Courses taught at the IfA
Estimation is an essential skill for astronomy and life in general.
This course will introduce students to the utility of order of magnitude
calculations and practicing the ability to "think on your feet".
I will give short overviews of basic physical concepts but the majority
of the class time will be spent interactively, with students tackling
pre-assigned problems at the whiteboard.
If time permits, I will challenge the class by extending the problem
or asking a new, unseen question.
(taught Spring 2015)
The Interstellar Medium (ISM) is the gas and dust between
the stars. Stars form from it, their winds and supernova
enrich and replenish it. Temperatures in the ISM range from
the very hot, ~106 K, to the very cold, ~10 K.
Densities span an even wider dynamic range, from less than
10-3 to greater than 106 particles
per cubic centimeter. Even the highest densities, however,
are far more rarefied than the best vacuums currently
attainable on Earth and thus the ISM allows us to explore
physical processes in unique environments. This course will
discuss observations and theories of a wide range of ISM
environments from pervasive diffuse, ionized gas to dense,
molecular clouds and star forming regions. In the last part
of the course, we will transition from interstellar to
circumstellar material (i.e. disks) as this is an active
area of research at the IfA.
(taught Spring 2004, Spring 2006, Spring 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2012)
This series of seminars will introduce students to radio astronomy
and inteferometry. The course will be split roughly evenly between
on the techniques and applications of observing at submillimeter
wavelengths and practical work using real data.
For the latter, we will use
ALMA science verification datasets
and work through the associated tutorials on data reduction and analysis.
Students will need a laptop computer running (Mac OS) unix or linux.
The goal is for students to learn the skills of submillimeter astronomy
and interferometry so as to be able to propose for SMA, ALMA, or JVLA
observations in their chosen science area.
(taught Spring 2003, Spring 2013)
How did the Earth and other planets form? How common are
planets around other stars, and what are their properties?
These questions are at the forefront of the earth and space
sciences and are the modern manifestations of questions
about our origin and uniqueness that are probably as old as
human consciousness itself. Observations and measurements
have almost always preceded theory in this field of
inquiry, and hence this course is structured according to
the three windows through which almost everything has been
learned in this field: (1) astronomical observations of the
process of star and planet formation; (2) measurements of
early events recorded in Solar System materials, and
detection and (3) characterization of planets around other
(co-taught with Sasha Krot and Eric Gaidos, Spring
This is a non-mathematical, introductory class for
undergraduate non-science majors. I give a broad overview
of astronomy from planets to quasars. Click on the link
above for the course web page.
(taught Spring 2005, Fall 2010)