Syllabus – A451 (Section 25851) - Stellar Astrophysics

Fall  2004


Tuesday & Thursday, 9:30-10:45 AM, Swain West 221


Official:  This is a one semester course offered every other year in which basic physical principles are applied to investigation of the solar system, stars, and the Milky Way galaxy.  The prerequisites are calculus and Physics P301 or equivalent.


Actual:  This is a one semester course offered every other year in which basic physical principles are applied to the investigation of stars, including basic stellar parameters, stellar atmospheres, stellar interiors, stellar evolution, and binary stars.  Prerequisites include calculus and Physics P301 (or concurrent) or equivalent.



Professor Catherine Pilachowski

Swain West 315



Office Hours: Tuesday,

11:00 AMnoon, and by appointment

You may find me in either SW 315 or SW 311

Assoc. Instructor Brian Brondel

Swain West 327A



Office Hours:

Monday, 9-10 AM

Tuesday 8:15-9:15 AM


Our offices are located on the third floor of Swain Hall West, near the elevator.  The Astronomy Department office is located in Swain West 319. 


Text: An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics by B. W. Carroll and D. A. Ostlie published by Addison Wesley (ISBN 0-201-54730-9). 


Course Requirements

  • Class attendance and participation in class activities, including mini-quizzes, problem-solving, summaries, etc.
  • Bi-weekly problem sets
  • Bi-weekly exercises
  • A course project and class poster presentation
  • Two in-class exams plus two take-home exams
  • Comprehensive final exam


Important Dates:

  • In-class exams on Sept. 18 and Oct. 26
  • Take-home exams due Sept. 14 and Nov. 30
  • In-class Poster Session: Tuesday, Dec. 7

·        Final Exam: 8:00-10:00 AM Tuesday, Dec. 14


Course Activities


  • Reading from the text will be assigned for each class period (see schedule).  Short answer mini-quizzes based on the assigned reading will be given at the beginning of most classes.  The two lowest mini-quiz scores will be dropped before your grade is computed. 


  • Six homework problem sets will be assigned during the semester, approximately every two weeks.  The lowest problem set score will be dropped before your grade is computed. 


  • Exercises with the computers in SW311 will be assigned in alternate weeks.  Time during class will be available to work on the exercises and to consult with the instructors.  The lowest of six exercise scores will be dropped before your grade is computed.


  • Unit Exams – Four unit exams will be given during the semester, each worth 5% of your grade.  Two will be in-class exams (closed-book), and two will be open-book, open-note, take-home exams, as noted on the schedule.  The lowest score will be dropped before your grade is computed.


  • Course Projects – Students must complete one course project during the semester.  Projects may be selected from the list provided, or, in exceptional circumstances, other projects may be undertaken at the discretion of the instructor.  For example, if you participated in a summer REU program and wish to continue or complete your summer project, please see me.


The course projects will be phased through the semester, culminating in a poster presentation on Dec. 7.  See the project assignment sheet for further details.


  • Final Exam – The final exam will be given at 8:00-10:00 a.m., Tues., December 14, in Swain West 221.  The exam will be open book and open note.  You are responsible for knowing the time and place of the exam and for being present to take the exam.



You are expected to attend class, complete assigned reading before class, and participate in class activities.  If you are unable to attend class, complete work, or participate for reasons of health, family responsibilities, or religious holidays, please contact the instructor well in advance to make arrangements. 


Homework problem sets must be handed in at or before the beginning of class on they day they are due to receive full credit (exercises should be handed in at the end of class the day they are due).  Students may work together on problem set assignments and on class exercises, but the work you hand in must be your own.  If you work with others on an assignment, include a note with your homework identifying with whom you worked.


Plagiarism is the use of other people’s words and ideas as your own.  Because you are asked to complete a short research project as part of this class, I want to be sure you understand what plagiarism is and what my policy is.  Plagiarism will not be accepted in students’ work in this class.  Give credit by citing the sources you use.  This includes noting where you paraphrase others’ work.  If you paraphrase, you must do more than just change a few words or reorder phrases.   To paraphrase correctly, use your own words, and give credit for ideas.  You must use your own words in all written assignments, and on the project.  Cutting and pasting text from the Web, the textbook, or other sources is not acceptable.


Students and instructors should maintain a high standard of respect and courtesy towards others.  Students should arrive on time for class, avoid private conversations when the instructors are speaking, and not read newspapers during class.  Please turn cell phones off before class begins.  We (the instructors) will begin class on time, be available during office hours, and do our best to provide a stimulating and instructive classroom experience.  Note that class is scheduled to last 1.25 hours, beginning at 9:30 AM and ending at 10:45 AM.  Class will not run past 10:45, and students should not disrupt class by preparing to depart before 10:45.


If you are having difficulty in this class and need extra help, please contact one of the instructors before you fall behind.  We can help, and it is much easier to keep up than to catch up.




Final grades will be assigned based on the following percentages:



98% or above
























Less than 50%


The following items will be included in the grade calculation:


  • Comprehensive final exam – 15%
  • Unit exams (4) – 15%
  • Class exercises - 20%
  • Homework (problem sets) – 20%
  • Course project and poster presentation – 15%
  • Class participation (attendance, contributions to problem solving, class summaries, class activities, mini-quizzes) – 15%




If you are walking on campus for evening activities, be sure to walk with a friend, or contact the IUSA Safety Escort Department for a ride ( or


Other Useful Resources


  • Documentation for software used in the class exercises and projects is available on the A451 shelf in Rm 311.


  • UITS offers “STEPS” courses for students who want to learn more about the use of computers and application software.  The STEPS courses are free to students.  To find out more, check out the STEPS website at


  • The Student Academic Center offers workshops during the semester that will help students set priorities, manage their time, take effective notes, and master other skills that can make the difference between struggling and thriving. The SAC can make your life easier in many ways. Visit their website at to find out about services, courses, and workshops.




A Final Word:  Astronomy is an exciting subject, and I’ll do my best to make this a great course.  Your suggestions for improving the course will be very much appreciated.