ASTR 314 : Survey of Astronomy


Dr. Alexey Belyanin, Associate Professor of Physics

Office: MIST 426

Phone: 979-845-7785


Office Hours: MWF 10-11:30 am, or by appointment


Times: MWF 11:30 am - 12:20 pm

Location: MPHY 213


An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics, 2nd Edition, by Carroll and Ostlie ISBN: 0-8053-0402-9


Can be found here



Astronomy Picture of the Day, January 14, 2010 ( Beautiful island universe M94 lies a mere 15 million light-years distant in the northern constellation of the hunting dogs, Canes Venatici. A popular target for astronomers the brighter inner part of the face-on spiral galaxy is about 30,000 light-years across. Traditionally, deep images have been interpreted as showing M94's inner spiral region surrounded by a faint, broad ring of stars. But a new multi-wavelength investigation has revealed previously undetected spiral arms sweeping across the outskirts of the galaxy's disk, an outer disk actively engaged in star formation. At optical wavelengths, M94's outer spiral arms are followed in this remarkable discovery image, processed to enhance the outer disk structure. Background galaxies are visible through the faint outer arms, while the three spiky foreground stars are in our own Milky Way galaxy.



Astronomy is among the oldest of sciences. People have gazed into the sky for as long as we humans exist. And yet, over the past two decades our understanding of the universe has advanced enormously. We live in a new golden age of astronomy and astrophysics, and there seems no end to the new discoveries. During the past 15 years we learned that our universe is accelerating in its expansion, driven by a mysterious dark energy. Extrasolar planets have been found, and we may be on the verge of discovering an Earth-like planet that can harbor life. Gamma-ray bursts turned out to be the most powerful and distant explosions in the universe. The age of the universe has been determined with uncertainty of less than 2%. It was found that neutrinos have mass, and recent CDMS data indicate that we may have discovered a mysterious dark matter particle. In this class we will discuss these and many other topics in astronomy and astrophysics: stars and their evolution, black holes and general relativity, galaxies, evidence for dark matter and dark energy, the evolution of the Universe, the Big Bang, the origin of Life, etc. For tentative weekly schedule see the syllabus here. By the end of the class you will know where we stand today in understanding our universe and what are the main unsolved problems and challenges. You will be able to read astronomy articles at the level of Physics Today magazine.

Course policies:


Grading: two mid-term exams 20% each, homework 10%, quizzes 10%, final exam 40%


Quizzes: We will use CPS clickers for all in-class quizzes and discussion. You will need to buy the clickers at the MSC Bookstore and register them for this class at You should expect a clicker quiz or some activity using the clickers each class, starting from the week of February 1. Please don’t forget to bring your clicker.


Weekly homework is due on Fridays at the beginning of the class, unless announced otherwise. Homework assignments will be posted online on Mondays. They will normally be taken from the textbook.


Makeup exams will be offered only in the case of a University excused absence. If you miss an exam and request a makeup, you should inform me as soon as possible but no later than the day after the exam. Very few conditions qualify as an authorized excused absence, so please try to avoid missing an exam. There will be no make up for quizzes. If you miss a quiz due to a University excused absence, I will ignore this quiz when calculating your quiz average.


Lectures will be a combination of blackboard lectures, presentations using a computer projector, and in-class science demonstrations. You are strongly encouraged to take notes. All presentations using the projector will be made available the day of each class, but you should take notes on everything. Any of the material covered in class may show up on exams.


Mathematics will be at the level of an introductory calculus-based physics course. I will provide the necessary math and physics background whenever we need it.


Homework Assignments:

Due, Friday, Jan. 29, by 11:30am (in class)


Due, Friday, Feb. 5, by 11:30am (in class)


Due, Friday, Feb. 12, by 11:30am (in class)


Due, Friday, Feb. 26, by 11:30am (in class)


Due, Friday, March 5, by 11:30am (in class)


Due, Friday, March 12, by 11:30am (in class)


Enjoy Spring Break!


Due Monday, March 29, by 11:30 am (in class)


Due Friday, April 9, by 11:30 am (in class)


Due Friday, April 16, by 11:30 am (in class)


Due Friday, April 23, by 11:30 am (in class)


Due Friday, April 30, by 11:30 am (in class)




The final exam will be on Wednesday, May 12 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm in MPHY 213. Please review all chapters we studied and lecture notes; review very carefully your mid-term tests and homework. You will be given formula sheets from mid-term tests plus some new formulas. A list of new formulas can be found here.


There will be review session on Tuesday, May 4, at 7 pm in MPHY 213. You are welcome to stop by my office at any time if you have questions.


Available lecture notes are below.


Warning: Blackboard derivations are not posted (e.g., integrals of motion, orbits in 1/r potential, virial theorem, blackbody spectrum, etc.) and some of them are NOT in the textbook. Please do not skip classes!


Lecture notes 1 January 20


Lecture notes 2 January 22


Lecture notes 3 week of January 25


Lecture notes 4 February 3 (chapter 3)


Lecture notes 5 February 5 (chapter 5)


Test 1 review


Lecture notes 7 February 22 (chapter 7)

Lecture notes 8 (chapter 8)


Lecture notes 9 (chapter 8)


Lecture notes 10 (chapter 10)


Lecture notes 11 (chapter 10)


Lecture notes 12 (chapter 13,14)


Lecture notes 13 (chapter 13,14)


Lecture notes 14 (chapter 15,16)


Lecture notes 15 (Gamma-ray bursts)



Solutions to test 2


Chapter 17 (General Relativity and Black Holes)


Chapter 24 (Milky Way Galaxy)


Chapter 25 (Galaxies)


Chapter 26, 28 (Evolution of galaxies and AGNs)


Cosmology 1


Cosmology 2


Final review















Some Links to Astronomy sources:


Most of these periodicals are available in electronic form from the Texas A&M library if you are connected to the University network. See this link for a list of available publications.