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Course List and Description

Courses offered in the Astrophysical Sciences Department

AST 513:  Dynamics of Stellar & Planetary Systems (offered every other Fall - odd years) Galactic structure, morphology and dynamics. Equilibrium and stability of stellar systems. The gravitational N-body problem, relaxation, dynamical friction, and the Fokker-Planck equation. Encounters and mergers of stellar systems. Spiral structure. Elements of planetary dynamics and celestial mechanics. 

AST 514:  Stellar Structure and Evolution
This course surveys the essential physics of stellar structure, interiors, and evolution. The emphasis is on the physical and dynamical processes in stars, on the equations of stellar structure and evolution, on their approximate solution, and on stellar systematics.  To that end, we focus on timescales, polytropes, energetics, scaling relations, thermodynamics and equations of state, radiative transfer and opacities, convection theory, nuclear reactions and rates, nucleosynthesis, white dwarf and neutron star structure, stellar endpoints, and the various distinctive stellar phases. Moreover, since astrophysicists should be trained as generalists, we will aim throughout the course to impart a better physical and intuitive understanding of the essential meaning of the equations, processes, and principles that govern stars of all sorts, and of their universality.

 AST 517:  Diffuse Matter in Space (offered every other Spring - odd years) 
Discussion of the important physical processes in the interstellar medium, including heating and cooling, atomic and molecular excitation, chemical reactions, ionization and recombination, radiative transfer, fluid dynamics, and physics of interstellar dust. Review of observational evidence from which properties of the interstellar medium are inferred. Problems considered include physical conditions in interstellar clouds, interstellar shock waves, effects of cosmic rays, magnetic fields, and star formation.


AST 520:  High-Energy Astrophysics (offered every other Spring - even years) 
Astrophysical applications of electrodynamics, nuclear, and particle physics.  Topics may include synchrotron emission and absorption, comptonization, pair plasmas, jets, extragalactic radio sources, compact objects, cosmic rays, and neutrino astrophysics.


AST 522:  Extragalactic Astronomy (offered every other Spring - even years) 
A survey course covering the principal current areas of research on extragalactic objects, their physical properties, origin, evolution, and distribution in space. Topics covered include quasar physics, formation, evolution, and clustering of galaxies and the general problem of large-scale structure and motion in the universe.


AST 523/APC 523: Scientific Computation in Astrophysics (offered every other spring -even years) A broad introduction to scientific computation using examples drawn from astrophysics. From computer science, practical topics including processor architecture, parallel systems, structured programming, and scientific visualization will be presented in tutorial style. Basic principles of numerical analysis, including sources of error, stability, and convergence of algorithms. The theory and implementation of techniques for linear and nonlinear systems of equations, ordinary and partial differential equations will be demonstrated with problems in stellar structure and evolution, stellar and galactic dynamics, and cosmology. 


APC 524 / MAE 506 / AST 506: Software Engineering for Scientific Computing. This course discusses elements of software engineering, geared towards beginning graduate students interested in scientic computing. Some previous knowledge of numerical analysis is helpful, but not necessary. Topics covered include compiled (e.g. C/C++/Fortran90) versus scripting (e.g. python) languages, version control systems, debugging and automated testing, profiling and optimization, and programming for both shared and

distributed memory parallel systems.


AST 541:  Seminar in Theoretical Astrophysics (offered each Fall) Student presentation and discussion of papers on a topic of current research in theoretical astrophysics.


AST 542:  Seminar in Observational Astrophysics (offered each Spring) 
Student presentation and discussion of papers on a topic of current research in observational astronomy, with an emphasis on observational techniques, measurements and results.


Astrophysics Graduate Courses in the Physics Department

PHY 523:  Introduction to Relativity (offered each Fall) 
Special relativity, general relativity, experimental tests, relativistic cosmology, Lagrangian formulations, quantum gravity and supergravity are studied.

PHY 563, 564:  Physics of the Universe:  Origin and Evolution (offered each Spring) 
The course focuses on selected topics in cosmology, with emphasis on empirical approaches. The standard cosmological model for the expanding universe and the classic cosmological tests are discussed. Recent observations are used to estimate up-to-date "best guesses" for cosmological parameters.  The roles that evolution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies play in the determination of cosmological parameters are covered in detail. New methods of using observations to estimate cosmological parameters are discussed.   

Courses offered in the Plasma Physics Section

AST 551/MAE 541: General Plasma Physics I
An introductory course to plasma physics, with sample applications in fusion, space and astrophysics, semiconductor etching, microwave generation, plasma propulsion, high power laser propagation in plasma; characterization of the plasma state, Debye shielding, plasma and cyclotron frequencies, collision rates and mean-free paths, atomic processes, adiabatic invariance, orbit theory, magnetic confinement of single-charged particles, two-fluid description, magnetohydrodynamic waves and instabilities, heat flow, diffusion, kinetic description, and Landau damping. The course may be taken by undergraduates with permission of the instructor.


