Natural Science 336 -- Supernovae, and the Fate of the Universe

Spring 2003, Hampshire College

Supernovae represent the final, explosive stage in the evolution of certain varieties of stars. They synthesize and expel heavy elements, heat the interstellar medium, trigger vigorous bursts of star formation, create neutron stars and sometimes black holes, and produce energetic cosmic rays. Some types of supernovae are also exceedingly useful cosmological tools, and have been used to study the expansion history of the Universe. These studies have recently revealed the surprising result that the expansion of the Universe is currently accelerating, perhaps due to a nonzero cosmological constant.
This course will concentrate on the physical processes that underlie supernova explosions as well as their use as primary and secondary extragalactic distance indicators. There will be a particular focus on how observations are used to constrain theoretical models. Students will read from current primary literature in addition to a more introductory astrophysics text. Additional topics covered include supernova classification schemes, core-collapse mechanism, physics of degenerate matter, nucleosynthesis, radiative transfer in expanding atmospheres, and cosmology. Prerequisites: Three semesters of physics (including classical mechanics, thermodynamics, and electricity and magnetism), one semester of calculus, and at least one prior astronomy course at the 200 level or above, or permission of the instructor. Class will meet once a week for 3 hours.


Douglas Leonard,
413-559-5422, 201 Cole Science Center, Hampshire College

Meeting Time

Tuesday, 2:30 - 5:30

Meeting Place

Cole Science Center, Rm. 333, Hampshire College

Office Hours

Doug's office hour schedule

Newsflash: Thanks for a great class!

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    Last Updated 2003.04.22 By Douglas Leonard