Astr 734 - Order of Magnitude Astronomy
Fall 2017 Wednesdays 2:30pm-3:30pm
John Tonry, Institute for Astronomy


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 problems at the whiteboard. Problem sets will be pre-assigned with questions similar (and sometimes identical) to some in the Ohio State course. If time permits, I will challenge the class by extending the problem or asking a new, unseen question.

Learning OOM is like learning to swim - you cannot succeed by watching from dry land. Grading is therefore largely based on participation. Showing up and being ready to answer the pre-assigned questions will account for 80% of the grade. If you cannot attend class because of a good reason (NOT because of a pressing deadline for something else), please let me know in advance. Students will submit their own order-of-magnitude astrophysics question and answer for the remaining 20% of the grade.

Introduction to the course -- the one and only lecture to be posted. (TBD)
We will use the Astr 734 wiki heavily throughout this course. Student's contributions to the wiki constitute part of their participation.
Cheatsheet of useful numbers (constants, conversion factors) from Tielen's ISM book.

Related courses and reading:

(If any reader of this knows of other good resources, please email me the links.)