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York University
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Department of Physics and Astronomy

PHYS 1470 3.0 W13/14
Highlights of Astronomy



==>  Lecture Notes  <==









Course Description:
The course will cover all aspects of modern astronomy with special focus on highlights of recent astronomical research.  In particular the course will cover and focus on: Introduction to the night sky and an overview of the universe. The solar system with planets and minor bodies, especially as they relate to the formation and evolution of planetary systems, and threats to the Earth. Extrasolar planets. Searches for water in the solar system, habitable zones around stars, search for extrasolar planets, search for extraterrestrial life. The evolution of the Sun and stars, including endpoints such as planetary nebulae,
supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, white dwarfs, pulsars, and black holes. Galaxies, galactic dynamics and the evidence for and the possible nature of dark matter in the universe. Active galaxies, including galaxy collisions and mergers, relativistic jets, supermassive black holes, and quasars. The organization of matter in the universe, including groups, clusters, and superclusters of galaxies, walls, voids, and the cosmic web. The cosmic distance ladder and Hubble’s Law. Observations and concepts of modern cosmology, such as the Big Bang, cosmic inflation, the geometry of space-time, dark energy, and the fate of the universe.

Evaluation Scheme:

Breakdown of Final Grade


Total (%)

In-class work (unannounced quizzes)

Laboratory exercises


Midterm test


Final Exam





Professor Norbert Bartel (Course Director)
Room 331 Petrie Science and Engineering Building

Tel: 416-736-5424
E-mail: bartel@yorku.ca

please put PHYS1470 in the subject line

Class Schedule:

Lectures: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30 am - 1:00  pm

Tutorial: Wednesday, 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Special Dates:



First class

7 January, 2014

Assignment #1

11 February 2014, 11:30 am

 Assignment #2
 4 March 2014, 11:30 am
 Assignment #3
 27 March, 2014, 11:30 am

Midterm test

27 February, 2014, 11:30 am

Laboratory exercise#1
25 March 2014, 11:30 am
Laboratory exercise#2
 3 April 2014 11:30 am

Last class

3 April, 2014

Final Exam

14 April, 9:00am - 12:00pm,


<>Office Hours

<>Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm:
<>Room 331 Petrie Science and Engineering Building

Required Text:

Discovering the Essential Universe, 5th edition
by N. F. Comins (W. H. Freeman and Company)

A copy is on 2-hour reserve in Steacy Library. Also, refer to the excellent W.H. Freeman websites http://www.whfreeman.com/universe8e/
or http://www.whfreeman.com/universe7e/ for helpful online resources.

Alternate Texts: (Steacie Library)

Discovering the Universe, 8-9th edition (more indepth version of required text) , N. F. Comins, W. J. Kaufmann III
<>         (W. H. Freeman, and Company)
Universe, 8-9th edition (more indepth version of required text) , R. A. Freedman, W. J. Kaufmann III
<>         (W. H. Freeman, and Company)

Important Things to Note:

 Course content:


1. Understanding astronomy
    1.1 Discovering the night sky
    1.2 Gravitation and the motion of planets
    1.3 Light and telescopes
    1.4 Blackbody radiation, atomic physics and spectra

2. The solar system
    2.1 Formation of the solar system

    2.2 Planets outside our solar system
    2.3 The terrestrial planets and their moons
    2.4 The outer planets and their moons
    2.5 Dwarf planets and smaller solar system bodies
    2.6 Our sun

3. The stars
    3.1 Characterizing stars
    3.2 The lives of stars
    3.3 The deaths of stars
    3.4 Neutron stars, gamma-ray bursts and black holes

4. The universe
    4.1 Our milky way galaxy
    4.2 Galaxies and dark matter in the universe
    4.3 Quasars, active galactic nuclei, relativistic jets and supermassive
           black holes
    4.4 Cosmology, the big bang and the fate of the universe
    4.5 Search for extraterrestrial life

Academic Policy Issues:

If illness (or some similar disruption) prevents you from writing a test or from handing
in an assignment, you must notify the instructor on or before the due date. Only in truly
extraordinary circumstances is notification after the due date acceptable.
Students *must* be aware of University policies regarding: a) Academic Integrity
[http://www.yorku.ca/phall/acadintegrity.pdf & http://www.yorku.ca/tutorial/academic integrity/]
and b) Religious Observances [http://calendars.registrar.yorku.ca/examschedules/policy.htm].
Please read the policies in full. As a summary, the rules are as follows:
a) Students are encouraged to work together, but must not plagiarize. So it's OK to work
together to find a solution to a homework problem, as long as you write up the answer independently.
You must write assignments in your own words; identical answers will result in
zeros for all parties involved. Whenever an idea, passage, or data are taken from another
person, this must be acknowledged by using quotation marks where appropriate and by
proper referencing such as footnotes or citations. Plagiarism is a serious academic offence.
Students must also not cheat or impersonate another individual during quizzes or exams.
b) While religious observations are respected, it may well be that a conflict occurs in the
scheduling of assignments or exams. Should a conflict occur, the student should contact
the course instructor before, and not on or after, the due date. By default, assignments
must be handed in before and not after the due date in such cases.