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Information about the course

PAP302, Open Problems in Modern Astrophysics

Lecturers: Prof. Peter Johansson (Room D311) (Topics 1-4)
                   Dr. Till Sawala (Room D324) (Topics 5-7)
Course assistant: Dr. Pauli Pihajoki (Room D325)

The course homepage will be updated as the course progresses.

Lectures: Tuesdays 12.15-14.00  Room D104
Problem sets: Tuesdays 14.00-16.00, in Room D106 on the following dates: 18.9, 2.10, 16.10, 6.11, 20.11, 4.12, 11.12               
Changes to lecturing schedule: Lecture on Tuesday 11.9 moved to Wednesday 12.9 at 10.15-12.00 in Room D117

Course grading:

The course grading is divided into two parts as follows:

  • 50% of the final grade will come from the written problem sets.
  • 50% of the final grade will come from the final written exam.

Final exam:  The final exam will be held on 18.12.2018 at 10.00-14.00 in Room E205, Physicum

Astrophysical search engines

The following astrophysical search engines can be used for searching the astrophysical literature:

Course contents

  • The aim of the course is to survey the current state of modern astrophysics, concentrating on a few interesting topics that are
    likely to remain at the forefront of astrophysical research in the coming decade. During the course the students will learn how to
    search the astrophysical literature, how to present and discuss research papers and finally also learn the necessary skills for
    writing their own research papers.
  • During the course seven different topics will be discussed for two weeks with each followed by a problem set on the topic. In the
    first lecture the Lecturer presents the topic in question based on a recent review paper typically published in the Annual Review of
    Astronomy and Astrophysics. In the second lecture the topic will be discussed in more depth using additional 1-2 papers on the topic.
    Finally, the discussion on the topic will be finished by a problem set for which the students are expected to read two papers and answer
    5 written questions on a problem sheet. In this way each topic will be covered by 1 review paper + 3-4 research papers.
  • This course will be of a strongly interacting nature and the students are encouraged to actively contribute to the lectures by reading
    in advance the papers and participate in the discussion.
  • The topics to be discussed during the course have been chosen to cover a broad range of astrophysics, including exoplanets, stars,
    galaxies and cosmology. The aim is to learn about interesting research topics that are likely to remain at the core of modern astrophysics
    in the coming decades.

Topic 1: 4.9-18.9 The detection and properties of Extrasolar planets


  •  4.9 Lecture 1:
  1. Winn, J.N. & Fabrycky, D.C., 2015, ARA&A, 53, 409: "The Occurrence and Architecture of Exoplanetary Systems"   --  exoplanets_review_edit_1.pdf
  • 12.9 Lecture 2: (Note Lecture is on Wednesday 12.9 at 10.15-12.00 in Room D117)
  1. Fressin, F., Torres, G., Rowe, J.F. et al. 2012, Nature, 482, 195: "Two Earth-sized planets orbiting Kepler-20"
  2. Kreidberg, L.; Bean, J.L.; Désert, J.-M. et al., 2014, Nature, 505, 69: "Clouds in the atmosphere of the super-Earth exoplanet GJ1214b"
  3. Buchhave, L. A.; Latham, D.W.; Johansen, A., 2012, Nature, 486, 375: "An abundance of small exoplanets around stars with a wide range of metallicities"
  1. Anglada-Escudé, G., Amado, P.J., Barnes, J. et al, 2016, Nature, 536, 437: "A terrestrial planet candidate in a temperate orbit around Proxima Centauri"
  2. Carson, J.; Thalmann, C.; Janson, M, et al., 2013, ApJL, 763, 32: "Direct Imaging Discovery of a "Super-Jupiter" around the Late B-type Star κ And"
  • Useful websites for additional information:
  1. The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia 
  2. California & Carnegie planet-search team
  3. The Anglo-Australian Planet Search

Topic 2: 18.9-2.10 The formation and evolution of low-mass stars and brown dwarfs

  • 16.9 Lecture 3:
  1. Luhman, 2012, ARA&A, 50, 65: "The formation and early evolution of low-mass stars and brown dwarfs"  --  brown_dwarfs_review_edit_2.pdf
  • 26.9 Lecture 4:
  1. Mainzer, A., Cushing, M.C., Skrutskie, M. et al., 2011, ApJ, 726, 30: "The First Ultra-cool Brown Dwarf Discovered by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer"
  2. Spiegel, D.S., Burrows, A., Milsom, J.A., 2011, ApJ, 727, 57: "The Deuterium-burning Mass Limit for Brown Dwarfs and Giant Planets"
  1. Luhman, K.L., 2013, ApJL, 767, 1: "Discovery of a Binary Brown Dwarf at 2 pc from the Sun"
  2. Carter, J.A., Fabrycky, D.C., Ragozzine, D. et al., 2011, Science, 331, 562: "KOI-126: A Triply Eclipsing Hierarchical Triple with Two Low-Mass Stars"

