mountain profile Institute for Astronomy University of Hawaii

Astronomy Graduate Courses

Maintained by LG

Core Courses:  ASTR 633 is offered every year and 622-631 are offered in alternate years

Course No. & Title
ASTR 622: The Interstellar Medium
This course covers the Interstellar Medium (ISM), namely the gas and dust between the stars. Even the highest density ISM is  far more rarefied than the best vacuums currently attainable on Earth and thus the ISM allows us to explore physical processes in unique environments. This course will discuss observations and theories of a wide range of ISM environments from pervasive diffuse, ionized gas to dense, molecular clouds and star forming regions, and the transition from interstellar to circumstellar material (i.e. disks).
ASTR 623: Stellar Interiors & Evolution
This course provides a general description of the physics of stellar structure, the observational methods used by astronomers to determine basic stellar properties, and an introduction to modern 1D stellar evolution codes. Armed with the fundamental equations of stellar structure, the course then describes the evolution of stars in isolation and in the presence of a binary companion. The students will get the basic information that will allow them to work in a variety of research projects: stars of all spectral types and luminosity classes, stellar pulsations, exoplanet characterization, planetary nebulae, white dwarfs, supernovae, neutron starts, black holes, gravitational wave event optical counterparts.
ASTR 626: Galaxies
This course is a broad overview of galaxies and their evolution. It starts with a focus on galaxies in the local universe (including the Milky Way), and a description of their properties, structure, and gravitational dynamics. This discussion includes nearby examples of starburst and active galaxies, phenomenology of groups and clusters, and the extragalacitc distance scale. The high-redshift universe is discussed next, namely: observations of early galaxies and AGN, intergalactic medium, and global measures of reionization and star formation. The course ends with volutionary processes which connect high-redshift galaxies with their local descendents, including chemical evolution and the buildup of metals, structure formation in Lambda-CDM cosmologies, mergers and starbursts, and environmental effects.
ASTR 627: Cosmology
This is a theoretically focused course which covers three parts: classical cosmology (homogeneous universe), linear cosmology (emergence of fluctuations via linear perturbation theory of the Boltzmann equations in an expanding background in Newtonian conformal gauge), and special topics (non-linear perturbation theory, etc). Good working knowledge of college level physics (e.g., quantum statistics, relativity) and mathematics (calculus, differential equations) is assumed.
ASTR 630: The Solar System
This class covers a diverse suite of topics in solar and planetary science grouped into 6 topical areas: solar system basics (with fundamental information about how we learn about the solar system), solar physics, planetary atmospheres, planetary interiors and surfaces, small bodies, planet formation and extrasolar planets. The course is a mixture of lectures and oral discussions where students worth together to present a synthesis of the topics in the six subject areas in the context of planetary missions.
ASTR 631: Radiative Transfer and Stellar Atmospheres
This course provides an introduction into stellar atmospheres and the formation of stellar spectra. Stellar atmospheres and radiative transfer are complex and combine elements of atomic physics, plasma physics, hydrodynamics, thermodynamics and statistics with transport theory. The goal of this course is to understand the basic principles, and appreciate the complexity of modern stellar atmosphere modeling. Knowledge of this field is crucial for understanding exoplanets, stellar evolution, the structure and evolution of galaxies and the ionization of the interstellar medium in galaxies of the local and the high red-shift universe.
ASTR 633: Astrophysical Techniques
This is a required core graduate astronomy course. It introduces fundamental concepts needed as an astronomer, including optics, detectors, data acquisition and analysis.
ASTR 634: Instrumentation
This course offers a broad overview of the key technologies involved in astronomical instrumentation with an emphasis on optical and infrared detectors, optics, AO and cryogenic design. Students will develop an understanding of how astronomical technology has historically evolved and how today's most common instruments are being designed, constructed and operated. Students acquire the background to develop plans for new instruments, or to pass judgment on such plans when working on review or funding committees. While primarily intended for astronomy graduate students, the course might also be of interest for graduate students in physics, geology, and mechanical and electronics engineering.
ASTR 635: Fundamentals of Astrophysics
This course emphasizes applications of fundamental physics to astrophysical situations. It includes elements of general relativity, the basics of hydrodynamics and shock waves, radiative processes, high energy astrophysics and modern dynamics.

