Course Syllabus

Modern Astrophysics (PHY4905, Fall 2020)

The course will introduce students to open questions in astrophysics and current research, and the observational means to address these questions. 3 credits.

This course is a synchronous class, with Zoom meetings (Links to an external site.) on Tuesdays 11:45 AM - 1:40 PM and Thursdays at 11:45 AM - 12:35 PM.

Prerequisites: PHY2049 or equivalent; PHY3101 or equivalent. No previous astrophysics background is required. We will introduce all relevant information during the course. This course satisfies the 4000 level physics elective requirement for Physics BS majors.

Instructor: Prof. Imre Bartos

Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:40pm-12:35pm  (right after class on Zoom)

Contact: Please email to imrebartos (at) I will respond within 24 hours.

By the end of the semester, students will have an understanding of some of the main, actively researched topics in astrophysics. They will learn where the frontiers are, where the field is going, and will gain familiarity with some of the major recent discoveries. Students will have an overview of modern observational tools, which is critical in understanding what future observations are feasible and what statistical certainty we can have in future measurements. Additionally, at the end of the semester students will be prepared to better absorb and communicate scientific work as researchers encounter it, a skill critical not just in research but in data-related problem solving in general.

Student expectations

To achieve the learning outcomes, students are expected to:

  • Attend synchronous lectures and interactively engage with material by participating in discussions and asking questions if something is not clear.
  • Complete homework assignments.
  • Give a research style presentation at the end of the semester.

Required materials

There is no required reading for this class. Recommended reading:

The course requires that you connect to classes through Zoom. You are expected to maintain your computer and access to internet throughout this course. Please ensure you have backup plans and access to loaner equipment on short notice in case the equipment you depend upon becomes unreliable. Please revisit your college's policy on required technology tools and access. 

Course policies

ATTENDANCE POLICY:  You are expected to synchronously attend classes. 

ASSIGNMENT POLICY: Homework, research seminar at the end of the semester.

HOMEWORK POLICY: Homework problems will be announced during class. You can also find them in the slides posted for each class for your record. Homework should be emailed to imrebartos (at) in txt or PDF format prior to the class 1 week after the announcement. You are welcome to collaborate on solving the homework questions. Please just make sure that everyone submits an individual homework solution. Late assignments will be penalized.

PRESENTATION POLICY: At the end of the semester you will give a research-style, 15 minutes long seminar about a scientific paper. Choose a recent (<10 year old) peer-reviewed scientific article (e.g., using that is connected to the topics discussed in class and that is not a review article. Alternatively, you can present on physics research you personally are conducting.

Assessment and Grade Calculation

Students will receive grade for homework (50%), final presentation (12%), classroom participation (10%) and attendance (28%) . The final grade will be determined on the total % of score collected (see grading scale below).  1% will be equivalent to 1 point. There will be no curving. Unexcused late turn in of homework or unexcused absences from class will reduce the final grade.

The following grading standards will be used in this class:

Letter Grade
100 %
to 94.0%
< 94.0 %
to 90.0%
< 90.0 %
to 87.0%
< 87.0 %
to 84.0%
< 84.0 %
to 80.0%
< 80.0 %
to 77.0%
< 77.0 %
to 74.0%
< 74.0 %
to 70.0%
< 70.0 %
to 67.0%
< 67.0 %
to 64.0%
< 64.0 %
to 61.0%
< 61.0 %
to 0.0%

Canvas is the where course content, grades, and communication will reside for this course.

  • For Canvas, Passwords, or any other computer-related technical support contact the IT Service Desk.
    • 123 123-1234
    • 877 878-8325

UNIVERSITY POLICY ON ACCOMMODATING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: Disability Resource Center (Links to an external site.)(| 352-392-8565) helps to provide an accessible learning environment for all by providing support services and facilitating accommodations, which may vary from course to course. Once registered with DRC, students will receive an accommodation letter that must be presented to the instructor when requesting accommodations. Students should follow this procedure as early as possible in the semester.

UNIVERSITY POLICY ON ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT:  Academic honesty and integrity are fundamental values of the University community. Students should be sure that they understand the UF Student Honor Code at (Links to an external site.).

**NETIQUETTE, COMMUNICATION COURTESY:  All members of the class are expected to follow rules of common courtesy in all email messages, threaded discussions and chats. 

COURSE EVALUATION:  Students are expected to provide professional and respectful feedback on the quality of instruction in this course by completing course evaluations online via GatorEvals. Guidance on how to give feedback in a professional and respectful manner is available at (Links to an external site.). Students will be notified when the evaluation period opens, and can complete evaluations through the email they receive from GatorEvals, in their Canvas course menu under GatorEvals. Summaries of course evaluation results are available to students at (Links to an external site.).

ATTENDANCE AND MAKE-UP POLICY: Excused absences and allowances for make-up work are consistent with university policies in the undergraduate catalog ( (Links to an external site.))and require appropriate documentation.

During the course we will discuss 10 topics from modern astrophysics, spending about 1 week with each of them:

  • Stellar life and death (possible ends of stellar life cycles, including white dwarfs, core collapse, and disintegration)
  • Neutron Stars (what neutron stars are, how they are formed, and their properties. Neutron star equation of state)
  • Black holes (what black holes are, how they are formed, and their properties. Schwarzschild radius, spin, charge, mass, hair)
  • Supernovae (types, explosion mechanisms, emission properties, remnants)
  • Accretion (gas accretion onto black holes or neutron stars. Origin of accreted gas, geometry (Bondi/disk))
  • Astrophysical particle acceleration (relativistic outflows and how they accelerate particles. Cosmic rays, gamma rays, neutrinos)
  • Gamma-ray bursts (history, properties, populations)
  • The high-energy Universe (what has been observed, observational techniques, open questions. Cosmic rays, gamma rays, high-energy neutrinos)
  • Gravitational waves (detection, astrophysical origin)
  • Multi-messenger astrophysics (the exploration of the Universe through combining information from a multitude of cosmic messengers: electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves, neutrinos and cosmic rays)

 At the end of each topic, we will have a homework assignment addressing the discussed material within that topic, which will be due in 1 week.

Three weeks before the end of the semester we will start preparing for the final presentations by selecting an appropriate scientific article. Each student will give a presentation during the last two weeks of the semester.


Click here for the full weekly course schedule.