ASTRONOMY 3303:     Galaxies Across Cosmic Time     Fall 2017

Prof. Dominik Riechers 220 Space Sci 255-3989 Office hours: R11-12; MW after class; other times by appointment
Prof. Martha Haynes 530 Space Sci 255-0610 Office hours: TR 1-2; other times by appointment

Email:   You can reach us at and/or if you have questions or to arrange appointments at other times.

Web Site:   Check us out at to find lots of interesting and helpful information, the assignments, etc.

Course content:   Astro 3303 provides an overview of our current understanding of how galaxies have evolved over the last 13+ billion years and how their evolution has been influenced by their local intergalactic environment. We will look at the evidence that links supermassive black holes, gas accretion and merger events to galaxy evolution and tracks the star formation rate from early to current epochs. Additional topics will include the formation and distribution of clusters and groups of galaxies, the evidence for dark matter and how galaxy evolution fits into the framework of current cosmological models. Emphasis will be on understanding current and future observations of galaxies, clusters and the dark matter halos they inhabit.

Prerequisites:   It is assumed that you have had at least one semester of introductory physics and math. Some introduction to basic astronomy is helpful: e.g. basic laws of radiation, the the H-R diagram, the evolution of the Sun and how it differs from that of high mass stars, basic nucleosynthesis, basic understanding of cosmic history. If you haven't had a course in astronomy, Appendices A & B in the textbook will get you started. If you have questions about your background, ask us.

Requirements:   The class will be partly lecture and partly in-class activities and presentations. Because of the latter, attendance is required. In-class activities cannot be made up, although absence for legitimate reasons or emergencies will be excused. Students will be required to keep a portfolio which contains all assigned work including in class-activities and to access, use and perform simple analysis of public astronomical datasets. A final project to be presented both orally and in written form will substitute for a final exam; the final paper is due on Wed Dec 6th at 4:30pm. Grades will be based on regular homework assignments including presentations (40%), the portfolio and class participation (20%), two short in-class tests (10% each) and the final project(20%).

Due dates:   Late assignments will be penalized in proportion to their lateness (10% of the grade will be deducted for each day of delay in submission) except in emergencies or for important reasons for which alternative arrangements are made at least 24 hours in advance.

What's fair and what's not:  Some of the work in this class will be done in groups and some on your own. As in much of science, working in collaboration with other members of the class is allowed (except when specifically stated otherwise), but, as in professional circumstances, you need to follow the Astro3303 "collaboration rule" which is simply: collaborators need to be acknowledged. Likewise, external sources of information and ideas need to be cited. Remember that most sources found on the web are not scholarly (if not simply unreliable!), so be judicious in your use of web sites. Cornell has a code of academic integrity; check it out. If you have any questions about collaborating with other students, citation of sources or similar issues, ask us.

Readings:   We will select readings from the astronomical literature, available electronically through the Cornell library system, as well as regular assignments in the textbook Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology: An Introduction by Peter Schneider, which is available from Amazon, and also digitally via the CU Library. Different versions are available (e.g., a second edition was published in 2015); if there is any confusion, please ask.

Last updated on 23 August 2017 by mph