ASTR 2P42:

Astrophysics & Cosmology

Brock University, Winter 2023

Prof. Barak Shoshany

ASTR 2P42 Course Logo

About the Brock physics department

This course is part of the undergraduate physics curriculum at Brock University. For more information about physics at Brock, please visit the physics department website or the individual pages for people, research, programs, and courses. See also the Brock calendar entries for ASTR 2P42.

Table of contents

Course overview

ASTR 2P42 (cross-listed as PHYS 2P42) is an advanced 2nd-year course on astrophysics and cosmology. It is intended as a continuation of ASTR 1P01/02, which is an introductory 1st-year course for students of all majors. ASTR 2P42 was created for students who have suitable background knowledge in mathematics and physics and want to study the material with much more depth and detail.

This course includes the following topic:

  • Structure, formation, and evolution of planets, stars, and galaxies.
  • White dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes, and other exotic entities.
  • The possibility of life on other planets, interstellar travel, and space colonies.
  • Dark matter and dark energy.
  • Origin and ultimate fate of the universe.
  • Applications of general relativity and quantum mechanics to astrophysics and cosmology.
  • Concepts from science fiction, such as faster-than-light travel and time travel, and whether they are compatible with our current knowledge of physics.

Students who wish to take ASTR 2P42 must first successfully complete the following courses:

Please note that these prerequisites are all mandatory; you will not be able to take ASTR 2P42 unless you take all of these courses first, unless you have taken an equivalent course in another university.

This course may include a field trip to an observatory. More details will be posted later.

Important: Announcements from the professor, containing crucial information and ongoing updates about the course, will be posted throughout the term on Microsoft Teams, in the "General" channel. To make sure you get notified of these announcements, please go to the course Teams site, click on the three dots to the right of "General", then go to "Channel notifications" and choose the option "All activity", as shown in this screenshot: (In the screenshot the channel name is "Announcements", but it works the same for any channel.)

How to enable announcements notifications

It is your responsibility to follow the announcements and read all of them thoroughly on a regular basis. No accommodations will be made for students who fail to satisfy the course requirements due to not reading the professor's announcements!

About the professor

The professor for this course is Dr. Barak Shoshany (ħe/ħim). I did my BSc in mathematics and physics at Tel Aviv University in Israel and my MSc and PhD at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. I then taught at the University of Toronto for a short time. I joined Brock University as Assistant Professor in September 2020, and I also teach scientific computing at McMaster University.

I am a theoretical, mathematical, and computational physicist. My research focuses on the nature of time and causality in general relativity and quantum mechanics, as well as symbolic and high-performance scientific computing.

I am particularly interested in time travel; I wrote a popular article about my research on The Conversation and was even interviewed about it on the TV show The Agenda. I'm always happy to talk about my research, and theoretical physics in general, so please feel free to ask me about it, both in and out of class!

When I'm not teaching or doing research, I love composing music (look for my album "Travel Music About Time" on all music streaming services), playing video games, board games, and tabletop role-playing games, and watching TV, especially science fiction and fantasy.

My office is MC E219, located in block E of the Mackenzie Chown Complex (MC). I do not have fixed office hours. You are welcome to drop by my office unannounced whenever you want, but I'm not there too often. If you would like to meet, please email me, and I would be happy to schedule a meeting in my office.

Schedule and lectures

The course will take place during the Winter 2023 term, from January 9 to April 7, 2023. There will be two 1.5-hour lectures every week:

  • Mondays 10:00-11:30,
  • Thursdays 10:00-11:30.

There will be no lectures on Reading Week, February 20-24. Thus we will have 12 weeks of 2 lectures each, for a total of 24 lectures and 36 hours. The course will be given in person only, in the physics "library", MC B209, right next to the physics office.

The course will also have a Microsoft Teams site, where students can have discussions and ask the professor questions. The professor will also use Teams to make announcements, and it is crucial that you follow these announcements closely as described above. There will not be any online lectures on Teams, only in-person lectures.

Please note that according to Brock's Student Code of Conduct, "Without expressed consent from course instructors, students are not permitted to tape record, video record, or otherwise record course lectures, seminars or laboratories." If a student is caught making an audio and/or video recording of any lectures without the explicit consent of the professor, this will be considered non-academic misconduct and disciplinary action will be taken.

Useful software

Interested students may find the following applications useful. They are 100% free and available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and iOS. Using them is optional, but might help you understand the material better.

  • Stellarium: Shows you the sky as seen from any place on Earth at any point in time. You can zoom in or click on individual astronomical objects for more information. You can also highlight the constellations. If using it during the day, press "A" to turn off the atmosphere. Stellarium can also run directly in your web browser, but that version has fewer features.
  • Celestia: Allows you to travel to different objects in the solar system, such as planets, moons, and asteroids, and shows you their orbits and positions at different times. You can also find eclipses, and travel to other stars in the galaxy.

The are also several apps that you can use in the field for astronomical observations. Sky Map is available for Android phones only, while SkyView is available both for Android and iPhone. Simply point your phone to the sky, and the app will tell you exactly what you're seeing in real time!

Advanced students may be interested in Gaia Sky, a billion-star map of the Milky Way Galaxy, which also works in VR (on Windows and Linux only).

COVID-19 guidelines

Your health and safety is very important to me! Since this course is delivered in person, all students must adhere to the following COVID-19 guidelines:

  • According to university policy, as of September 6, medical-grade masks are mandatory in all instructional spaces. This includes all lectures and exams for this course.
    • Fabric face coverings such as buffs, gaiters and bandanas do not satisfy the masking requirements; you must wear a medical mask (and I recommend an N95 mask).
    • Please note that if any student is not wearing a mask in the classroom, the lecture or exam will be canceled unless the student puts on a mask or leaves the class.
    • If you have a medical exemption from wearing a mask, please send me a doctor's note before coming to class.
    • As the course instructor, I reserve the right to maintain the mask requirements in my classroom even if the university decides to lift it later in the term.
  • Vaccine boosters are highly recommended for all students. If you did not receive a booster in the last 6 months, you are encouraged to get one. While vaccines are not currently required by the university, they may become mandatory later in the term.
  • If you suspect that you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, do not come to class. If you miss a lecture, you can make up the missing material later, and if you miss an exam, you can take it another time.

For more information on university policies, please see the COVID-19 FAQ. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to post them on Teams!

© 2023 Barak Shoshany