Properties of Galaxies

Spring 2009

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.


Announcements will be posted here as necessary during the course.

Unique number: 48600
Classes: MW 1:30 - 3:00 PM in RLM 15.216B
Instructor: John Kormendy 
Office: RLM 15.326
Office Hours: By appointment
Office Telephone: 471-8191 (It is better to send email than to leave a phone message.)

Spring 2009 Syllabus

Lectures 1 and 2


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; please see the 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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