Fall 2013 Astronomy 241 Tu,Th 13:30 — 14:45

ASTR 241 is a rigorous, calculus-based introduction to Solar System astrophysics. In this course, basic concepts of classical mechanics, thermodynamics, E&M, and modern physics 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 physics on a grand scale. In addition to introducing the study of the Solar System, ASTR 241 will deepen understanding and ability to use basic physical concepts. ASTR 241 is the first course in a sequence leading to a proposed astrophysics major.

Time & Place: Tuesday & Thursday, 13:30 — 14:45 in Watanabe 420

Professor: Joshua E. Barnes

Text: Foundations of Astrophysics by Barbara Ryden & Bradley M. Peterson

Astronomy help: See any Astronomy TA in Watanabe 421; hours are posted outside

Course Outline & Schedule

Dates Topic   Reading
8/27   Solar System Overview Constituents: Sun, planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, dust, solar wind. Rotation and revolution. Formation scenario. 2.3, 8.1
9/03 9/05 Planetary Atmospheres Temperature equilibrium. Greenhouse effect. Retaining atmosphere. Hydrostatic equilibrium. Scale heights. Temperature profiles. Circulation patterns. 8.2, 9.2
9/10 9/12 Terrestrial Planets Internal structure. Planetary differentiation. Heat production. Heat transport & geological activity. Surface features: impacts, volcanism, erosion, tectonics. 8.3, 9.1, 9.4, 10.1
9/17 9/19 Orbital Motion Kepler's laws & simple applications. Newtonian mechanics & universal gravitation. Two-body & reduced problems. Derivation of Kepler's laws. Conservation laws. 2.4, 2.5, 3.1 — 3.4
9/24 9/26 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. 4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 4.5
10/01 10/03 REVIEW & MIDTERM
10/15 10/17 Giant Planets & Satellites Gas giants & ice giants. Phases of Hydrogen. Gas sphere model. Internal structure. Surface appearances. Satellites of giant planets. Roche & Hill radii. Orbits. Tidal heating. Resonances. 10.2, 4.3
10/22 10/24 Rings & Comets Composition & structure of planetary rings. Interactions with satellites. Origin of rings. Trans-Neptunian objects. Sublimation of comets. Tail dynamics. 10.3, 11.2, 11.3
10/29 10/31 Asteroids & NEOs Nature of asteroids. Resonant structure of asteroid belt. Orbital families. Origin of Near-Earth Objects. Orbital dynamics & impact trajectories. Detection & deflection strategies. 11.1, 11.4
11/05 11/07 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. 12
11/12 11/14 REVIEW & MIDTERM
11/19 11/21 Solar Interior. I Solar parameters. Atomic structure. Ionization. Gravitational & nuclear timescales. Couloumb barrier & tunneling. Hydrogen burning. Stability. 5.1, 5.2, 15.2, 15.3
11/26   Solar Interior. II Opacity. Energy transport mechanisms. Stellar structure equations. Structure of the Sun. 15.1, 15.4
12/03 12/05 Space Weather The solar cycle. Sunspots, prominences, flares & coronal mass ejections. The solar wind. Planetary magnetospheres. 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 9.3, 14.1
12/10 12/12 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 10/03 and 11/14. A review class will be given before each exam. The final exam will be given on 12/19 in Wat. 420. The final is cumulative.

The problem sets, midterms, and final are worth 45%, 30%, and 25%, respectively. You must take the final to receive a passing grade.

Joshua E. Barnes      (barnes at
Updated: 9 December 2013
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