Astro-7: The Big Bang and Beyond

Fall 1999

The Final Exam will be on December 17, from 8:30 to 10:30 am, in room A5. I apologize about the change in time, I just learned that it had been changed.

We will have a review session on December 13, at 11am, in room 2C2.

Observing session of the Leonid Storm


    The textbook we will use in Astro-7 is "Discovering the Cosmos", by Robert C. Bless. It is available in the University Bookstore. The syllabus specifies the chapters that are required reading. It is highly recommended that you read what is assigned in the syllabus before every lecture. The assigned reading will complement what will be taught in the lectures; it will also help you to prepare questions, which you can ask during class.

Course Info and Resources

    You will have to complete for this course 6 homeworks, a paper, and two observing projects (one of them conducted in the Rittenhouse Observatory in the roof of the DRL building, for which you will need to sign up, and another that you will do on your own at any place of your choice). The final grade of the course will be determined according to the following rule:
    • Homework: 20%
    • Observing projects: 15%
    • Paper: 10%
    • Midterm I (October 8): 12.5%
    • Midterm II (November 12): 12.5%
    • Final Exam (December 17): 30%

  • Syllabus and Slides

  • Homework:

  • Extra Credit Homework:
      This homework is optional. Extra credit homework will generally be harder to solve than the usual homework: they require a bit more imagination and thinking before you can solve them. If you do extra credit homework, your letter grade may be raised at the end of the course. Because extra credit homework is only taken into account after the letter grades have been determined for all students, it will not lower grades of students who do not do it, but only improve the grades of those who do it. The extra credit homework will be handed out during the course in class.
      E. C. Homework 1
      E. C. Homework 2

  • Paper Assignment (due December 6)

Observing Projects

There are two different observing projects you need to complete for this course.

  • The first observing project is about observation of the Moon. You need to hand in your project by October 29. You will need to do observations on your own over several days during the semester, recording the phase of the Moon and its position on the sky at different times, from a location of your choice. It is important that you try to complete most of your observations for this observing project early in the semester. It is very often cloudy in Philadelphia, so do not delay your project and take advantage of the good weather when we have it. Otherwise, you may well find that every day and night during the last two weeks before the due date are cloudy in Philadelphia.

  • The second observing project will be done in the observatory in the roof of DRL. You will be doing this together with students of the Astro-1 course. You must sign up for an observing session from this web page before you go. As you shall see in the sign-up page, there are several projects you can choose to do. You will need to do at least one of these projects during the semester by going to one session and returning to me the completed sheet you will pick up at the observatory by the due date (usually within one week after you do your observation). Optionally, you can go to two sessions, and you will then receive the best grade of the two.

    More information on the observing project in the DRL Observatory.

    Sign up on the Observatory Reservations for your observing project in the DRL Observatory.

    More information on The Penn Student Observatory

  • If you are in doubt of whether the observatory will be open tonight, check the observatory status here.

The Hubble Deep Field

The faintest sources of light ever detected by human beings are the galaxies in the Hubble Deep Field. Some of these galaxies are seen when the universe was only 10% or 20% of its present age. This is our view of the universe that is our home: we see galaxies into the past, being born and evolving to their present state.

The Hubble Deep Field

Click here to see a movie where you start with a wide-angle view of the sky toward the constellation of Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), then you zoom in and see a smaller and smaller region of the sky until you end up in the Hubble Deep Field. All the sky around you is filled with similar images of faint galaxies as they were forming and evolving throughout the history of the universe!
COBE Picture of the Milky Way Our view of the Milky Way Galaxy is hindered in visual light by dust obscuration. Absorption by dust is greatly reduced in the far-infrared. Observations in the far-infrared must be done from space, because the Earth atmosphere is opaque to light at these wavelengths. The COBE satellite has given to us the best unobscured pictures of the Galaxy we live in. The picture shows many individual stars, the dust lane in the disk, and the bulge. Notice the asymmetry of the bulge, appearing slightly larger on the left side; this is an indication of the presence of a small bar in the inner parts of the Milky Way.

COBE Picture of the Milky Way

What is astronomy about? Since ancient times, astronomy has been about watching the sky. At present, precisely when scientists are rapidly advancing in the understanding of astronomy, most people are being deprived of the spectacle of the sky because of pollution and city lights. But thanks to the internet, we can watch pictures of celestial objects by using the resources in a multitude of websites. Explore the links provided here, which will bring you to images of star clusters (open and globular), gaseous nebulae, galaxies, etc. To learn astronomy, you simply need to have a good idea of what all these objects really look like.

Among many other links below, you can try the Astronomy Picture of the Day, where every day a different picture of some interesting object in the sky is displayed. If you then go to the index, you can click on any class of objects you wish, to access the archive of all images that have been displayed in the past. You should try also the Messier and NGC catalogues, and the Hubble Space Telescope Image Archive.

Cosmology in a Computer

The NCSA has put together a fascinating exposition Cosmos in a Computer featuring some of the latest state-of-the-art simulations of our Universe. Be sure to try the exhibit map to navigate the site.

Where to find me:

Astro 7 Spring Term 1999
MWF 11pm-12pm DRL Room A7

Instructor: Jordi Miralda-Escudé
            Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
            Office: DRL 4N10
            Phone: (215) 573-5330
            FAX:   (215) 898-2010

Office Hours: Wed 1:30 - 2:30pm (other times by appointment)

Teaching Assistant: David Rusin
Teaching Assistant Hours: Thursday 3-4pm
Teaching Assistant Email: , telephone 8-6250, Room 4N7

Hits on this page since January 14, 1999: Jordi Miralda-Escudé

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