Proposal for a One-Semester Graduate Extragalactic Astronomy Course

This is the syllabus for a proposed semester course covering extragalactic astronomy and the lower redshigt Universe, designed to provide a sophisticated survey dealing with astronomical sources as cosmological probes and as products of evolution and structure formation in cosmology. The course develops succintly the required tools in general relativity, statistical mechanics, field theory and observational techniques so as to limit the number of required prerequisites. One year of quantum mechanics and one year of classical mechanics are required. A course in introductory astronomy or astrophysics is strongly recommended. Mathematics includes integral calculus, tensors, some differential equations and special functions (gamma functions, spherical harmonics, elliptical integrals, etc.)


The upshot of all these recent developments is that no textbook exists that covers the whole field. John Peacock's Cosmological Physics (1998) or Sparke and GallagherGalaxies in the Universe (2002) do a good job of covering cosmological theory, and a satisfactory treatment of the observational side. In truth, much of the material is too recent to be found in any textbook. Much material will only be covered in the lecture notes (photocopies of the lecture viewgraphs).

To accomodate the more recent material, about 10% of the course will consist of a "journal club" where members of the class report (for about 20 minutes at a time) on papers that interest them. These are selected from the list at the back of this course description (or choose your own! - consult with the professor first). Depending on class size, each student will present one or two of these during the semester. The professor will lecture the bulk of the remaining time (expect some guest lecturers for some of special topics); there will be a final which counts for 50% of the course grade, and a short midterm quiz. A few problem sets will also be assigned. Attendance is important!

Course Outline


Cosmological Physics John A. Peacock 1998 (Cambridge Univ. Press; Cambridge), ISBN 0521422701 (paperback - $40 at Barnes and Noble); chapters on general relativity, isotropic universe, gravitational lensing, age and distance scales, hot big bang, matter in the Universe, galaxies and their evolution, active galaxies, structure formation, cosmological density fields, galaxy formation, cosmic background fluctuations, quantum mechanics, quantum fields, inflationary cosmology

Galaxies in the Universe : An Introduction Linda S. Sparke, III; John S. Gallagher 2000 (Cambridge Univ. Press; Cambridge), ISBN 0521597404 (paperback - $36 at

REQUIRED ARTICLES (To Be Distributed):

G.H. Jacoby, D. Branch, R. Ciardullo, R.L. Davies, W.E. Harris, M.J. Pierce, C.J. Pritchet, J.L. Tonry, D.L. Welch 1992, Proc. Astron. Soc. Pac., 104, 570. "A Critical Review of Selected Techniques for Measuring Extragalactic Distances"

BACKUP TEXTS (On Reserve):

Gravitation and Cosmology: Principles and Applications of the General Theory of Relativity Steven Weinberg 1972 (Wiley: New York)

Principles of Physical Cosmology P.J.E. Peebles 1993 (Princeton U. Press: Princeton), sections on Expanding Universe; Dark Matter; Young Galaxies and Intergalactic Medium; Galaxy Formation

Large-Scale Structure of the Universe P. J. E. Peebles 1980 (Princeton U. Press: Princeton)

Man Discovers the Galaxies R. Berendzen, R. Hart & D. Seely 1976 (Science History Publishers: New York)

Darkness at Night: A Riddle of the Cosmos Edward Harrison 1987 (Harvard U: Cambridge)

The Fifth Essence: A Search for Dark Matter in the Universe Lawrence Krauss 1990 (Basic Books: New York)