Properties of Galaxies

Spring 2002, 2009, and 2013

NGC 4595 is a prototypical Sa galaxy with a normal, classical (we believe: merger-built) bulge and a normal disk.

Click on the galaxy to go to the Hubble Heritage web site from which this image was taken.

  • Past courses:

    The last time that I gave my AST 386C "Properties of Galaxies" course at the University of Texas was 2013. For the convenience of people who want to read this course for research purposes or to use parts of if for their own courses, I post here the lectures that were prepared and delivered in powerpoint. Notes: (1) The lecture on our Galaxy is up-to-date to 2017 February. It is my summary of a conference on our Galaxy that took place in Paris in the summer of 2016. (2) Many lectures - especially the ones on dynamical theory - are on viewgraphs and are not included here. Whenever a powerpoint lecture has a blank white slide, that was a place where I switched to viewgraphs for part of a lecture. (3) The lectures contain embedded movies that are not included here. (4) Almost all powerpoint files are 2 or 3, 1.5-hour lectures long. They are ordered by subject, not by lecture number. Probably about 1/2 of the course as delivered is posted here. (5) There is some overlap between different powerpoint files that were developed for different reasons at different times.

    Lectures mostly in Powerpoint .pptx format:

    Lectures 1 and 2 on galaxy morphology (2006 Powerpoint version)

    Lectures 1 and 2 (2009 html version)

    Three-lecture general introduction on galaxy evolution (Powerpoint version)

    A short general introduction on galaxy evolution (2013 Powerpoint version)

    Our Milky Way galaxy -- 2017 summary of a 2016 IAP Paris conference in Powerpoint) and in a pdf version.

    Observed properties of elliptical galaxies (2013 Powerpoint version)

    Observed properties of disk galaxies (2013 Powerpoint version)

    The internal evolution of galaxy disks: Bars, secular evolution, pseudobulges (2013 Powerpoint version)

    Environmental secular galaxy evolution (2013 Powerpoint version)

    Dark matter (2013 Powerpoint version)

    Supermassive black holes - A short introduction (2013 Powerpoint version)

    Supermassive black holes - Demographics: Kormendy & Ho 2013, ARA&A, 51, 511 (2013 Powerpoint version)


    This course is an introduction to the properties of galaxies at the graduate and postgraduate research level. It is intended mainly to provide an understanding of the structure and content of galaxies and clusters of galaxies and a good phyical understanding of how they got that way and how they are evolving. As much as possible, subjects are covered in the words and using the diagrams and images of the original authors that derived the results. The course is intended to provide a thorough introduction to the literature at the level neessary to conduct research. Of course, time limitations mean that some subjects are covered in greater depth than others. There will be a few homework exercises, but on the whole, the emphasis is on a conceptual understanding of physical processes in the context of the "big picture", not on developing a facility in calculation. On the other hand, understanding often depends on an ability to do simple derivations at a heuristic level. An example is the demonstration that the specific heat of an isolated, self-gravitating system in equilibrium is negative. And what this means.


    Galactic Dynamics by James Binney and Scott Tremaine, published by Princeton University Press. For this course, either the first or the second edition is OK. I will not assign specific reading or exercises from the book, so the book is not required. I will base some of the dynamical derivations on the developments given in the book. You may want the book to provide detailed discussions as alternatives to my lectures.


    There will be 4 in-class exams; for example, please see the 2009 syllabus for what they will cover and for how their relative weights will contribute to your final grade. Homework grades will provide the remaining 10 percent of your final grade. Preparation of graduate-level lectures is like writing a review paper -- it is not possible to predict exactly how much time it will take to cover each subject and hence when each test will be. The first test will very likely take place during the 5th lecture, and the last test will certainly take place during the last lecture. Other test times will be determined as we go. You will generally have at least one week's notice.

    Numerical grades will be converted to letter grades approximately as follows:

     A = 85 % or more
     B = 84 - 75 %
     C = 74 - 65 %
     D = 64 - 55 %
     F = less than 55 %

    I may make small adjustments to the above, but I will not make the scale more difficult. If you are taking this course on a pass/fail basis, University rules say that a passing grade is equivalent to a D or higher.

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