Topic 3: 2.10-16.10 Gamma-Ray Bursts: Observation and theory

  • 2.10 Lecture 5:
  1.  Gehrels, N., Ramirez-Ruiz, E., Fox, D.B., 2009, ARA&A, 47, 567: "Gamma-Ray Bursts in the Swift Era"   --  GRB_review_edit_3.pdf
  • 9.10 Lecture 6:
  1. Tanvir, N.R., Levan, A.J., Fruchter, A.S., et al., 2013, Nature, 500, 547: "A `kilonova' associated with the short-duration γ-ray burst GRB 130603B"
  2. Mösta, P., Richers, S., Ott, C.D. et al., 2014, ApJL, 785, 29: "Magnetorotational Core-collapse Supernovae in Three Dimensions"
  1. Piro, L., Troja, E., Gendre, B. et al., 2014, ApJL, 790, 15: "A Hot Cocoon in the Ultralong GRB 130925A: Hints of a POPIII-like Progenitor in a Low-Density Wind Environment"
  2. Greiner, J., Mazzali, P.A., Kann, D.A. et al., 2015, Nature, 523, 189: "A very luminous magnetar-powered supernova associated with an ultra-long γ-ray burst"

Topic 4: 16.10-6.11 Stellar dynamics near a massive black hole and gravitational waves

  • 16.10 Lecture 7:
  1.  Tal, A., 2017, ARA&A, 55, 17: "Stellar Dynamics and Stellar Phenomena Near A Massive Black Hole"   --  dynamic_SMBH_edit_4.pdf
  • 30.10 Lecture 8:
  1. Abbott, B.P. et al., 2016, PhRvL, 116, 1102: "Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger"
  2. Arcavi, I., Hosseinzadeh, G., Howell, D. A. et al., 2017, Nature, in press, ArXiv: 1710.05843: "Optical emission from a kilonova following a gravitational-wave-detected neutron-star merger"
  • 6.11 Probem set 4 is based on the two papers below: 

Topic 5: 6.11-20.11 Dwarf galaxies in the Local group of galaxies

  • 6.11 Lecture 9:
  1. Local Group Lecture (with highlights, comments and additional materials)
    Based on the review of: Tolstoy, E., Hill, V., Tosi, M., 2009, ARA&A, 47, 371: "Star-Formation Histories, Abundances, and Kinematics of Dwarf Galaxies in the Local Group"
  • 13.11 Lecture 10:
  1. Review (continued)
  2. Belokurov, V., Walker, M.G., Evans, N.W., 2010, ApJL, 712, 103: "Big Fish, Little Fish: Two New Ultra-faint Satellites of the Milky Way"
    Two new Milky Way satellite galaxies are discovered, first in SDSS and then followed up with deeper photometric observations.
  3. Sawala, Till; Frenk, Carlos S.; Fattahi, Azadeh; Navarro, Julio F. et al., 2016, MNRAS, 456, 85S: "The chosen few: the low mass haloes that host faint galaxies"
    Cosmological hydrodynamic simulations explain how a small number of LG dwarf galaxies come to live in a much larger number of dark matter haloes. 

  • 20.11 Probem set 5 is based on the two papers below:

Topic 6: 20.11-4.12 Formation of the first galaxies

  • 20.11 Lecture 11:
  1. Bromm&Yoshida, 2011, ARA&A, 49, 373-407: "The First Galaxies"
  • 27.11 Lecture 12:
  1. Greif, T.H., Springel, V., White, S.D.M. et al., 2011, ApJ, 737, 75: "Simulations on a Moving Mesh: The Clustered Formation of Population III Protostars"
  2. Mortlock, D.J., Warren, S.J., Venemans, B.P. et al., 2011, Nature, 474, 616: "A luminous quasar at a redshift of z = 7.085"
  • 4.12 Probem set 6 is based on the two papers below:

Topic 7: 4.12-11.12 Dark Energy and the Accelerating Universe

  • 4.12 Lecture 13 - 
  1. Frieman, Turner & Huterer, 2008, ARA&A, 46, 385-432: "Dark Energy and the Accelerating Universe"
    Based on the review, Lecture Notes with hightlights and comments, as presented in the lecture.
  • 11.12 Lecture 14:
  1. Riess, A.G., Macri, L., Casertano, S. et al., 2011, ApJ, 730, 119: "A 3% Solution: Determination of the Hubble Constant with the Hubble Space Telescope and Wide Field Camera 3"
  2. Efstathiou, G., 2014, MNRAS, submitted, ArXiv: 1311.3461: "H0 Revisited"
  • 11.12 Probem set 7 is based on the two papers below:


Final results and course grading:

  • Problem set points:
  • Exam points and final grades:
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