Astronomy 202:  Astrophysical Gas Dynamics (Fall 2011)

InstructorEliot Quataert (Astronomy Department, Physics Department, UC Berkeley)

Time & Place:   T,TH 2-3:30 in B1 Hearst Field Annex

Office Hours:  M 11-12 in B-26 Hearst Field Annex  (or stop by my office -- C-13 HFA -- or send me an email to arrange a time to meet).


Gas dynamics is required to understand many of the most interesting  problems in modern astrophysics:  e.g., the evolution of large scale structure and galaxy formation (at least the baryonic part),  star and planet formation, compact objects (BHs, NSs, and WDs), etc.  This course will explore the physics of hydrodynamics and magnetohydrodynamics in an astrophysics context.   Although it is a graduate level course it does not presuppose previous exposure to gas dynamics.  The course will emphasize physical understanding, basic principles, and their applications to astrophysics problems.


Weekly lectures.  There will be regular problem sets.  Problem sets will include numerical calculations (e.g., solving ODEs).  There will be an oral final exam.  Your grade will be determined by your HW (75%) and final (25%).

A list of topics, including reading, can be found here.  


Most of these books are available on reserve at the Physics/Astronomy Library, or you can borrow a copy from me (for a short time, not the whole semester).

The Physics of Astrophysics:  Gas Dynamics  by Frank Shu

If you are only going to get one book, this is probably the one to get, though no single book is actually very satisfactory. 

Fluid Mechanics by Landau & Lifshitz

Nothing on MHD, but a great presentation of fluid dynamics, particularly the basics.

Physical Fluid Dynamics by D. J. Tritton

Excellent discussion of 'classical' fluid mechanics, with some discussion of atmospheric/geophysical applications, but no real astrophysics.  Nonetheless, provides great physical intuition for the key physics.

Plasma Physics by Peter Sturrock

We will rather quickly cover material in the first 3-5 chapters.

Feynman Lectures on Physics:  Vol. II, Ch. 40 & 41

The Physics of Fluids and Plasmas by Arnab Raichoudhuri

Theoretical Astrophysics (3 Vol. Set) by Padmanabhan

Roger Blandford and Kip Thorne's notes from their Caltech course on Applications of Classical Physics (see Ch.12-18)

This summary of differential operators in curvilinear coordinates is very useful.

The National Committee for Fluid Mechanics Films, led by Ascher Shapiro of MIT, created these beautiful and entertaining films on fluid dynamics.

Additional Readings

Nice Physics Today article on dimensional analysis and dimensionless numbers in fluids.

Pringle ARAA on Accretion Disks.   Great discussion of Basic dynamics and general physics of angular momentum transport; discussion of specific transport mechanisms is outdated.  We will return to the latter later in the course when we do MHD

Notes on Stellar Oscillations by Dalsgaard.  See Section 3.3 in particular.  Read Ch. 4 and 5.2 if you want more details.   Note that Dalsgaard's notation for Eulerian vs. Lagrangian perturbations is unfortunately different than mine (so pay close attention to what perturbations are what).

Balbus & Hawley Review Article on Disks (MHD turbulence and the MRI). 

Spruit Review on MHD Winds and Jets Relevant to Both Disks & Stars

Problem Sets