Other ASTR and Cross listed Courses - offered irregularly

ASTR 640: General Relativity
This course is an introduction to gravity and general relativity. The material to be covered includes: tensor basics, classical scalar, vector and tensor field theories. It will cover the exact symmetric Einstein equation, the gravito-magnetic weak field, and radiation solutions.
ASTR 657: Astrochemistry
This course introduces students to the fundamental chemical and physical processes leading to the formation of molecules ranging from diatomics (H2) to complex, astro-biologically important species (amino acids, sugars) in the interstellar medium and in our Solar System – both in the gas phase (molecular clouds, star forming regions, planetary atmospheres) and in the solid state (interstellar grains, icy planets, moons, comets). Understanding these processes is essential for the interpretation of remote and in-situ astronomical data from space missions, as well as for developing realistic models of how distinct interstellar and Solar System environments are processed chemically.

ASTR Seminars

ASTR 601: Being a Professional Astronomer
This seminar provides first-year graduate students with training in professional skills needed to thrive as an astronomer. Many of these "soft skills" are not discussed in the usual classroom setting, but they are vital to success as a graduate student and beyond. This seminar's topics include understanding the academic path ahead and associated expectations, consuming the scientific literature, learning ethical conduct in research, writing observing proposals, and choosing research projects/advisors.
ASTR 740: Astrobiology
This seminar explores interdisciplinary research topics in astrobiology as they relate to the theme of water: formation in space, role in creating pre-biotic molecules, delivery to earth, and terrestrial planet habitability. This seminar is a mix of lectures and discussions involving faculty from UH and guests from outside the University. Topics vary each semester and the course may be taken up to three times.
ASTR 750 Scientific Grant Writing
This course is aimed at students intending to have a career in science, hence the ability to secure research funding through the grant process is an important part of a career. Such information is rarely taught in a course. The course will focus on techniques developed in business as applied to the space industry to learn how to plan, manage and write a compelling research proposal. Students should bring a proposal idea to class to be developed into a full proposal as a final project. Principles of scientific grant writing are taught by working on draft proposals through a mix of lectures, discussions, and hands on activities. The final proposal will be evaluated via a simulated review panel.
ASTR 758: Programming and Algorithms for Astronomers
This new course is aimed at empowering astronomy and physical science graduate students to function in the computer rich data environment and understand the language and paradigms of contemporary computer science. The course emphasizes basic computational paradigms and algorithms that are universally useful. The course provides the absolute minimum, a level of knowledge that is essential to use and program computers effectively based on the 10:90 principle (the 10% of knowledge needed for 90% of problems).
ASTR 760: Modern General Relativity
This course covers differential geometry, special relativity, Einstein equations, gravitational phenomena, equivalence principles, black holes, gravitational waves, cosmology, relativistic stars, experimental tests, and computational techniques.
ASTR 777: Star Formation Seminar
This course will primarily review the current understanding of the formation of the Sun, sun-like stars, and their planets from dense stellar cores in the ISM. It will coverl the collapse of molecular cloud cores, the properties of protostars, the different types of young stars, the birth of brown dwarfs, the evolution of young stars towards the main sequence, planet formation, and planetary systems in the debris disks found around these young stars.
ASTR 790: Astro-ph Seminar
Staying up to date with the latest publications and preprints is one of the most important aspects of being a professional astronomer, and often forms the starting point for ideas for research projects or proposals. The most widely used resource for pre-prints in astronomy is Astroph, which is divided into six subcategories and updated five times a week. In addition to keeping up with the latest news in your own research field Astroph also provides an excellent resource for learning about important results outside your own "research bubble", and acquire general knowledge of observational and theoretical astronomy. This seminar provides students with training to efficiently read and discuss astronomy research papers by participating in the IfA Astroph journal club.
ASTR 791: Cosmology Seminar
Cosmology is one of the broadest and most vibrant fields of astrophysics that touches upon questions which are fundamental to our existence. Due to its dynamic and evolving nature, new and exciting results are coming at a pace that is difficult to follow and process for an individual graduate student. The goal is to create an intellectual space where students, faculty, and postdocs can discuss these results, combining their expertise in a way that is more than the sum of the parts. This course will provide a unique learning experience for graduate students, in particular, it will require them to engage with the frontiers of knowledge as opposed to being limited to textbook material.

