PHY 265: High-Energy Astrophysics and Radiative Processes

(This is the Fall 2008 version. More recent versions are on Smartsite.)

Welcome to PHY 265, a survey course covering galactic and extragalactic X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, radiative processes, and techniques of high-energy astrophysics. We will meet MW 11am-12:20pm in Phy/Geo 525. Most classes will include a small-group problem-solving activity, to break up the lecture and solidify your understanding.


David Wittman, Phy/Geo 529, 754-5354, dwittman@physics. My office hours are Monday and Thursday 3-4pm, but you are always welcome to drop by any time. Office hours set a lower limit, not an upper limit, to my availability.


Required: High-Energy Astrophysics by Fulvio Melia. This book will not be published until March 2009, but Fulvio has given me permission to copy it. I have paid for coping and binding, so just pick up your copy from me.

Reference: Radiative Processes in Astrophysics by Rybicki and Lightman. This is the standard text for radiative processes and may make a good reference. The library does not own a copy, but there are several personal copies on the 5th floor which could be lent to students. Melia's book does cover radiative processes, but not as deeply as Rybicki and Lightman. Also, Ch. 1 of Rybicki and Lightman is a good overview of radiative transfer, which is important in astrophysics because we often have obstructed views of interesting objects.


Homework (roughly weekly) 60%
Midterm exam10%
Final exam 20%
Participation* 10%
*based on participation in in-class group problem-solving.

Additional Logistics

Smartsite will be used in a very limited way. I will use smartsite to manage class email, so that it is all archived. For most other functions, such as downloading homework and handouts and checking the schedule, please use the class website

In-class problem solving will sometimes require numerical answers. Please bring calculators to class to help. One calculator per three students should be sufficient, as we will work in groups of about three.

TENTATIVE Schedule: Please check the online version for updates! Clickable links take you to the pictures I showed in that class.

Date Reading In-class topic/special notes.
Sep. 29 Ch. 1 Course overview. Motivation and instrumentation.
Oct. 1 Ch. 2 The high-energy sky.
Oct. 6 No class.
Oct. 8 Ch. 4 Particle acceleration. Sidebar on shocks. HW1 due.
Oct. 10, 1pm Ch. 5 Note special date. Radiative processes. This will be a quick review, as you have seen most of this in previous courses. It will also establish terminology and notation to be used later.
Oct. 13 Ch. 6 Accretion. HW2 due.
Oct. 15 Ch. 7.1, 7.2, 8.1 Finish accretion.
Oct. 20 Ch. 9.1-9.2 Pulsars and supernova remnants. Also read Seiradakis and Wielebinski for the radio behavior of pulsars.
Oct. 22 Ch. 9.2-9.3Pulsing sources continued.
Oct. 27 Ch. 10 Black holes in binaries. HW3 due.
Oct. 29 Finish BH in binaries. Midterm exam: read and discuss. Due Monday.
Nov. 3 Midterm exam: writeups due, oral presentations.
Nov. 5 Ch. 11 Quick review of radiative transfer, following Ch. 1 of Rybicki and Lightman, which you may wish to read.
Nov. 10 Gamma-ray bursts (GRB).
Nov. 12 Ch. 12 Active galactic nuclei (AGN)
Nov. 17 AGN ct'd. HW4 due. Hand out HW 5: here are the FITS files: acis_evt2.fits, image_soft.fits, image_hard.fits, and xmm_img.fits
Nov. 19 Ch. 13.2 Galaxy clusters.
Nov. 24 Galaxy clusters ct'd. HW5 due, hand out HW6.
Nov. 26 Ch. 13.1 Cosmic rays.
Dec. 1 Additional topics: neutrino astronomy + TBD; course evaluations. HW6 due.
Dec. 3 Ferenc guest lecture on MAGIC and ground-based gamma-ray astronomy.
Dec. 8 Final exam, 3:30pm. The format may be a take-home exam due at this time.