Physics 689
Special Topics in Astrophysics: Gravitational Lensing
Fall 2017

Prof. Chuck Keeton
Serin 305W

Class meetings: Monday and Thurday 10:20-11:40 AM, Serin 401W

Office hours: email or call or drop by to arrange a meeting


Gravitational lensing has matured into a thriving area of astrophysics, with applications across a wide range of scales and redshifts. The goals for this course are as follows:

We will develop the analytic theory as much as possible and consider computational approaches as appropriate. Some of the applications we will discuss include: properties of stars, planets, and stellar remnants; physical properties of galaxies; dark matter in galaxies and clusters of galaxies; structure of high-redshift galaxies and quasars; cosmological parameters.

This is an advanced graduate course designed for students pursuing research in physics and astronomy. Undergraduate physics and mathematics should provide adequate preparation. Familiarity with intermediate classical mechanics, electrodynamics, and quantum mechanics are helpful, as much of the mathematics encountered in those subjects applies to lensing.


The work for this course will feature both problem sets and literature discussions/presentations. During the first ~month, we will focus on lens theory and have weekly problem sets that are mostly analytic. Once we begin to discuss applications, the homework will combine working problems with reading papers and answering some questions about them. Each student will pick two application topics and prepare "mini lessons" to lead the discussion. These are meant to be like the literature review section of a paper or proposal, which synthesizes results from multiple papers to explain what is known about the topic and what questions remain open. The lesson leader will work with me to identify the key papers and prepare the in-class presentation and discussion, and will then submit a ~1 page write-up. We will identify topics and lesson leaders as we get into the semester.

Grades will be based on a combination of effort, demonstrated improvement, and mastery of the course material. A rough breakdown is 50% homeworks, 40% mini lessons (presentation and write-up for each of two topics), and 10% class participation.

Other items

Last updated September 7, 2017.