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Course List and Description


AST 201: Mapping the Universe 

This course will cover everything from mapping the Earth, planets, solar system, and galaxy, to mapping spacetime and the inside of the black hole, to mapping the visible universe with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.  It will discuss map projections and topics in planetary science, cosmology, and special and general relativity (including time travel). It will explore the WMAP map of the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the Gott-Juric Map of the Universe, covering everything from satellites in low Earth orbit to distant galaxies and quasars—praised by the LA Times as “arguably the most mind bending map to date.”  This course is for non-science majors, particularly those with an interest in the visual arts.  

AST 203: The Universe (offered each Spring)
A specially designed course in three parts -- stars, galaxies, and the universe -- whose syllabus targets the frontier of modern astrophysics and draws upon the professional and educational expertise of the instructors.  Subjects include the birth, life, and death of stars; the search for extrasolar planets and extraterrestrial life (intelligent or otherwise); the zoo of galaxies from dwarfs to giants, from starbursts to quasars; dark matter and the large-scale structure of the universe; Einstein's special and general theory of relativity, black holes, worm holes, time travel, and big bang cosmology.  This course is designed for the non-science major and has no prerequisites past high school algebra and geometry.


AST 204: Topics in Modern Astronomy (offered each Spring)

This course provides a broad overview of modern astronomy and astrophysics for students in the sciences. Emphasis is on the application of basic physics to understanding of astronomical systems. Topics include the Solar System; planetary systems and exoplanets; the birth, life, and death of stars; white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; the Milky Way and distant galaxies; cosmology, dark matter and dark energy, and the history of the Universe. Prerequisites: Physics 103 or 105 and Mathematics 104 or equivalent. Satisfies STN requirement.


AST205:  Planets in the Universe  (offered each Fall)

This is an introductory course in astronomy focusing on planets in our Solar System, and around other stars (exoplanets). The course starts with reviewing the formation, evolution and characterization of the Solar system. Following an introduction to stars, the course will then discuss the exciting new field of exoplanets; discovery methods, basic properties, earth-like planets, and extraterrestrial life. Core values of the course are quantitative analysis and hands-on experience, including telescopic observations. This STN course is designed for the non-science major and has no prerequisites past high school algebra and geometry.


GEO 207/AST 207: A Guided Tour of the Solar System (offered each Fall)
This course examines the major bodies of our solar system, emphasizing their surface features, internal structures, and atmospheres. Topics include the origin of the solar system, occurrence of liquid water, habitability of planets, and role of impacts in planetary evolution. Both terrestrial and giant planets will be studied as well as satellites, comets, and asteroids. Recent discoveries from planetary missions are emphasized. The course is aimed primarily at non-science majors.


GEO 255/AST 255/EEB 255: Life in the Universe (offered each Fall)
See: Astrobiology at Princeton University
This course introduces students to a new field, Astrobiology, where scientists trained in biology, chemistry, astronomy and geology combine their skills to discover life's origins and to seek extraterrestrial life. Topics include: Discoveries of microbes at great depths on Earth that raise the prospect of life beneath the surfaces of Mars and Europa, a moon of Jupiter; Extra-solar planets nearby that offer targets for NASA space telescopes searching for life.


AST 301: General Relativity (offered every other Fall - odd years: Fall ’15 etc)

(course materials and further information available on Blackboard)
This is an introductory course in general relativity for undergraduates.   Topics include the early universe, black holes, cosmic strings, worm holes, and time travel.  Two 90-minute lectures.  Prerequisites: Mathematics 201, 202, Physics 207, 208.  Designed for science and engineering majors.

AST 303: Modeling and Observing the Universe: Research Methods in Astrophysics (offered every other Fall – even years: Fall ’14 etc))
How do we model and observe the universe? We discuss the wide range of observation tools available to the modern astronomer: space-based gamma ray telescopes, globe-spanning radio interferometry, optical telescopes and particle detectors. We review basic statistics and introduce students to modern techniques used in analysis and interpretation of modern data sets containing millions of galaxies, quasars and stars, as well as the numerical techniques used by theoretical astrophysicists to model these data. The course is problem-set-based and aims to provide students with tools needed for independent work both at Princeton and beyond. Prerequisites: PHY103/104 OR 105/106, and MATH 103/104, or consent of instructor.


AST/PHY/MAE 309: Nuclear Energy in a Carbon Constrained World: Fission and Fusion;
(offered each Spring)

Concern about climate change and improved operation of nuclear fission power plants are creating the potential for a 'renaissance' of nuclear fission power. The recent international agreement to construct a major fusion energy experiment ITER to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion on an industrial scale is increasing interest in the practical application of fusion power. This course will introduce the history, science, technology, and economics of both fission and fusion, with special emphasis on both societal risks, such as nuclear weapons proliferation, and societal benefits, such as reduced CO2 emissions.


AST 401: Cosmology (offered every other Spring – even years: Spring ’16 etc)
Topics include the properties and nature of galaxies, quasars, active galactic nuclei, galaxy clustering, large-scale properties of the universe, formation of galaxies and other structures, microwave background radiation, the big bang, and the early universe.  Two 90-minute lectures.  Prerequisites: Mathematics 201, 202; Physics 207, 208.  Designed for science and engineering majors.


AST 403: Stars and Star Formation  (offered every other Spring – odd years: Spring ’15 etc)

Stars form by the gravitational collapse of interstellar gas clouds, and as they evolve, return some of their gas to the interstellar medium, altering its physical state and chemical composition. This course discusses the properties and evolution of the gaseous and stellar components of a galaxy: the theory and observations of star formation; stellar structure; the production of energy by nucleosynthesis; stellar evolution; stellar end states; and the interpretation of observations of the diffuse and dense interstellar medium. We will discuss how major telescopes and space missions might tackle these problems. Prerequisites: MAT 201, 202; PHY 207, 208