AST 552: General Plasma Physics II 
Ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equilibrium, MHD energy principle, ideal and resistive MHD stability, drift-kinetic equation, collisions, classical and neoclassical transport, drift waves and low-frequency instabilities, high-frequency microinstabilities, and quasilinear theory.

AST 553: Plasma Waves and Instabilities
Waves in a cold magnetized plasma; resonances and cutoffs; energy transport; normal modes for a hot plasma; Landau and cyclotron damping; velocity-space instabilities; quasilinear diffusion; propagation through an inhomogeneous plasma; mode conversion drift waves; absolute and convective instabilities; effects of weak collisions; and applications to plasma confinement, radio frequency plasma heating, and magnetospheric propagation.

AST 554: Irreversible Processes in Plasmas 
Fluctuations and transport in plasma, origins of irreversibility, Fokker-Planck theory, statistical hierarchies, kinetic equations, limiting forms of the Coulomb collision operator, test-particle calculations, radiation, fluctuation-dissipation theorem, transport coefficients in magnetized plasma, and Onsager relations. Applications to current problems in plasma research.

AST 555: Fusion Plasmas and Plasma Diagnostics 
This course gives an introduction to experimental plasma physics, with an emphasis on high-temperature plasmas for fusion. Requirements for fusion plasmas: confinement, beta, power and particle exhaust. Tokamak fusion reactors. Status of experimental understanding: what we know and how we know it. Key plasma diagnostic techniques: magnetic measurements, Langmuir probes, microwave techniques, spectroscopic techniques, electron cyclotron emission, Thomson scattering.

AST 556: Advanced Plasma Dynamics
Magnetic coordinates, tokamak equilibria, Hamiltonian guiding center formalism, transport in the presence of ripple and MHD modes, nonlinear MHD and resistive modes, and the kinetic destabilization of MHD modes.


APC 503/AST 557: Analytical Techniques in Differential Equations I 
Local analysis of solutions to linear and nonlinear differential and difference equations, asymptotic methods, asymptotic analysis of integrals, perturbation theory, summation methods, boundary layer theory, WKB theory, and multiple-scale theory.


AST 558: Seminar in Plasma Physics 
The purpose of the course is to acquaint students with current developments in high-temperature plasma physics and fusion research. Topics are drawn from current literature and may encompass advances in experimental and theoretical studies of laboratory and naturally-occurring high-temperature plasmas, including stability and transport, nonlinear dynamics and turbulence, magnetic reconnection, self-heating of "burning" plasmas, and innovative concepts for advanced fusion systems. Topics may also cover advances in plasma applications, including laser-plasma interactions, nonnuetral plasms, high-intensity accelerators, plasma propulsion, plasma processing, and coherent electromagnetic wave generation. The Graduate Seminar in Plasma Physics is currently organized each semester around special topics in experimental and theoretical plasma physics, with recent topics including nonneutral plasmas and advanced accelerators (Spring Semester, 1999), and magnetic reconnection in laboratory and space plasmas (Fall Semester, 1999). Following one or two introductory lectures by the faculty, each graduate student gives one of the weekly seminars based on a particular published article taken from a small repository of topical papers prepared by the faculty.

AST 559: Turbulence in Plasma 
A comprehensive introduction to the theory of turbulence and transport in plasma: transition to turbulence, fundamental mechanisms for turbulence, stochasticity; experimental observations; fundamental equations, especially nonlinear gyrokinetics; computer simulations; linear and nonlinear wave-particle and wave-wave interactions; statistical closures, including the direct-interaction approximation; variational methods. Applications to confinement of magnetized plasma, including drift wave, tearing mode, and MHD turbulence, and transport due to destroyed flux surfaces.


AST 560: Computational Methods in Plasma Physics 
Analysis of methods for the numerical solution of the partial differential equations of plasma physics, including those of elliptic, parabolic, hyperbolic, and eigenvalue type. Topics include finite difference, finite element, spectral, particle-in-cell, Monte Carlo, moving grid, and multiple-time-scale techniques, applied to the problems of plasma equilibrium, transport, and stability.

AST 562: Laboratory in Plasma Physics 
Basic concepts and experimental techniques used to measure the properties and behavior of gaseous and solid-state plasmas. Representative experiments include probe measurements of plasma parameters, wave propagation and damping, microwave resonances, electron scattering, architecture of glow discharges, and determination of plasma temperature using atomic physics effects.

AST 565: Physics of Nonneutral Plasmas
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the physics of nonneutral plasmas and charged particle beam systems with intense self fields. The subject matter is developed systematically from first principles, based on fluid, Vlasov, or Klimontovich-Maxwell statistical descriptions as appropriate. Topics include the development of nonlinear stability and confinement theorems; experimental and theoretical investigations of collective waves and instabilities; phase transitions in strongly-coupled nonneutral plasmas; coherent electromagnetic radiation generation by free electron lasers, cyclotron masers, and magnetrons; nonlinear processes and chaotic particle dynamics in high-intensity periodic-focusing accelerators; and nonlinear processes related to compact plasma-based accelerator concepts.