ASTR 3480: An Introduction to Cosmology

General Course Information

Instructor: Rachael L. Beaton (rlb9n [at] virginia [dot] edu)
Office: Astronomy Department, Room 106 and Jefferson Foundation Fellows Building Room 204
Office Hours: By Appointment.

Course Meets:
12 July - 06 August (Summer Session III)
13:00 - 15:15 , Monday-Friday.
Astronomy Building, Room 265

Course Description

A study of the formation and structure of the Universe. The course will start with a historical perspective of cosmology, starting with Aristotle and ending with Modern Cosmology. The course will cover the conceptual basics of (i) gravitation, (ii) special relativity and (iii) general relativity required to understand the currently accepted cosmological model. Instruction will focus on the observational evidence that has resulted in the current theoretical models, including discussing the most cutting edge experiements. Special topics will include black holes, gravitational waves, the big bang, nucleosynthesis, the nature of space and time, dark matter, dark energy and inflation, with a focus on how these exotic topics are intertwined into our current understanding of the Universe. Wherever possible, 'hands-on' activities and demos will be used to demostrate concepts.

We will try to cover the formation, structure and evolution of the entire Universe in a mere 18 lectures!

Syllabus: Basic Syllabus (version 1; pdf)

If you have specific questions or concerns, please feel free to email the instructor!


Astronomy & Physics: The course assumes a basic knowledge of Astronomy and Physics to the level of ASTR 1210 or ASTR 1220 (nota bene: most UVa Astronomy professors have online course notes, which are excellent refreshers). When necessary, the student will be referenced to outside materials to refresh on important astronomical concepts. A good reference for most scientific topics is wikipedia. Additionally, copies of Cosmic Perspective (5th or 6th edition), the current ASTR 1210/1220 text, can be found in the UVa Libraries.
Mathematics: We will strive to keep the math as simple as possible, i.e., simple algebra, although we will show some calculus for those familiar with it. You will need to be able to understand some mathematical ideas, e.g., graphs, simple equations, how things change when some parameter is changed, etc. You will need to be able to judge scales of things, and think about things far removed from the scales of everyday life. You will also need to be able to read and understand graphs, and understand what formulae and equations mean. You will not have to derive any equations. You will not be responsible for memorizing all of the equations in the text. You will have to remember and use some of the simpler ones. The technical details will be explained and discussed in class. You will be told which specific equations your should learn.

When in doubt about the pre-requisites, please contact the instructor!


Required Textbook: Foundations of Modern Cosmology (2nd Edition) Copies will be available at the UVa Bookstore (including many used copies) or can be ordered online (perhaps at a discounted rate!).
Supplementary Texts: Additional material will be provided through UVa Collab, links on this site or in class handout.
Recommended Material:

Here are some books that might be useful or that I have a particular fondness for. They should be available in the UVA Library System. Each link goes to the Amazon page for the book.
     Relativity: The Special & General Theory by Albert Einstein
     A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson    Very funny review of ... very nearly everything.
     The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe by Steven Weinberg

Material below is a test ... I might not like this format :-p

Lecture Schedule

12 July 2010
Lecture 01
13 July 2010
Lecture 02