Ay 20
Basic Astronomy and the Galaxy

(Winter Term 2014)

Instructors: Shri Kulkarni (238 Cahill, x4010) and Lynne Hillenbrand (218 Cahill, x6587).
Office Hours: any time office doors are open, or by arrangement

The class meets M 2:00-3:00 pm, W 9:00-10:00 am, F 3:00-4:00 pm in 219 Cahill

The TA is graduate student Rebecca Jensen-Clem (244 Cahill, x4351)
TA Office Hours: by arrangement with Rebecca (Becky).

Textbook: An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics by Bradley W. Carroll and Dale A. Ostlie.
This is available on reserve in the library, but if you plan on taking other courses in astronomy at any time in the future, this text is a highly recommended purchase.

The course syllabus and teaching schedule.


This is the sophomore level general introduction to astronomy and astrophysics at Caltech that serves as a pre-requisite course to our upper level Ay 101 and Ay 102 courses.


Grading will be based on weekly homework sets, an oral midterm, and a written closed-book final exam. On homeworks, you may collaborate with your classmates, but the work you turn in should be your own.


The TAs held a software tutorial for Matlab and Python during the second week of classes.

Homework Assignments

Problem sets will be roughly weekly.

PS 1 - due week of 20 January

PS 2 - due week of 3 February
(we may designate one or a few of the later problems as extra credit)

PS 3 - due week of 10 February

midterm info and questions
don't forget to sign up here for a time slot

PS 4 - due week of 24 February

*** *** *** *** ***
PS 5 - due 7 March *
*** *** *** *** ***

Supplemental Material

Broaden your horizons with the Astronomy Picture of the Day

Current images of the Sun

The meridian line applet that professor Hillenbrand mentioned in class

Get to know Planck's Law

Applet for the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution

Applets from Cornell on stellar parallax, binary stars, and stellar evolution

The slides on telescopes / instruments that professor Hillenbrand showed in class

Astrophysical simulation of mass transfer in the famous system Algol .

Artist's rendition of the full evolution of a close, and later interacting, binary system.

Last updated January 14, 2013 by LAH