Astronomy 250:  Special Topics in Astronomy

Spring 2002

Accretion Disks

Instructors:   Eugene Chiang and Eliot Quataert (Astronomy Department, UC Berkeley)

Time & Place

Friday 10-11:30
544 Campbell Hall


Accretion of matter onto a central object is one of the most widespread and important phenomena in astrophysics.  The formation of stars and of planets, and the production of prodigious amounts of energy from compact objects such as neutron stars and black holes, hinge on the manner in which matter inspirals within accretion disks.

This course will cover the theory of accretion disks, with emphasis on the outstanding problem of angular momentum transport.  How does matter in the disk lose nearly all of its angular momentum to reach the central object?  Throughout the course we will make contact between theoretical models and observations of accreting systems.


The first month of the course will be devoted to introductory lectures on the theory and observations of accretion disks.  The remainder of the course will focus on proposals for the resolution of the angular momentum problem, with each week centered on the reading of a journal article.  The instructors will deliver a ~1/2 hour lecture providing context for the week's reading.  Over the next ~1 hour, a student will present the contents of the article and lead a discussion.