Variable Credit Floating ASTR Seminars

These seminars cover selected advanced topics in astronomy and astrophysics. Topics change every semester. Credit is variable. These "floating" seminar numbers are used until a course is well enough established for its own course number.
Active Galaxies
This course covers the phenomenology of active galactic nuclei, black holes, accretion flows and jets, emission mechanisms, host galaxies, and cosmic evolution.
Submillimeter Astronomy in the ALMA Era
This seminar presents an introduction to radio astronomy and interferometry. The course format will include lectures, and practical hands on applications using ALMA science verification data. The goal is for students to learn the skills of submillimeter astronomy which will enable them to propose for observations.
Order of Magnitude
The goal of this course is to help students develop a conceptual understanding of physics and astrophysics on the concepts that can improve student's proficiency in finding approximate solutions for a broad class of problems. A test of such understanding is the ability to deduce approximate and sometimes even just dimensionally accurate solutions. A secondary goal includes reviewing or, in some cases, learning new physical concepts; and improving student's oral collaborative and presentation skills. This is an important core course that will be getting a 600-level number and be required.
The Sun: from the core to the corona
The Sun is a fundamental building block for astrophysics, it is our atomic unit for many astrophysical systems. Its unique position, allowing us exquisite electromagnetic sampling and even the possibility of in-situ measurements, make it the most important testing ground for astrophysically important physical theories. Nothing you have learned or will learn in astronomy is as important as the science we are learning from the Sun. The breadth of physics we need to account for the solar observables spans nuclear, atomic, molecular, plasma, fluid, and gravity physics. Our course will sample some of this content but my goals for you here are slightly more general(!):

1) understand the physical principles that explain the 1-dimensional (average) solar structure,
2) know the likely mechanisms that make the Sun 3-dimensionally interesting,
3) learn some important tools and techniques for measuring and understanding the Sun,
4) become a more expert scientific evaluator of astrophysical information, methods, and ex-planation.

Radio Astronomy
This is a two-credit seminar series for graduate students and senior undergraduate majors to learn about the science and methodology of astronomical observations in the radio band, from about 0.3 mm to 30 m in wavelength.
The Sun and the Heliosphere
This will be an interactive seminar, with faculty covering topics ranging from the solar interior to the outer heliosphere, and students participating through discussions using published literature pertaining to the topics.
Planetary Systems: A Data-Driven Exploration (will become ERTH 711)
A mere three decades ago the only planetary system we were aware of was our own. Now we know of thousands of systems; their diversity challenges our theories of planet formation and evolution, provides required context for understanding the Solar System, and is the foundation upon which rigorous searches for habitats and life elsewhere in the Universe will be built. This course will expose graduate students in planetary science and astronomy to the present state of knowledge of planetary systems using representative data at the field's leading edge, introduce key theoretical concepts and analytic and numerical tools with broad application, and develop teamwork, presentation, and publishing skills.
Physics of the Solar Atmosphere
This will be an interactive seminar, with faculty covering topics ranging from the solar interior to the outer heliosphere, and students participating through discussions using published literature pertaining to the topics.
ASTR 700: Masters Thesis Research
ASTR 800: PhD Dissertation Research