Astronomy Classes at Brigham Young University

Physics 127: Descriptive Astronomy

Description: Nonmathematical presentation of knowledge of the content and history of the cosmos, frequently using observatory and planetarium. Typically offered Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify approximately 50 major northern hemisphere constellations and bright stars.
  • Explain the development of modern astrophysical concepts using current terminology.
  • List the significant and unique characteristics of each planet and other components of the solar system.
  • Describe the Sun in detail by comparing it to other stars.
  • Describe the life history of a star as a function of mass including its energy sources, "motion" on an HR diagram, and possible end states.
  • Describe how the Universe is organized by gravity at all scales from the solar system to the superclusters of galaxies.
  • Describe the evidences and central ideas of big bang cosmologies.
  • Explain that a study of the Universe, done in the proper spirit, can increase faith in God.

Physics 227: Solar System Astronomy

Description: Physics of light and matter, Newton’s laws, solar-system dynamics, and planetary surfaces and atmospheres. Typically offered Fall.

Prerequisites: Physics 121, 123; Math 113 or concurrent enrollment.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • solve elementary problems in classical celestial mechanics, interaction of light with atoms and molecules
  • describe the differences between the planets and moons and their relation to their formation history
  • use observational data of binary stars to determine fundamental stellar parameters, and apply understanding to characterize other stars
  • describe various telescopes and how they are used with detectors for photometry and spectroscopy

Physics 228: Stellar and Extragalactic Astronomy

Description: Stellar atmospheres, stellar interiors, stellar evolution, interstellar matter, galactic structure, external galaxies, and cosmology. Typically offered Winter.

Prerequisites: Math 113, Physics 227.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • display a qualitative understanding of stellar structure and evolution;
  • demonstrate their understanding of stellar populations and galactic structure;
  • display a knowledge of the basic properties of galaxies;
  • solve elementary problems in theoretical cosmology
  • display a qualitative grasp of up-to-date observational cosmology.

Physics 313R: Special Topics in Physics

Description: Special topics in physics for undergraduate physics majors. Typically offered On Demand.

Scheduled Offerings

Physics 329: Observational Astronomy

Description: Basic techniques of observational astronomy, emphasizing practical experience in optical data acquisition and analysis. Typically offered Winter.

Prerequisites: Physics 127 (or 227 and 228).

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • obtain publication quality astronomical data (photometric data) using a telescope and CCD camera.
  • process raw data and extract astrophysically significant information from data about astronomical objects.
  • interpret data obtained and present results in astronomical publication format written in AASTeX.
  • prepare a request for external telescope time.
  • follow professional ethics guidelines in research activities and presentation of results.

Physics 427: Introduction to Astrophysics

Description: Principles and observational techniques of astrophysics. Typically offered Fall.

Prerequisites: Physics 227, 228.

Physics 428: Introduction to Astrophysics

Description: Principles and observational techniques of astrophysics. Typically offered Winter.

Prerequisites: Physics 227, 228.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the various mechanisms that broaden and shape the profile of a stellar spectral line, including the uncertainty principle, particle collisions, thermal motions, Stark effect, Zeeman effect, atmospheric turbulence (micro- and macro-), stellar rotation and stellar pulsation.
  • Explain and mathematically model the changes that occur in a spectral line profile as the number density of absorbing (or emitting) atoms or ions changes (curve-of-growth analysis) and/or as physical conditions change.

Physics 529: Advanced Observational Astronomy

Description: Advanced techniques of observational astronomy, emphasizing knowledge and skills necessary to carry out observational scientific investigation in astronomy. Typically offered On demand.

Prerequisites: Physics 427, 428.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • reduce raw astronomical spectroscopic data, both 2D and 2D to 1D.
  • do a basic analysis of spectroscopic data such as determining radial velocities.
  • perform more complex photometric reductions, including using radial profile fitting to obtain stellar magnitudes.
  • write scripts in the IRAF scripting language to help in the reduction of data.
  • explain the wide variety of non-optical astronomy and the detectors and methods used at each wavelength.

Physics 611: Stellar Astrophysics I

Description: Theory of stellar atmosphere. Typically offered Fall, every third year.

Prerequisites: Instructor's consent.

Physics 612: Stellar Astrophysics II

Description: Internal structure of stars. Typically offered Winter, every third year.

Prerequisites: Instructor's consent.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • explain the physics that leads to the formation of a stable stellar structure.
  • explain the modes of energy transport inside a star and its affect on struture and stability.
  • explain the equations of state that describe the interior material of a star.
  • discuss how the preceding change over time.

Physics 627: Galactic Astrophysics I

Description: Theory of interstellar matter. Typically offered Fall, every third year.

Prerequisites: Instructor's consent.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify the five phases of the ISM, the physics and chemistry that characterizes these different regions and their interaction. Key concepts to be introduced include: atomic and molecular spectroscopy, gas cooling, gas heating, gas-phase chemical reactions and grain-surface chemistry.
  • Apply this knowledge to understanding the importance of dust, PAHs, HII regions, PDRs, phases in the ISM, molecular clouds, shock waves and SN explosions.
  • Write in standard journal format, as evidenced by a term paper.
  • Give a professional oral presentation
  • Reduce and analyze actual observations

Physics 628: Galactic Astrophysics II

Description: Galactic structure. Typically offered Winter, every third year.

Prerequisites: Instructor's consent.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify the five phases of the ISM, the physics and chemistry that characterizes these different regions and their interaction. Key concepts to be introduced include: atomic and molecular spectroscopy, gas cooling, gas heating, gas-phase chemical reactions and grain-surface chemistry.
  • Apply this knowledge to understanding the importance of dust, PAHs, HII regions, PDRs, phases in the ISM, molecular clouds, shock waves and SN explosions.
  • Write in standard journal format, as evidenced by a term paper.
  • Give a professional oral presentation
  • Reduce and analyze actual observations

Physics 727: Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology I

Description: Astrophysics of galaxies, active galactic nuclei, and large-scale structure. Typically offered Fall, every third year.

Prerequisites: Instructor's consent.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • identify and describe the morphology, population, color, spectral signature, and preferred location of every type of galaxy.
  • manipulate on-line data bases such as those of the NVO and SDSS to glean galaxies of different properties for research.
  • extend their understanding of the morphology of the Milky Way to all galaxy types.
  • present the standard model of AGN and explain how it accounts for what is observed in galaxy nuclei.
  • conduct an in-depth literature search on one aspect of the course material of their choosing and present the results in a paper.

Physics 728: Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology II

Description: Cosmology. Typically offered Winter, every third year.

Prerequisites: Instructor's consent.

Outcomes: After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • derive a universe model based on Newtonian cosmology and modify this to account for relativistic effects.
  • apply the Einstein equations to derive Freidmann's equation and from there setup and explore basic models.
  • correlate theory with observed data including object counts, color evolution, WMAP data, LyAlpha forests, etc.
  • use arguments from first principles and a review of the literature to explain the evidence for dark energy.
  • conduct an in-depth literature search on one aspect of the course material of their choosing and present the results in a paper.