Astronomy 301:

Cosmology and Gravitational Collapse

San Diego State University

Spring 2006


This course considers the universe on the grandest scales (cosmology) and during its most extreme moments (gravitational collapse of stars to form neutron stars and black holes through supernova explosions). We shall trace the story of how the use of supernovae as extragalactic distance indicators has recently startled scientists with a disturbing answer to an age-old question: What will be the ultimate fate of our universe?

Course material is derived from two sources, the first a modern astronomy textbook, and the second a popular account of the ``supernova discovery'' by an eminent astronomer closely involved with the work. Through these works and class discussions we shall consider this scientific breakthrough with a particular emphasis on the human process by which such discoveries are made. The class assumes no prior background in astronomy, although a general knowledge of science at the high-school level will be helpful. Mathematics will be limited to algebra and geometry.

Prerequisite: Completion of the General Education requirement in Foundations II. A.1. Physical Sciences.


Professor Douglas Leonard, leonard@sciences.sdsu.edu
619-594-2215, Rm. 238 Physics building
Meeting times and location Tuesday, Thursday 12:30 - 1:45 PM, Rm. 216 Physics-Astronomy building
Office Hours Tuesday and Thursday 2:00 - 4:00 PM
Thursday, 4:00 - 5:00 PM (individual appointments only, scheduled in advance); other times possible by appointment


Thanks for a great semester!


  • Course Syllabus PS PDF
  • Weekly Assignments
  • Class Handouts
  • Powerpoint slides shown in class
  • Web links shown in class
  • Last Updated 2006.07.29 By Douglas Leonard