Astronomy 490                   Reading Topic Areas                    Spring 2007

Papers to be discussed in this seminar will be drawn from three or four broad topic areas.  Students will rank their level of interest in each of the following topic areas and 3-4 areas will then be chosen based on student rankings.  Each topic will be covered for 3-4 weeks.  The instructor will pick the first 2-3 papers to be read in each topic area.  The last paper in each area will be chosen by the instructor in consultation with students.  Please rank your level of interest in each of these areas on the back of the Student Questionnaire and return it to the instructor at or before the conclusion of the first day of class.  You may also include “write-in candidates” in your list of preferred topics.

1.  Planets and the Solar System, e.g., Kuiper Belt Object bigger than Pluto; “What’s a planet?”; brown dwarfs vs. planets; near-earth asteroids; evidence for water on large moons; latest from Cassini satellite orbiting Saturn

2.  Extra-solar planets, e.g., latest results from Doppler searches and transiting planets; planet-metallicity correlation; techniques and prospects for detecting Earth-mass planets; origin of “hot Jupiters”; planets around pulsars

3.  The Milky Way and neighbors, e.g., dwarf galaxies colliding with the Milky Way; “tidal tails” from dwarf galaxies being torn apart; evidence for a super-massive black hole at the Galactic center; dark matter halo; constraints on formation scenarios; searches for “Pop III” stars

4.  Evidence for the existence of black holes, e.g., studies of stellar-mass black holes in accreting binary stars, the supermassive black hole in the Milky Way and other galactic nuclei;  multiwavelength studies;  black hole jets

5.  Gamma-ray bursts, e.g., evidence they are the most energetic events in the Universe; Compton Gamma Ray Observatory results; discovery of burst afterglows;  “hypernova” hypothesis;  connection to black hole birth and/or binary neutron star coalescence

6.  Dark matter, e.g., evidence for dark matter in the Milky Way, Local Group, other galaxies and galaxy clusters; searches for dark matter (e.g., microlensing surveys, particle physics experiments, neutrino mass)

7.  Type Ia supernovae, the accelerating Universe, and “dark energy”, e.g.,  latest evidence for the accelerating Universe; Type Ia supernovae as “standard candles,” binary star progenitors of Type Ia supernovae; constraints from cosmic microwave background experiments

8.  Gravitational lensing, e.g., Solar eclipse expedition; microlensing surveys to measure dark matter in the Milky Way; use of microlensing to identify extra-solar planets; lensing in the Hipparcos dataset; lensing of galaxies by galaxy clusters

9.   Age determination in astronomy, e.g., constraints on age of Universe from globular clusters; age of the Milky Way from old white dwarfs; techniques for dating Sun and other stars


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