PHYS-643 / 3 credits
Teacher: Anderson Richard Irving
Introduction to time-variable astrophysical objects and processes, from Space Weather to stars, black holes, and galaxies. Introduction to time-series analysis, instrumentation targeting variability, and the importance of the time domain for astronomy, cosmology, and fundamental physics.
The Universe is bustling with variability. Variability denotes changes of observed properties as a function of time that can be detected on all observable timescales. From the millisecond pulsars to the billions of years of cosmic or stellar evolution, virtually all astronomical objects vary on some timescale. Importantly, variability allows us to unravel the physics of astronomical objects or even for testing fundamental physical concepts, such as general relativity. However, the realization that the Universe is not static also carries a profound philosophical insight for how humans engage with the Cosmos.
In this course, we dive into the fascinating subject of time-domain astronomy and time-variable astrophysical phenomena, ranging from "next-door" events to cosmological tests. Lectures will be 2 hours in duration, followed by 1h excerise sessions.
Exercise sessions will feature student presentations (cf. below), provide information and instructions for assignments, and allow for discussing solutions to the assignments. The assignments will be a mixture of investigations based on real data (e.g. using Jupyter notebooks in Python) and analytical (back-of-the-envelope-style) calculations.
Each student will present a recent relevant publication (informal 10min journal club-style presentation) during one of the exercise sessions. This is intended to prepare students for the oral exam, which will consist of a paper presentation with Q&A and count for 100% of the grade.
Subjects covered by the lectures are as follows:
1. From historical records to modern time-domain surveys (Lecture 1)
2. Variability in the Solar System (Lecture 2)
3. Extrinsic stellar variability (Lecture 3)
4. Intrinsic stellar variability (Lectures 4 & 5)
5. Searching for life in the Universe (Lecture 6)
6. Transient events (Lecture 7)
7. Degenerate objects (Lecture 8)
8. Active galaxies (Lecture 9)
9. Multi-messenger astronomy (Lecture 10 & 11)
10. Cosmic distances and expansion (Lecture 12)
11. Applications for fundamental physics and cosmology (Lectures 13 & 14)
PHYS-439 (Introduction to astroparticle physics) provides high-energy and astroparticle complement to this course
observational astrophysics, time-domain astronomy, variability, stars, galaxies, black holes, fundamental physics
Bachelor in physics, astrophysics, or mathematics; Astrophysics I & II (PHYS-209 & PHYS-323)
- Understand basic processes leading to varibility in astronomical sources
- understand the principles behind tests of fundamental physics based on time-domain observations
In the programs
- Number of places: 30
- Exam form: Oral (session free)
- Subject examined: Astrophysics V : The variable Universe
- Lecture: 28 Hour(s)
- Exercises: 14 Hour(s)