ASTR 2P42: Astrophysics & Cosmology
Brock University, Winter 2023
Course Logo

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 announcement 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!

Course syllabus ^

The course website also doubles as the course syllabus. If you need the syllabus in PDF format, simply click here to print it and choose "Save to PDF".

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 regularly 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'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!

I also love teaching. I developed 9 full-term undergraduate and graduate courses from scratch since 2020, including 4 physics courses, 3 astronomy courses, 1 scientific computing course, and 1 mathematics course. My devotion to teaching won me the Brock University Faculty of Mathematics & Science Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2023.

When I'm not teaching or doing research, I love composing music, playing video games, board games, and tabletop role-playing games, and reading or watching science fiction and fantasy. Please see my personal website for details on my research, teaching, talks, media interviews, music compositions, and more.

My office is located in room E219 in 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 at, and I would be happy to schedule a meeting, either online or 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.

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).

Accommodations ^

Brock University is committed to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for all students and will adhere to the Human Rights principles that ensure respect for dignity, individualized accommodation, inclusion, and full participation. The University provides a wide range of resources to assist students, as follows:

  • If you need any accommodations related to exams, such as extra time, because of a disability or an ongoing health or mental health condition, please contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at or (905) 688-5550 ext. 3240 as soon as possible to arrange your accommodations.
  • If you require academic accommodation on religious grounds, you should make a formal written request to the professor during the first two weeks of the term, or as soon as possible after a need for accommodation is known to exist. Religious accommodations are not granted automatically, and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • If you are experiencing mental health concerns, contact the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre. Good2Talk is a service specifically for post-secondary students, available 24/7, 365 days a year, and provides anonymous assistance: visit the website or call 1 866 925-5454. For information on wellness, coping, and resiliency, click here.
  • If you have been affected by sexual violence, the Human Rights & Equity Office offers support, information, reasonable accommodations, and resources through the Sexual Violence Support & Education Coordinator. For information on sexual violence, visit Brock's Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy or contact the Sexual Violence Support & Response Coordinator at or (905) 688-5550 ext. 4387.
  • If you have experienced discrimination or harassment on any of the above grounds, including racial, gender or other forms of discrimination, contact the Human Rights and Equity Office at

Intellectual property notice ^

Any and all course materials created by the instructor in this course, including but not limited to notes, slides, homework problems, homework solutions, exams, exam solutions, and photo, audio, and/or video recordings, are the intellectual property of the instructor.

Any student who, without the instructor's express consent, publicly posts or sells the instructor's work, or takes a photo, audio, and/or video recording of the instructor's lectures, will be charged with misconduct under Brock University's Academic Integrity Policy and/or Code of Conduct, and may also face adverse legal consequences for infringement of intellectual property rights.

© 2024 Barak Shoshany