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Galaxies and Cosmology

California Institute of Technology via Coursera

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Overview

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This class is an introduction to the modern extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, i.e., the part of astrophysics that deals with the structure and evolution of the universe as a whole, and its major constituents: dark matter, dark energy, galaxies, quasars, large-scale structure, and intergalactic gas.  It will cover the subjects including: relativistic cosmological models and their parameters, extragalactic distance scale, cosmological tests, composition of the universe, dark matter, and dark energy; the hot big bang, cosmic nucleosynthesis, recombination, and cosmic microwave background; formation and evolution of structure in the universe; galaxy clusters, large-scale structure and its evolution; galaxies, their properties and fundamental correlations; formation and evolution of galaxies; star formation history of the universe; quasars and other active galactic nuclei, and their evolution; structure and evolution of the intergalactic medium; diffuse extragalactic backgrounds; the first stars, galaxies, and the reionization era.  It corresponds to the Ay 21 class taught at Caltech.

Syllabus

Galaxies and Cosmology

The lecture schedule and topics covered by this class are given below. There is no midterm or final for this class, but there are graded quizzes at the end of each week based on lecture material.

Week 1 

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Cosmology as a science
  • An overview of the modern cosmology and its history
  • Units, fluxes, and magnitudes

Chapter 2: Basics of Relativistic Cosmology

  • Basic concepts of General Relativity
  • Symmetry assumptions: homogeneity and isotropy
  • Metric, Robertson-Walker
  • The cosmological redshift
  • Comoving and proper coordinates
  • Friedmann equation
  • Definitions of cosmological parameters

Week 2 

Chapter 3: Cosmological Models

  • Computing cosmological models
  • Distances in cosmology
  • Basics of cosmological tests
  • The cosmic horizons

Chapter 4: Distance Scale, Age of the Universe, and the Universal Expansion

  • Distance scale and the Hubble constant
  • The age of the universe
  • Tests of the universal expansion

Week 3

Chapter 5: Cosmological Tests

  • Classical cosmological tests and their problems
  • Modern tests (non-CMBR)
  • Tests using CMBR fluctuations

Chapter 6: The hot Big Bang and the Thermal History of the Universe

  • Planck era and beyond
  • Inflation
  • Baryosynthesis
  • Nucleosynthesis
  • Recombination
  • Reionization

Week 4 

Chapter 7: Contents of the Universe

  • Luminous matter, M/L ratios
  • Baryons
  • Dark matters
  • Gravitational lensing
  • Dark energy, cosmological constant and quintessence

Chapter 8: Structure Formation: Theory

  • Density fluctuations, power spectrum, growth, damping
  • Dark matter dependence of cosmogony; Cold Dark Matter
  • Post-recombination growth
  • Collapse of density fluctuations
  • The role of cooling; galaxies vs. clusters and LSS
  • Numerical simulations
  • Galaxy merging

Week 5 

Chapter 9: Observations of Large Scale Structure

  • Measurements of galaxy clustering and LSS
  • Redshift surveys

Chapter 10: Large Scale Structure and Clusters of Galaxies

  • Peculiar motions
  • Evolution of clustering
  • Biasing
  • Galaxy clusters and their properties

Week 6 

Chapter 11: Galaxies, Their Structure and Properties (I)

  • Galaxy catalogs, morphological classification, Hubble sequence
  • Variation of galaxy properties along the Hubble Sequence
  • Stellar populations and galaxian subsystems
  • Galaxy luminosity and mass functions
  • Properties of spiral galaxies, density wave theory

Chapter 12: Galaxies, Their Structure and Properties (II)

  • Properties of elliptical galaxies
  • Supermassive black holes in nearby galaxies
  • Properties of dwarf galaxy families
  • Fundamental correlations, scaling relations, and their uses

Week 7 

Chapter 13: Galaxy Evolution

  • Basic processes of galaxy evolution: merging, stellar pop. modeling
  • Deep surveys (imaging and redshift)
  • Selection effects and obscured star formation
  • Star formation history, assembly of the mass
  • The Olbers paradox
  • Optical/NIR and FIR/sub-mm diffuse backgrounds

Chapter 14: Chemical Evolution, Intergalactic Medium and its Evolution

  • Chemical evolution of galaxies
  • Basic phenomenology of absorbers
  • LyA forest, Lyman limit systems, Damped LyA systems
  • Evolution of IGM and its chemical enrichment
  • Feedback processes and the cosmic web

Week 8 

Chapter 15: Galaxy Formation

  • Basics of galaxy formation
  • The first galaxies and early stages of galaxy evolution
  • Reionization era
  • The first stars
  • The origins of black holes in the early universe

Chapter 16: Quasars and Active Galactic Nuclei: Phenomenology and Physics

  • AGN properties, basics, classification, spectra
  • Supermassive black holes and their fueling
  • Emission mechanisms
  • AGN unification

Week 9 

Chapter 17: Quasars and AGN: Unification, Evolution, High-Energy Backgrounds

  • Jets and beaming
  • Quasar surveys and evolution
  • X-ray, gamma-ray, and AGN-generated backgrounds
  • The origin of first quasars and supermassive black holes

Taught by

S. George Djorgovski

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Reviews for Coursera's Galaxies and Cosmology
4.3 Based on 6 reviews

  • 5 stars 83%
  • 4 star 0%
  • 3 star 0%
  • 2 star 0%
  • 1 star 17%

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  • 1
Anonymous
5.0 6 years ago
Anonymous completed this course.
The professor was able to condense a massive amount of information in a series of short lectures over a relatively brief period of nine weeks. He tried to keep it as concise and "non-mathematical" as possible with most of the information being descriptive and graphical. Equations and small proofs were included but the course did not require you to do any extensive mathematical exercises or derivations. Although, one could if they pleased go to the university website and get the problem sets from there or alternatively purchase one of the proposed textbooks and solve the problems from the relevant chapters. All in all a great course and an excellent explainer (Prof. Djorgovski). Highly recommended if you have an interest in modern cosmology and galactic evolution.
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Kristina Š
5.0 a month ago
by Kristina completed this course and found the course difficulty to be hard.
This course requires much prior knowledge and calculus, but it's worth while. Professor participated in the forums, and the assignments were fun. I've learned a lot, and this is a must-enroll for advanced astrophysics!

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Christopher P
5.0 3 years ago
by Christopher completed this course.
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Pravir A
5.0 3 years ago
Pravir completed this course.
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Met B
5.0 4 years ago
by Met completed this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.
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