Graduate Program – Courses

The course requirements distribution can be found here.

Introduction to astronomical and astrophysical nomenclature and concepts. Coordinate systems, celestial orbits, radiation, stars, stellar structure, stellar evolution, clusters of stars, galactic components, galactic structure, galaxy types, active galaxies, cosmology. Blanton. 4 cr.

Sample syllabi:  Blanton – Fall 2014 Jackson – Fall 2015

Survey of physical phenomena in the sun, solar wind, and magnetospheres, ionospheres, and upper atmospheres of objects in the solar system. Introduction to the physical processes governing space plasmas, solar-terrestrial interactions, and ionized and neutral media surrounding the Earth and other solar system bodies. Hughes, Oppenheim. 4 cr.

Sample syllabi:  Oppenheim – Fall 2014 Oppenheim – Fall 2015

Telescopes, light detection, and analysis tools and techniques of experimental astronomy. Signal-to-noise calculations. Photometric and spectroscopic instrumentation and applications. Use of the observatory, CCD light detectors, modern software analysis tools, image processing. Proposal writing and science writing. Blanton, Clemens. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  Blanton – Fall 2013

Generation, propagation, and transfer of electromagnetic radiation. Spectral energy distributions, continuum radiation, spectral lines. Interaction of radiation with matter, transfer of radiation through astrophysical media. Thermal and nonthermal radiative processes. Muirhead. 4 cr.

Sample syllabi:  Muirhead – Spring 2015, West – Spring 2013

Spectroscopic processes in astrophysics. Energy levels in atoms and molecules. Atomic and molecular spectral lines. Excitation of atoms and molecules. Transfer of line radiation. Spectroscopic instruments. Derivation of physical parameters from spectroscopic observations. Clemens, Jackson. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  Jackson – Fall 2014

Orbital theory: two-body and three-body problems. Gravitational encounters. N-body problem and star/galaxy clusters. Precession and nutation. Special and General relativity. Collapsed stellar objects and black holes. Gravitational lensing. Brainerd. 4 cr.

Sample syllabi:  Brecher – Spring 2014 Espaillat – Spring 2016

Gas dynamics as applied to astrophysical settings. Basic fluid mechanics. Ideal gases. One-dimensional gas flow. Supersonic flows and shock waves. Quasar jets and stellar winds. Fluid instabilities, turbulence, and convection. Hughes, Opher. 4 cr.

Sample lecture video: Oblique Shocks and Shock Structure

Sample syllabi:  Opher – Spring 2014 Hughes – Spring 2016

Physics of astrophysical and space plasmas. Magnetohydrodynamic waves and instabilities. Magnetoionic theory, electron waves, ion waves. Kinetic theory of waves in plasmas. Landau damping. Kinetic instabilities. Quasi-linear theory. Particle trapping. Fritz, Hughes, Oppenheim. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  Oppenheim – Spring 2015

Course Offerings (700-749 level): Spring 2016


Prereq: GRS AS 712, AS 713, AS 726, or consent of instructor. Interstellar medium components and phases. Neutral hydrogen clouds, 21 cm line, Zeeman effect. Ionized nebulae, free-free radiation, recombination lines, ionization balance, thermal balance. Molecular clouds, collisional and radiative excitation, line formation and propagation, rotational and vibrational energies. Interstellar chemistry. Bania, Clemens, Jackson. 4 cr.

Sample syllabi:  Clemens – Spring 2013 Jackson – Fall 2015

Prereq: GRS AS 712, AS 713, AS 725, AS 726, or consent of instructor. Normal Galaxies and the Milky Way as systems. Stellar components and clusters, elliptical and disk galaxies. Luminosity functions, radial distributions, distance indicators, triaxial spheroids, and central bars. Motions near the sun, asymmetric drift, velocity ellipsoid, Galactic rotation, Oort formulae, gas distribution, Galactic center. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  West – Fall 2010

Prereq: GRS AS 712, 725, 726, 727, or consent of instructor. Physics of interactions between high-energy particles and photons. Compton scattering. Nuclear collisions. Acceleration and energy losses of high-energy particles. Neutrino production. Physics of cosmic rays. Pulsars. Accretion onto compact objects. Active galactic nuclei and other high-energy phenomena. Marscher. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  Brecher – Spring 2013

