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PHYS 555 A: Cosmology and Particle Astrophysics

Meeting Time: 
WF 12:30pm - 1:50pm
PAA A110
Miguel Morales

Syllabus Description:

Video details

Important:  the class time has changed to12:30-1:50 Wednesday & Friday.

Zoom meeting room:

If you are comfortable please have your video on, as I think it helps the interaction. It is often helpful to use headphones to improve the audio (AirPods or similar work great), and to mute during the less active parts of the class. 

This will of course be a learning process for us all, but I'd like to re-create the atmosphere of an in-person seminar as closely as possible. This entails frequent interruptions, lively discussion, and when possible video. 

Course overview

Welcome to Observational Cosmology. The goal of this class is to look at how we measure the history and evolution of our universe; with the goal of getting to the research frontier across the breadth of cosmology. 



As a graduate elective, what you get out of the course largely depends on what you put into it. Further, this class is designed to scale depending on your interests and time. At one end, it is designed to get motivated students to the research frontier across a broad swath of observational cosmology with an understanding of the key challenges and systematics facing modern cosmology measurements. At the other end it is designed to serve as a low-pressure survey of cosmology. During the first week you will detail what your goals are, and your grade will be based on how well you achieve your goals.  



I’m still developing the day-by-day syllabus, and I’m planning to work in feedback from the initial survey.

Week 1

W: Introduction, start the cosmology bedtime story

F: Finishing the bedtime story

Notes & Assignments:  Take a little time to poke around the 2020 Decadal Survey of Astronomy & Astrophysics website, looking at the panels and the Panel of Cosmology. Also download and skim through the list of white papers. While overwhelming (the cosmology panel read ~1300 pages of white papers), this is a great list of what the community thinks are the next important things to cover in astrophysics and cosmology. 

For Friday complete the initial survey and read Hu's Getting started with the CMB. And start on the homework for next week.

If astrophysics is new to you and you're a bit mystified about the scales involved, here is a fun little video. scales at the end get a bit off—the 'size' of the universe is something we'll discuss, and the very end gets plain hokey. But still fun.) Here is a link to the gorgeous SLOAN fly through I showed in the first lecture. 

Week 2

W: Distance measures; qualitative CMB

F: Power Spectra; Quantitative analysis of the CMB part 1

Notes:  Some really lovely animations of how changing different parameters affects the CMB PS Hu also has a nice intermediate tutorial at


Foundation reading - For Wednesday have read Hu's Cosmic Symphony (from last week), and skim through Hogg's distance measurement primer. And start reading Hu & Dodelson's CMB review for next week. For the review read as far as you're interested. I'd recommend at least 171-189.

Core reading - For Wednesday have read Hu's Cosmic Symphony (from last week), and Hogg's distance measurement primer. Start on Hu & Dodelson's CMB review for next week (in it's entirety), and you might even want to get a jump on the Planck 2018 results overview for Friday next week as it is long. 

Optional reading. If you are a fan of history, you might check out Jim Peebles history of the CMB (Links to an external site.) (he's a genuinely nice person). In the other direction is an introduction by Kamionkowsky and Kovetz (Links to an external site.) to the theory behind gravitational B-modes that I fear we won't have time to get to. 

Week 3

W: Data analysis; LCDM

F: Hu & Dodelson discussion

Week 4

W:  Planck 2018 discussion; CMB TT, TE, EE, BB; SZ

F:  S4 and the end of CMB cosmology

Foundation reading: The CMB S4 white paper for the decadal survey.

Core reading: The CMB S4 white paper for the decadal survey; plus download and skim sections you find interesting in the CMB-S4 Science Case, Reference Design, and Project Plan. Note: it is nearly 300 pages long, so don't read the whole thing!) 

Optional reading:  A really important paper but a bit technical without seeing it in context is the Joint Analysis of BICEP2/Keck Array and Planck Data. In context this was the retraction of the detection of primordial B-modes by BICEP2 and the recognition of the importance of spinning dust. If you are more interested in the theory behind inflation and CMB B-modes, I'd look at this review paper by Kamionkowski & Kovetz (arXiv version).

Week 5

W: Dark Energy; SN, BAO, Weak Lensing

F: LSTT, WFIRST, Lyman-alpha. Great surveys & their challenges

Foundation & Core reading: Dark Energy Reading

Week 6-10

  • Dark Matter; current laboratory & astrophysical constraints
  • Dark Sector & the small scale PS
  • End of the Dark Ages and the temperature history of the universe
  • 21 cm Cosmology
  • Where do we go next?  Astro2020, gravity waves; multi-messenger astronomy & standard sirens, FRBs; SPHEREx; PIXIE;



Catalog Description: 
Big bang cosmology; relativistic world models and classical tests; background radiation; cosmological implications of nucleosynthesis; baryogenesis; inflation; galaxy and large-scale structure formation; quasars; intergalactic medium; dark matter.
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
March 30, 2020 - 9:22pm