Analyzing the Universe

Terry A. Matilsky, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey

Using publicly available data from NASA of actual satellite observations of astronomical x-ray sources, we explore some of the mysteries of the cosmos, including neutron stars, black holes, quasars and supernovae.

Science is really not about looking up facts in an encyclopedia.  It is a process that extends what we know into the realm of the unexplored.  This can be exciting, certainly; to be able to sneak a peek at the Universe at its strange, awesome, cosmic best.  But it is very different from your run-of-the-mill standard “textbook” idea of science.  Science is a social, human endeavor.

And as human beings, we crave authenticity.  We have seen the trappings of society, we act as if we have mastered technology, and yet we know that something is lacking.  We have succumbed to the lure of Ebay, Facebook and Amazon (at least, I know I have!), and yet we remain unsatisfied at some primal level.  It’s time to peel away the layers of glitzy imagery and use our machines to exploit their ultimate purpose: the capability to  process large amounts of data with instructions that we provide, in order to test our ideas about how the Universe seems to behave.  In short, to do Science.  For the first time, it is possible for the interested student (and we are all students, especially those that have any claim to be considered “learned” , such as the instructor!) to have this experience on-line.

The subject matter for this course will be divided into two broad components which will be interwoven in an interdisciplinary fashion. The first is a general introduction to the physics and astronomy information you will need to understand basic phenomena that occur in the realm of x-ray astrophysics; the second is the presentation of authentic satellite data from various exciting types of x-ray sources, which you will analyze to better understand the working of the high-energy Universe in which we live. There are no prerequisites for this course, other than high-school mathematics (algebra and trigonometry).

I hope you will enjoy your experience in "Analyzing the Universe".

Syllabus

Week 1:  Images, the Nature of Light, and an Introduction to DS9: 6 lectures plus "wiki" material supplements 
  • Lecture 1:  "The Nature of Images"  [13:45]
  • Lecture 2:  "Image Formation"   [14:45]
  • Lecture 3:  "Skipping Stones and X-ray Images"   [10:23]
  • Lecture 4:  "The Perception of Images"   [17:34]
  • Lecture 5:  "Introduction to DS9--Part I"   [6:06]
  • Lecture 6:  "Introduction to DS9--Part II"  [20:02]
Homework/Quiz,  due  27 Sept. (11:59 PM EDT):  Quiz 1.   Note that reading  the "wiki" material is essential for this and all subsequent quizzes/homeworks.

Week 2:  Basic Astronomical Data and a DS9 Smorgasbord: 5 lectures plus "wiki" material.
  • Lecture 1:  "The DS9 Smorgasbord--Part I"   [23:46]
  • Lecture 2:  "The DS9 Smorgasbord--Part II"   [24:16]
  • Lecture 3:  "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics"   [20:20]
  • Lecture 4:  "Atomic Spectra, the Fingerprints of the Stars"   [11:51]
  • Lecture 5:  "The Cosmic Distance Scale -- Part I"   [28:00]
Homework/Quiz, due 4 Oct. (11:59 PM EDT): Quiz 2.   Note that reading  the "wiki" material is essential for this and all subsequent quizzes/homeworks.

Week 3: Stellar Evolution and White Dwarfs:  4 lectures plus "wiki"material.
  • Lecture 1:  "Putting It All Together--  the HR Diagram"   [15:11]
  • Lecture 2:  "Of GK Per and White Dwarfs, Part 1"   [16:41]
  • Lecture 3:  "Of GK Per and White Dwarfs, Part 2"  [20:43]
  • Lecture 4:  "Of GK Per and White Dwarfs, Part 3"  [13:54]
Homework/Quiz, due 11 Oct. (11:59 PM EDT): Quiz 3.    Note that reading  the "wiki" material is essential for this and all subsequent quizzes/homeworks.

Week 4:  Orbits, Gravity, and Clocks in the Sky:  7 lectures plus "wiki" material.
  • Lecture 1:  "Orbits"   [23:48]
  • Lecture 2:  "A Matter of Some Gravity"   [16:19]
  • Lecture 3:  "Of Hummingbirds, Trains, and the Doppler Shift"   [12:43]
  • Lecture 4:  "Clocks in the Sky--Cen X-3: Part 1--Exosat"   [14:49]
  • Lecture 5:  "Clocks in the Sky--Cen X-3: Part 2"  [14:29]
  • Lecture 6:  "Clocks in the Sky--Cen X-3: Part 3"  [15:04]
  • Lecture 7:  "Clocks in the Sky--Cen X-3: Part 4--Chandra"  [15:51]
Homework/Quiz, due 18 Oct. (11:59 PM EDT): Quiz 4      Note that reading  the "wiki" material is essential for this and all subsequent quizzes/homeworks.

Week 5:  Supernovae, Our Cosmic Recycling Centers:  2 lectures plus "wiki" material.
  • Lecture 1:  "Cas-A, Part 1"   [14:31]
  • Lecture 2:  "Cas-A, Part 2: Color It X-ray" [20:31]
 Homework/Quiz, due 25 Oct. (11:59 PM EDT): Quiz 5        Note that reading  the "wiki" material is essential for this and all subsequent quizzes/homeworks.

Week 6: To the Ends of the Universe; Quasars, 3C273, and beyond: 5 lectures plus "wiki" material.
  • Lecture 1:  "The Time Machine, Part 1"   [7:34]
  • Lecture 2:  "The Time Machine, Part 2"  [23:03]
  • Lecture 3:  "The Time Machine, Part 3"  [9:42]
  • Lecture 4:  "The Time Machine, Part 4"  [20:57]
  • Lecture 5:  "To the Ends of the Universe: The Cosmic Distance Scale -- Part II"  [20:20]
Homework/Quiz, due 1 Nov. (11:59 PM EST): Quiz 6         Note that reading  the "wiki" material is essential for this quiz/homework.





Dates:
  • 14 September 2015, 6 weeks
  • 14 October 2014, 6 weeks
  • 19 January 2014, 9 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
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  • Language: English Gb

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