ASTR/PHYS 328/428 - Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe
Fall 2018

Instructor: Chris Mihos (

Course Time:
MW 12:45-2:00


Course, Assignment, and Grading Policies:

Class attendance is expected, as is on-time arrival.

Homeworks can be discussed collaboratively, but each person must turn in their own solutions with unique writeup/analysis. Collaborative means talking with each other about approaches, techniques, etc. Collaborative does not mean sitting side-by-side working out the answers, or swapping final solutions to copy!

Many homework sets will include an "integrative essay", which will cover a broad theme being discussed in the course. Your responses to these questions should be ~ 1-2 (typed) pages long.

There will also be assignments involving computational/data analysis. The use of python and astropy is highly recommended (and is required for ASTR 428 students).

For graduate students enrolled in ASTR/PHYS 428, there will be additional problems on the HW sets, along with an independent 30 min presentation on a topic of the student's interest, chosen in consultation with the instructor.

Homework will be accepted in hardcopy form only -- no electronic/email submissions. Assignments are due at 4:00pm on the due date unless otherwise noted.

Late HW policy: You get one free late homework (up to one week late), no questions asked. After that, it's a penalty of 20% for every day late, unless you have an prearranged, excused reason.

Useful Links:
Grade Weights


Grading Scheme







Homework Due Dates
HW #1
Sep 14
HW #2
Sep 28
HW #3 Oct 12
HW #4
Nov 2
HW #5 Nov 16
HW #6
Dec 7 (328)
Dec 12 (428)
(Dec 12 is final due date for late HW #6)

ASTR/PHYS 428 Project Due Dates

Presentation Draft
Nov 26
Class Presentations
Dec 3 & 5

Learning Outcomes:

After taking this course, students should be able to:
  • Employ quantitative metrics for shape, size, and distances within the universe under different cosmological models.
  • Quantitatively describe the dynamical evolution of the universe under different cosmological models.
  • Describe observational evidence for the various cosmological parameters that define the reigning cosmological model.
  • Compare and constrast different cosmological distance estimators.
  • Critique the quality of and uncertainties in cosmological distance estimators.
  • Describe qualitatively the growth of structure under various cosmological models.
  • Employ quantitative metrics for measuring structure in the universe.
  • Describe physical models for galaxy formation and hierarchical galaxy evolution.
  • Describe the observational constraints on models of galaxy evolution over cosmic time.
  • Analyse observational datasets to infer cosmological information.

None required, but these will be on reserve in the Astronomy Library:
  • Carroll & Ostlie: An Introduction to Modern Astrophyics.
  • Longair: Galaxy Formation
  • Rowan-Robinson: Cosmology

Schedule and Content
(all subject to change)

Aug 27
Foundations of Modern Cosmology
Curved Space and Metrics
Aug 29
The Cosmological Redshift
Newtonian Cosmology
The Friedmann Equation
Cosmological Parameters
Sep 3
No class (Labor Day)
Sep 5
Universes on the OM-OL Plane
Adding Pressure: The Fluid and Acceleration Equations
Dynamics and Lookback Times (for SCDM)
Dynamics (for flat lambda universes)

Sep 10
The Proper Distance
Cosmological Observables
Morphology of High Redshift Galaxies
Sep 12
Morphology of High Redshift Galaxies
Horizons (Page 1, Page 2)
Age Tests
The Classical Metric-Based Tests of Cosmology
Sep 17
Supernovae Cosmology
Sep 19
Supernovae Cosmology (cont)
The Cosmic Microwave Background
Sep 24
The Cosmic Microwave Background (cont)
Sep 26
Big Bang Nucleosynthesis
Oct 1
Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (cont)
The Extragalactic Distance Scale
Dynamical Distance Indicators: Tully-Fisher and Fundamental Plane / Dn-sigma
Oct 3
Dynamical Distance Indicators: Tully-Fisher and Fundamental Plane / Dn-sigma
Oct 8
Local Distance Indicators: TRGB, SBF, PNLF, GCLF
Oct 10
Supernovae Distances and H0
"Direct Distances" -- Sunyaev-Zeldovich and Gravitational Lensing
Oct 15
"Direct Distances" -- Sunyaev-Zeldovich and Gravitational Lensing
Oct 17
Large Scale Structure
Oct 22 Fall Break
Oct 24
"Field Trip" to KSL Special Collections
Oct 29 Large Scale Structure (cont)
The mass fluctuation spectrum at early times
Linear Growth of Structure
Oct 31
Adding Dark Matter
Non-linear collapse of overdensities
Nov 5
Using Structure to Test Cosmology
Baryon Acoustic Oscillations
Nov 7
Collapsed halos and Press-Schecter
Baryonic cooling
Galaxy formation overview and the view from simulations
Nov 12
Observing high redshift galaxy formation
Lyman Break and Sub-mm galaxies
Nov 14
The formation of massive ellipticals
Nov 19
The star formation history of the universe
Nov 21
No class
Nov 26
First Stars
Nov 28
The Future of the Cosmos
Motivating Inflation
Dec 3

Dec 5
John: The polarization of the CMB
Ray: Searching for the first galaxies