Fall 2012 Astronomy 241 Tu,Th 12:00 — 13:15

ASTR 241 is a rigorous, calculus-based introduction to Solar System astrophysics. In this course, basic concepts of classical mechanics and thermodynamics are used to understand the structure and evolution of the Solar System. Historically, the Solar System was the original proving ground for much of Newtonian dynamics, and it provides many opportunities to apply mechanics and thermodynamics on a grand scale. In addition to introducing students to the study of the Solar System, ASTR 241 will deepen their understanding and ability to use basic physical concepts. We anticipate that Astr 241 will become the first course in a sequence leading to an astrophysics major.

Time & Place: Tuesday & Thursday, 12:00 — 13:15 in Watanabe 420

Professor: Joshua E. Barnes

Teaching assistant: Sean Goebel

Astronomy help: See any Astronomy TA in Watanabe 421
Hours: As posted

Text: An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics (2nd edition), by B.W. Carroll & D.A. Ostlie [Errata]

Course Outline & Schedule

Dates Topic   Reading
8/21 8/23 Solar System Overview Constituents: Sun, planets, asteroids, dwarf planets, comets, zodiacal dust, solar wind. Overall structure; rotation and revolution. Formation scenario. Kepler's laws. Falling bodies. 1.1, 1.2, 19.1, 2.1
8/28 8/30 Orbital Motion Newtonian mechanics & universal gravitation. 2-body problem. Reduced problem. Derivation of Kepler's laws for non-circular orbits. Conservation laws. Orbit calculations. Orbits in the Solar System. 2.2, 2.3
9/04 9/06 Earth, Moon, & Sun The Earth-Moon system. Tidal force. Response of idealized and real oceans. Tidal friction. Synchronous rotation. Evolution of the Moon's orbit. Precession of Moon's orbit. 19.2
9/11 9/13 Planetary Atmospheres Temperature equilibrium. Hydrostatic equilibrium. Atmospheric chemistry. Escape of atmosphere. Circulation patterns. 19.3, 10.1*, 10.2*
9/18 9/20 Terrestrial Planets Internal structure. Planetary differentiation. Heat production. Heat transport. Geological activity. 20.1 — 20.5
9/25 9/27 REVIEW & MIDTERM
10/02 10/04 Giant Planets & Satellites Internal structure of gas giants and ice giants. Equations of state. Equilibrium of rotating bodies. Escape of internal heat. 21.1 — 21.3, 10.4*
10/09 10/11 Resonance & Stability Driven harmonic oscillator. Mean-motion resonances. Lagrange points. Stability & instability. Asteroid belt: Kirkwood gaps, Trojans, Hildas. Saturn's rings: gaps, bending waves, density waves. Laplace resonance. Plutinos.
10/16 10/18 Asteroids & Comets Monoliths vs. rubble piles. Orbital families. Collisional disruption. Origin of near-Earth objects. Sublimation of comets. Meteor showers. 22.1 — 22.4
10/23 10/25 Solar System Formation Detection of extra-solar planets. Other planetary systems. Cloud collapse. Rotation of proto-solar nebula. Condensation of solids. Terrestrial planet formation. The frost line. Giant planet formation. Impacts. 23.1, 23.2
10/30 11/1 REVIEW & MIDTERM
  11/08 The Solar Interior. I Gravitational energy. Thermal equilibrium. Hydrogen burning. 10.1 — 10.3
11/13 11/15 The Solar Interior. II Pressure balance. Energy transport via radiation and convection. Introduction to stellar structure. Structure of the Sun. 10.4, 10.5, 11.1
11/20   Solar Atmosphere The quiet sun. The solar wind. 11.2*
11/27 11/29 Space Weather The solar cycle. Sunspots, prominences, flares & coronal mass ejections. The solar dynamo. Planetary magnetospheres. 11.2*, 11.3
12/4 12/6 FINAL REVIEW

Problem Sets, Exams, & Grades

Problem sets will be assigned on Thursday of each week, and will be due the following Thursday at the start of class. Late work must be handed in on Tuesday of the following week, and will receive 70% credit.

There will be two midterm exams, on 9/27 and 11/1. A review class will be given before each exam.

The final exam will be given on 12/13 in Wat. 420. The final is cumulative.

The problem sets, midterms, and final are worth 30%, 40%, and 30%, respectively.

Joshua E. Barnes      (barnes at
Updated: 13 October 2012
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