Undergraduate Offerings

12.004: Introduction to Planetary Science

This course encompasses study of the solar system with emphasis on physical processes. Conceptual analysis will be supported with observational information, with particular attention to data collected from recent and current planetary spacecraft. 12.004 is a department core subject typically taken by sophomores and juniors in EAPS, especially those concentrating in planetary science, and also by sophomores, juniors, and seniors from other departments, often as part of the EAPS minor program.

12.402J: Introduction to Astronomy

A quantitative introduction to physics of the solar system, stars, interstellar medium, the galaxy, and universe, as determined from a variety of astronomical observations and models. Topics: planets, planet formation; stars, the Sun, "normal" stars, star formation; stellar evolution, supernovae, compact objects (white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes), plusars, binary x-ray sources; star clusters, globular and open clusters; interstellar medium, gas, dust, magnetic fields, cosmic rays; distance ladder; galaxies, normal and active galaxies, jets; gravitational lensing; large scaling structure; Newtonian cosmology, dynamical expansion and thermal history of the universe; cosmic microwave background radiation; big bang nucleosynthesis. No prior knowledge of astronomy necessary. Not usable as a restricted elective by Physics majors.

12.409: Hands-On Astronomy: Observing Stars and Planets

Background for and techniques of visual observation, electronic imaging, and spectroscopy of the Moon, planets, satellites, stars, and brighter deep-space objects. Weekly outdoor observing sessions using 8-inch diameter telescopes when weather permits. Indoor sessions introduce needed skills. Introduction to contemporary observational astronomy including astronomical computing, image and data processing, and how astronomers work. Student must maintain a careful and complete written log which is graded. (Limited enrollment with priority to freshmen. Consumes an entire evening each week; 100% attendance at observing sessions required to pass.)

12.410: Observational Techniques of Optical Astronomy

Fundamental physical and optical principles used for astronomical measurements at visible wavelengths and practical methods of astronomical observations. Topics: astronomical coordinates, time, optics, telescopes, photon counting, signal-to-noise ratios, data analysis (including least-squares model fitting), limitations imposed by the Earth's atmosphere on optical observations, CCD detectors, photometry, spectroscopy, astrometry, and time variability. Project at Wallace Astrophysical Observatory. Written and oral project reports. Enrollment limited to 24 students, with priority given to Course 8 and Course 12 majors and minors.

12:411: Astronomy Field Camp

Individual research projects in observational astronomy involving supervised work at Lowell Observatory (located in Flagstaff, AZ). Written and oral reports required.

12.425 Extrasolar Planets: Physics and Detection Techniques

Basic principles of planet atmospheres and interiors applied to the study of extrasolar planets. Focus on fundamental physical processes related to observable extrasolar planet properties. Quantitative overview of detection techniques. Introduction to the feasibility of the search for Earth-like planets, biosignatures and habitable conditions on extrasolar planets.