last updated 4/25/19


All students are welcome in this course regardless of any personal attribute such as ethnicity, religion or gender expression.



• Remember to bring a working scientific calculator to class and exams!
• Relevant formulas and constants will be provided on exams.


The main text is Cosmology for the Curious, by Perlov and Vilenkin (Springer). You may find the following books useful also:  From Nothing to Everything: The Story of Our Universe by Alan P. Marscher (BU), published online, available for free here, and  An Introduction to Galaxies and Cosmology, second edition, edited by Jones, Lambourne and Serjeant (Cambridge U. Press), on reserve in Schow. Another useful resource is the course Links & Applets page. Class PowerPoints will be available on Glow at the end of each week.


Monday and Thursday: 1:10-2:25 PM in TPL 203

Orientation to Observing Facilities

Sign up in class to attend one. Sign up in class and meet on the observing deck (4th floor of TPL; take the back stairs).
Monday, Feb. 4: 8:00 PM, 8:30 PM
Tuesday, Feb. 5: 8:00 PM, 8:30 PM
Wednesday, Feb. 6: 8:00 PM, 8:30 PM


The observing deck atop TPL offers a computer-controlled 24-inch telescope with CCD camera, several other telescopes, and auxiliary equipment. We hope that you will enjoy using and learning from our observing facilities. The observing program itself will be described in a separate handout.


There will be occasional homework assignments. Assignments will be accepted (with a grade penalty) up to one day late; after that none will be accepted for credit.


Homework #1: Homework 1 due in class Thursday, 2/28.

Homework #2: Homework 2 due in class Thursday, 4/11.


There will be short ~weekly in-class quizzes that focus on current reading and class material. No make-up quizzes will be given.

Exams and Grading

All exams are closed book. A formula sheet will be provided at all exams; bring a functioning scientific calculator.

Hour Exams

  • Thursday, March 7 in class. Bring a calculator!
  • Monday, April 22, in class. Bring a calculator!

Final Exam

  • Thursday, May 16, 9:30 AM. Room TBA.
  • Bring a scientific calculator that you know how to use!

Makeups for midterm exams will be scheduled for those who request to be excused beforehand, or for those with excuses from the Infirmary. Makeup or rescheduled final exams can only be given with the prior approval of the Deans’ Office. Makeup finals can only be given prior to the scheduled exam time, not after.

will be calculated as follows:

  • Homework & Quizzes: 15%
  • Midterm Exams: 25% each (x2 = 50%)
  • Observing: 15%
  • Final Exam: 20%


Though attendance will not be taken routinely, it is in your interest to attend class regularly. I reserve the right to take your attendance record into consideration when assigning the final grade.

No laptop, tablet or phone use during class. If you need to take notes electronically as an accommodation, see the disabilities statement below.

Disabilities Statement

Students with disabilities who may need disability-related classroom accommodations for this course are encouraged to meet with me as soon as possible and to contact the Dean’s Office so that the proper arrangements can be made.

Honor System

Students are strongly reminded of the honor system as described in the Student Handbook. You may work together on homework, as long as you acknowledge this by listing the names of your co-workers. No collaboration at all is allowed on exams. All observing work handed in must be exclusively your own. If you are in any doubt about how the honor system applies to a particular activity in this course, please consult an instructor.

Lecture Topics

Below is a schedule of the topics to be covered. It is important that you do the assigned reading before the class in which it’s discussed; that way you derive maximum benefit from both reading and lectures.

W. 1/30 Introduction and Overview 1
Mon. 2/4 Observing the Sky from Earth; History Marscher 2,3
Th. 2/7 Planetarium Show in Old Hopkins Observatory (BERKSHIRE QUAD)
Don’t be late: doors are locked when the show starts!
Mon. 2/11 The Universe of Kepler and Newton  2
Th. 2/14 Rare Book session with Wayne Hammond
(meet at the Chapin Library: BE ON TIME!)
Mon. 2/18 The Electromagnetic Spectrum: Light 3.1-2, 6.2;

Marscher 5

Th. 2/21 Surveying the Universe

Also, see here for an explanation of distances in astronomy, and the concept of parallax

 6; Marscher 6
Mon. 2/25  Interactions of Atoms and Light 6, 11.2; Marscher 5, 7
Th. 2/28 Atomic Structure and Particle Sociology  Marscher 7
Mon. 3/4 Particles and Forces Marscher 7,8
Th. 3/7 FIRST MIDTERM EXAM material through 2/28
Mon. 3/11 Special Relativity 3
Th. 3/14 General Relativity 4
Mon. 4/1 Discovery of the Expanding Universe
Th. 4/4 The Friedmann Equation and its Possible Universes
the derivation of the Friedmann Equation that we discussed in class 
relationship between observed properties and redshift
Mon. 4/8 Big Bang Cosmology – General Description and Timeline 11,13
Th. 4/11 The Cosmic Microwave Background  11,12
Mon. 4/15 Movie in class: THREE DEGREES   –   a history of the discovery of the CMB as told by the discoverers themselves
Th. 4/18 Structure Formation; Dark Matter; Reionization


Mon. 4/22 SECOND MIDTERM EXAM material through 4/15
Th. 4/25 The Very Early Universe; Trouble in Paradise


Mon. 4/29 Inflation; The Multiverse?


Th. 5/2 What the What? Acceleration and Dark Energy


and see: widening persistent discrepancy between Planck and Hubble data about the value of H0

Mon. 5/6 Active Galaxies and Supermassive Black Holes 12

plus Links

Th. 5/9 Into the Future 24

Back to Links & Applets

Back to A330 Course Page