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Academic Year 2021/2022 - 1° Year
Teaching Staff: Francesco LEONE
Credit Value: 6
Taught classes: 35 hours
Exercise: 12 hours
Term / Semester:

Learning Objectives

The course is aimed at providing the student the basic knowledge and the state of the art in Astrophysics. In particular, the course aims to provide the following knowledge and skills:

  • knowledge and understanding: the student will acquire: knowledge of astronomical coordinate systems; knowledge of the instruments for astronomical observation; knowledge of the formation processes of stellar spectra; knowledge of the internal structure of stars and of the various phases of stellar evolution; knowledge of the structure of the Sun; knowledge of the structure of galaxies; knowledge of the theories of formation and evolution of the Universe;
  • ability to apply knowledge and understanding: the student will be able to quantitatively evaluate and describe celestial phenomena and to interpret ground-based and satellite observations in the light of the physical processes studied in different astrophysical environments;
  • ability of making judgments: the student will develop autonomy of judgment and critical sense for the correct interpretation of astrophysical phenomena;
  • communication skills: the student will acquire the ability to describe astrophysical phenomena with language properties, from the scale of the solar system to cosmological scales;
  • learning skills: the student will acquire adequate cognitive tools for the continuous updating of knowledge and to access specialized literature in the field of astrophysics.

Course Structure

Teaching is based on lectures.

There are also some practical exercises aimed at learning some techniques used in astrophysics as well as guided visits to observational infrastructures of the INAF - Catania Astrophysical Observatory.

Should the circumstances require online or blended teaching, appropriate modifications to what is hereby stated may be introduced, in order to achieve the main objectives of the course.

Exams may take place online, depending on circumstances.

Detailed Course Content

1 - Introduction
Methodology of investigation in astrophysics - Distances scales and units - Tools for the observation of celestial bodies - Astronomical coordinates systems.
2 - The solar system and the extra-solar systems
Planets, satellites, minor bodies - Kepler's Laws - The extra-solar planets.
3 - The stars
Stellar atmospheres: Formation of spectral lines - Equations of Boltzman and Saha - Stellar spectra.
Stellar parameters: magnitude and brightness - Spectral classification of stars - Basic parameters of the stars - The Hertzprung-Russell diagram.
Internal Structure: The equations of stellar structure - Mass-luminosity Law - Nuclear fusion processes - Mechanisms of energy transport.
Stellar evolution: The interstellar medium: structure and composition - The Jeans criterion for gravitational collapse and star formation - Main sequence phase - Evolution of the stars outside the main sequence - Final evolutionary stages - Planetary nebulae, novae and supernovae - White dwarfs, neutron stars and blacks holes.
4 - The Sun, a typical main-sequence star
Physical characteristics - Internal Structure - Photosphere, chromosphere, corona - Magnetic fields and dynamo mechanism - Solar activity (sunspots, faculae, prominences, flares, coronal mass ejections) - Solar Wind.
5 - Our Galaxy
Morphology, dynamics and physical characteristics of the Galaxy - Globular and open clusters - Stellar Populations.
6 - Galaxies
Morphological classification of galaxies - Physical characteristics and processes of galaxy formation - Clusters and superclusters.
7 - Cosmology
Observational cosmology: Hubble's law and the expansion of the universe - The cosmic microwave background. - Dark matter and dark energy.

Textbook Information

• Kutner M.L., Astronomy: a physical perspective, Cambridge University Press

• Shipman H.L., Introduzione all’astronomia, Zanichelli