AST121: Introduction to Astrophysics

Undergrad course, Franklin & Marshall College, S18, S19, S20

This course presents a quantitative introduction to our Universe: topics include the interactions of planets and moons, the formation of stars and black holes, and the evolution of the Universe from a fiery Big Bang to the expansive and beautiful array of galaxies we see today. The goals of this course are to prepare prospective astrophysics majors for upper-division coursework in the major as well as the skills to participate in independent research projects.

We will determine what our Universe contains, but we will also learn how apply the same physics studied by laboratories on Earth (including gravity, quantum mechanics, and relativity) to understand why the Universe behaves as it does. We will also work to understand how modern astrophysics is done and who are the people that do it – perhaps you will add your name to that list!

This course is intended for students majoring in astrophysics. It serves as a gateway to the more complex topics covered in upper division courses and in graduate school. However, we also welcome all students who are interested in a more mathematical treatment of introductory astrophysics, and we will review the relevant physics and mathematics as we apply them to astrophysical problems.

The laboratory portion of this course includes learning to use our rooftop telescopes as well as Python programing techniques for the analysis and presentation of astronomical data. After completing the laboratory portion of this course, you will be prepared to engage in research with other faculty at our college if you choose to pursue it.