Caltech's Zwicky Compute Cluster
 Computational Astrophysics 

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Instructors: Christian Ott and Andrew Benson
Ay 190, Computational Astrophysics, is a course for graduate students and advanced undergraduates in Astronomy, Physics, Applied Physics, and Geophysics and Planetary Sciences.
Computational modeling is the new frontier of problem solving in astrophysics: For many of the complex heavenly phenomena awaiting understanding, analytical/perturbative techniques have reached their limits and progress can be made only by numerical model building and by contrasting model predictions with observations.
The list of problems that must be addressed with computational models is long and includes (but is by no means limited to!) structure formation and the coevolution of black holes and galaxies, the chemical evolution of the universe, star formation, stellar evolution, stellar collapse and corecollapse supernove, thermonuclear supernovae, thermonuclear explosions on neutron stars, the coalescence and merger of compact binary systems, commonenvelope evolution, stellar dynamics in galaxies and globular clusters, and so on...
The goal of this course is to introduce the basic techniques of numerical and computational modeling and their application to astrophysical systems.
Location:  Cahill 219 
Days, time, duration:  Monday 4:005:30pm and Thursday 10:0011:30am 
First class meeting:  01/06/2010 
Impact:  3 hours of lecture per week, ~6 hours of nominal preparation/homework per week. 
Prerequisites:  For grads: Knowledge of any programming language. For undergrads: Ph106, Ph2022, Ay101, Ay21, Ay20 
Credit:  This class can be counted as credit towards the math physics advanced requirement and the physics masters degree requirements. Undergraduates can apply this course to their advanced physics electives. 
List of course topics:
Basic Numerical Analysis  Ordinary Differential Equations 
Numerical Differentiation  Numerical Integration 
Linear Systems of Equations  Partial Differential Equations 
Root Finding  Fitting and Data Analysis 
GridBased Fluid Dynamics (HD/MHD) 
Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics 
NBody Algorithms  Basic Radiative Transfer 
Monte Carlo Methods  and more ... 
Class Format:
We will meet twice a week in a regular classroom setting. Lectures will be blackboard/whiteboardstyle with some use of projection. There will be homework excercise sets to be solved  generally these will be handed out on a weekly basis, but more comprehensive excercises/projects may span multiple weeks. There will not be a final exam  rather, there will be an individual term project to be carried out by each participant.
Books and Class Materials:
Unfortunately, there is no textbook for computational astrophysics. The lectures will be based on the instructors' own notes that will be made available here after each lecture.
Class Materials Available on the Ay190 materials webpage (requires username/password).
We recommend the following books and lecture notes as additional reading (list to be expanded):
Software Tools:
Class/homework will be primarily computational and will involve writing code, plotting up results and presenting them in typeset documents. Students may use any combination of programming languages, plotting packages, and typesetting software. However, we strongly encourage the following computational setup:
Operating System:  Linux (e.g. Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian) or MacOS X 
Programming Language:  Python 
Plotting Package:  matplotlib 
Typesetting Package:  LaTeX 
Preliminary Syllabus:
Date  Topic  Materials  Lecturer 

01/06  Introduction and Overview, Numerical Methods Basics  Ott and Benson  
01/10  Numerical Methods I  Interpolation  Ott  
01/13  Numerical Methods II  Integration; ODEs  Ott  
01/17  Numerical Methods III  Basic PDEs  Ott  
01/20  Numerical Methods IV  Linear/Nonlinear Systems  Ott  
01/24  Fitting & Analysis  Ott  
01/27  Monte Carlo  Ott  
01/31  Computational Fluid Dynamics: Basics  Ott  
02/03  GridBased Computational Fluid Dynamics I  Ott  
02/07  NBody & SPH  Barnes & Hut 1986  Benson 
02/10  NBody & SPH  Benson  
02/14  NBody & SPH  Springel 2010  Benson 
02/17  NBody & SPH  Benson  
02/21  GridBased Computational Fluid Dynamics II  Applications  Ott  
02/24  Magnetohydrodynamics  Ott  
02/28  Radiation Transport Basics  Ott  
03/03  Radiation Transport Applications  Ott  
03/07  Radiation Transport Applications  Ott  
03/10  Special Topic  Ott  
Christian D. Ott
Assistant Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics
TAPIR group
Mailcode 35017
Caltech
1200 E California Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91125
USA
337 Cahill
+16263958410
cott at tapir.caltech.edu