Prereq: GRS AS 712, 713, 725, 726, or consent of instructor. Appearance, content, and physical properties of galaxies. Distances to galaxies and the Hubble Law. Active galaxies and quasars. Geometrical and physical cosmology — the Big Bang model and the early universe. Formation of galaxies and large-scale structure. Alternative cosmologies. Blanton, Brainerd,  Marscher. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  Brainerd – Fall 2013

Prereq: GRS AS 726 or consent of instructor. Planetary and cometary atmospheres; atmospheric vertical mixing; radiative processes; catalytic ozone destruction; aurorae and airglow; planetary ionospheres; energy budgets. Planetary evolution: solar nebula, outgassing, water loss on Venus and Mars, escape of light gases, greenhouse effect, isotope fractionation, impact theory. Clarke, Withers. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  Withers – Spring 2016

Prereq: GRS AS 712, 713, 726, 727, or consent of instructor. The formation of the ionosphere. The structure and dynamics of the ionosphere and thermosphere. Aeronomy. Thermosphere/ionosphere coupling. Ionospheric electric fields and current systems. Ionospheric storms. Ionospheric waves and irregularities. Active experiments in space. Radio and optical ionospheric diagnostics. Oppenheim. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  Oppenheim – Spring 2012

Prereq: GRS AS 712, 713, 726, 727, or consent of instructor. Solar wind/magnetosphere interaction. Magnetospheric dynamics and substorms. Magnetospheric electric fields and current systems. Ionosphere/magnetosphere coupling. The aurora. Magnetospheric plasma waves and instabilities. In situ plasma and field diagnostics. Hughes. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus:  Spence – Fall 2005

Prereq: GRS AS 701, AS 703, AS 712, AS 713, AS 726, AS 727, or consent of instructor. Fundamentals of solar and heliospheric physics, including observational methods and theory from the sun’s interior through interplanetary space and into the local interstellar medium. The sun as a star. Relation of our heliosphere to astrospheres surrounding other stars. Opher. 4 cr.

Sample syllabus: Opher – Fall 2014

Lecture course examining special topics of current interest in astrophysics. Offered as a 2 or 4 credit course, depending on the topic. Staff.

Sample syllabus:  Espaillat – Spring 2014

Lecture course examining special topics of current interest in solar system space physics. Offered as a 2 or 4 credit course, depending on the topic. Staff.

Course Offerings (750-799 level): Spring 2016


 

An introduction to the methods of research and scholarship required for successful graduate study and the associated ethical issues. Topics include choosing a research advisor, the research topic, the research record, scholarly writing and publishing, intellectual property, and research funding. Clemens, Opher, Withers. 2 cr.

Sample syllabi:  Clemens – Spring 2015, Withers – Spring 2014

Prereq: GRS AS 701, AS 703, or consent of instructor. Computer programming skills using Interactive Data Language (IDL). Astronomical image processing including flat fielding, bias removal, sky subtraction, filtering, CLEAN algorithm, and point source extraction. Fitting functions to data, solving linear and nonlinear equations numerically, approximating solutions of ordinary differential equations. Clemens, Opher, Withers. 4 cr.

Sample syllabi:  Clemens – Spring 2015, Withers – Spring 2014


 

Weekly seminar offering graduate students and advanced undergraduates discussions of current research topics in astrophysics with staff and visiting scientists. Staff. 2 credits each semester.

Presentation Evaluation Form:  BU Astronomy Journal Club Feedback Form

Weekly seminar offering graduate students and advanced undergraduates discussions of current research topics in space physics with staff and visiting scientists. Staff. 2 credits each semester.

Presentation Evaluation Form:  BU Astronomy Journal Club Feedback Form

Sample syllabus: Moore – Spring 2016

Course Offerings (800-level): Spring 2016


 

Bania, Blanton, Brainerd, Clarke, Clemens, Crooker, Espaillat, Hughes, Jackson, Marscher, Martinis, Mendillo, Muirhead, Oppenheim, Opher, Withers. Variable cr, 1st & 2nd sem.

Bania, Blanton, Brainerd, Clarke, Clemens, Crooker, Espaillat, Hughes, Jackson, Marscher, Martinis, Mendillo, Muirhead, Oppenheim, Opher, Withers. Variable cr, 1st & 2nd sem.