ASTR 5720-001: Galaxies & Cosmology

Fall 1997, TR 2:00-3:15pm, in G027

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Professor Andrew J. S. Hamilton
JILA, room A706

For whom is this course?

This is an elective for graduate students. The course is taught every two years, and a tradition has developed that the emphasis of the course alternates between Galaxies one time, and Cosmology the next. This time the course will concentrate on COSMOLOGY. As regards the Astro Comps I exam, a consistent attempt has been made to choose questions accessible to either flavor of course.

We will deemphasize General Relativity, but we will not avoid it altogether. Some familiarity with GR may be useful. We will not cover the high energy particle physics which lies behind much of the work being done by physicists on inflation and the very early Universe.

I hope that, although the emphasis is on astrophysics, this course will also appeal to physics graduate students.


COBE and Saskatoon maps of the microwave Sky. COBE and Saskatoon maps of the microwave sky.

Las Campanas Redsfshift Survey. The Las Campanas Redshift Survey.

Astrophysical cosmology is a rapidly developing field, fuelled by ever improving observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background and of the distribution of galaxies in the Universe. In particular, notable advances are anticipated from the MAP (Microwave Anisotropy Probe) satellite planned for launch in Fall 2000, and from the SDSS (Sloan Digital Sky Survey) (for details see the Black Book) which plans to obtain 5 color photometry for 100 million stars, galaxies, and quasars, mostly in the North galactic hemisphere, and to obtain redshifts (spectra) for about 1 million galaxies and quasars.

A prominent aim of the course is to provide the student with the background necessary to understand how these and related surveys will contribute to our understanding of the origin, evolution, and structure of the Universe at large.

  • Classical Cosmology and Cosmological Models
  • Cosmological Perturbations
  • Microwave Background
  • Large Scale Structure
  • Inflation
  • Big Bang Nucleosynthesis
  • Galaxy Formation


There are several recently published graduate level texts on Cosmology, and more are about to be published.

  • Coles P. & Lucchin F. (1995), ``Cosmology, The Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structure'' (John Wiley). The official text. Seems to cover all the basic ideas and lore, but avoids getting bogged down in technicality. Gives the impression of having been written in haste in places - references are incomplete, and the principles and assumptions underlying derivations are not always made clear to the uninitiated.
  • Peacock J. A. (1998) ``Cosmological Physics'', soon to be published (Cambridge University Press). More advanced, clear pedagogical treatment.
  • Padmanabhan T. (1993) ``Structure Formation in the Universe'' (Cambridge University Press). More technical, concentrating on analytic results, but excellent text to work through.
  • Padmanabhan T. (1996) ``Cosmology and Astrophysics Through Problems'' (Cambridge University Press). Nice idea!
  • Collins P. D. B., Martin A. D. & Squires E. J. (1989) ``Particle Physics and Cosmology'' (John Wiley). My favorite book on particle physics - covers a lot of material concisely and clearly, with lots of helpful detail. Cosmology is covered only to the extent that it connects to particle physics.
  • Kolb E. W. & Turner M. S. (1990) ``The Early Universe'' (Addison-Wesley). Classic text.
  • Linder E. V. (1997) ``First Principles of Cosmology'' (Addison Wesley Longman). I haven't seen this yet, but it's on order.
  • Combes F., Boisse P., Mazure A., & Blanchard A (1995) ``Galaxies & Cosmology'' (Springer). More on galaxies than on cosmology.
  • Peebles P. J. E. (1993) ``Principles of Physical Cosmology'' (Princeton University Press). A disappointing text, despite the prestigious author. Peebles P. J. E. (1980) ``The Large-Scale Structure of the Universe'' (Princeton University Press) remains a classic.
  • Michael Rowan-Robinson (1985) ``Cosmic Distance Ladder'' (Oxford University Press). A first-rate monograph, complete with oodles of data.
  • Michael Rowan-Robinson (1996) ``Cosmology'' (Oxford University Press). Updated version of his 1977 text.
  • Dekel A. & Ostriker J. P., eds. (1996) ``Formation of Structure in the Universe'', Proc. Jerusalem Winter School 1996 (Cambridge University Press).
  • Rees M. (1995) ``Perspectives in Astrophysical Cosmology'' (Cambridge University Press). Not really a text, but a nice introduction to the fundamental ideas of cosmology.

In addition the WWW is proving an ever growing, ever more useful up to date resource.

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Updated 09/24/97