  When you have three contiguous hours and are ready to take the exam, you can download it here.

last update:  7 December 2007