Physics 231: Introductory Astrophysics

Winter 2018


Course Overview and Expectations

The goal of this course is to understand the unifying principles of physics that relate familiar phenomena on Earth to what goes on in the larger universe. We will discuss the motions of the planets, gravity, and the motions of the stars, and try to bring all of these concepts together. We will also talk about how just a few simple physical laws can predict the structure and evolution of stars. We will then discuss energy transfer, radiation, and the detection of the most distant galaxies, and finally the structure and evolution of the universe itself. All in 10 weeks!

No prior knowledge of astronomy or astrophysics is assumed. Students who have taken "Survey of the Universe" may find some topics familiar, but this course will cover a number of very different topics, at a significantly higher level than PHYS 131. Knowledge of mechanics at the PHYS 101/PHYS 113 level is assumed, as is elementary differential and integral calculus. On a day to day basis, I expect you to come to class, ask questions, do the readings, and keep up with your homework. And, most importantly, if I discuss something you don't understand or you don't think you are adequately prepared for, please come see me.

Course Information

Instructor:Prof. Steve McMillan
Office:Disque 815
Phone:(215) 895-2709
e-mail:steve (at)
Lectures:Disque 919, Tu Th 2:00 pm - 3:20 pm
Office Hours:Tu 3:30 - 4:30, or by appointment
Text Book:D. Maoz, Astrophysics in a Nutshell, Second Edition



Additional Material