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Astronomy Reference Recommendations

The following books and material are recommendations from fellow graduate students, postdocs and faculty in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Dunlap Institute and CITA.


• Astrophysics
• Black Holes
• Cosmology and Early Universe
• Dark Matter
• Fluid Dynamics and Mechanics
• Galactic Dynamics
• Galaxies
• Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei
• General Relativity
• Gravitational Waves
• High Energy Astrophysics
• Interstellar Medium
• Lecturing and Teaching
• Mathematics
• Optics
• Quantum Field Theory
• Radio Astronomy
• Solar System
• Statistical Mechanics
• Star Formation
• Stellar Astronomy


An introduction to modern astrophysics, 2nd edition
Authors: Bradley W. Carroll and Dale A. Ostlie
QB 43.2 .C37 2007

General overview - I mention this solely to say that this is the level of basic astro knowledge people need to pass the general qual. Our year went crazy using advanced texts, but it was largely unnecessary.

Accretion power in astrophysics, 3rd edition
Authors: Juhan Frank, Andrew King, and Derek J. Raine
QB 466 .A25 .K56 2002

For those who don't want to read Shakura and Sunayev '73, this is a very good introduction to how accretion disks work.

Radiative Processes in Astrophysics
Authors: Rybicki and Lightman
QB 461 .R88

It covers all the basics of the most important radiative processes in astrophysics and is a good introduction.

The Tapestry of Modern Astrophysics
Author: Steven N. Shore
QB 461 .S56 2003

What Caroll and Ostlie were trying to do, but at a graduate level. Covers a wide variety of the physics that's actually used in modern research areas sufficiently sparse enough to make the text readable, but sufficiently detailed to give you the physical intuition and let you look up the reference for a more detailed treatment. Particularly notable is the "General Relativity on the Cheap" section that helps develop intuition for GR without the harsh mathematical treatment.

Black Holes
Black hole physics : basic concepts and new developments
Authors: Valeri P. Frolov and Igor D. Novikov
QB 843 B55 F76 1998

I wish I could have it on my shelf but I can't afford it.

Cosmology and Early Universe
Primordial cosmology
Authors: Patrick Peter and Jean-Philippe Uzan
QB 985 .P4813 2009

Very detailed account of modern cosmology. Contains a lot of derivations in full detail and is mathematically rigorous. Not an introduction to the subject.

The Early Universe
Authors: Edward W. Kolb and Michael S. Turner
QB 981 K65 1990

A classical book on the physics of the early universe. While some of data is now outdated (pre-WMAP publication), a lot of the physics discussion is very hard to find anywhere else.

Modern cosmology
Authors: Scott Dodelson
QB 981 .D63 2003


Introduction to cosmology
Authors: Barbara Ryden
QB 981 .R93 2003

Probably the most cogent book I've read on cosmology. Doesn't go into details, but for those who need an introduction to theoretical cosmology, it does a great job of laying out the basics using simple math.

Distance measures in cosmology
Author: David W. Hogg

This is a great introduction to observational cosmology, all the basics a newbie needs to know about the subject.

Principles of Physical Cosmology
Author: P.J.E. Peebles
QB 981 P424 1993

Never particularly found this book readable, but alas, it is the only place to get a detailed treatment of certain topics -- for instance, Galaxy correlation functions.

Cosmic Microwave Background Tutorials
Author: Wayne Hu, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago

Wayne Hu's website provides a basic overview of some key cosmological concepts using easy to understand animations and relevant plots. It doesn't go into too much depth, but is a good place to start.

Dark Matter
Highlights of astronomy : as presented at the XXVII IAU General Assembly, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2009
Author: edited by Ian F. Corbett
QB 1 H54 v. 15

"JD1 - Dark matter in early-type galaxies : overview"
Highlights of Astronomy, Volume 15, p. 61-64

Galaxies in the Universe : An Introduction, 2nd edition
Author: Linda S. Sparke, John S. Gallagher
QB 857 .S64 2007

Chapters 3, 5, 6, on galaxy dynamics and mass modeling.

In Search of Dark Matter
Authors: Ken Freeman and Geoff McNamara
QB 791 .3 .F74 2006

Best book ever, everything about dark matter that you've always wanted to know.

Fluid Dynamics and Mechanics
An Introduction to Fluid Dynamics
Author: G. K. Batchelor
QA 911 .B33

- A classic text on fluid dynamics in the terrestrial context.

Similarity and dimensional methods in mechanics
Author: L.I. Sedov
QC 39 .S41 1982

- The authoritative introduction to dimensional analysis and scaling as applied to mechanics and fluid dynamics.

Physics of shock waves and high-temperature hydrodynamic phenomena
Authors: Ya. B. Zeldovich and Yu. P. Raizer
QC 168 .Z3813 v1 and v2

- Hydrodynamics with a focus on shocks, combustion, and explosions.

Scaling, self-similarity, and intermediate asymptotics : dimensional analysis and intermediate asymptotics
Author: Grigory Isaakovich Barenblatt
QA 401 .B3713 1996

- An entertaining and highly readable book on asymptotic solutions, with a distinctly different point of view from Sedov's.

Fluid mechanics
Author: L.D. Landau
QA 901 .L283 1987 (2nd ed.)

- A succinct textbook and an authoritative reference.

Linear and Nonlinear Waves
Author: G.B. Whitham

- An insightful book on the dynamics of characteristics, sound waves, shock waves, and other types of waves, with a focus on exact and approximate solutions.

Galactic Dynamics
Galactic dynamics, 2nd edition
Authors: James Binney and Scott Tremaine
QB 857 .B52 2008

- This is the standard textbook, it's well written, the new version is up to date and it is a good introduction to the most important topics in galactic dynamics and dynamics in general.

- For the quals, should basically just be used as a supplement to Schneider (Extragalactic astronomy and cosmology).

- Deals with all aspects of galaxy dynamics and mass modeling.

Galactic astronomy
Authors: James Binney and Michael Merrifield
QB 857 B522 1998

Galaxies : great book for phenomenology (very useful for reference).

Extragalactic astronomy and cosmology : an introduction
Author: Peter Schneider
QB 857 .5 .E96 S3813 2006

Galactic, extragalactic and some cosmology. This is a wonderful book, written at the high undergrad level, on all things at distances scales greater than 1 Mpc. We pretty much just read this book to answer the extragalactic, and a lot of the galactic, sections.

The Milky Way : An Elusive Road for Science
Author: Jaki, Stanley L.
QB857 .7 .J35

- Provides a useful historical background on models of the Milky Way from ancient Greece through the Middle Ages up to Hubble and Curtis/Shapley. It's much longer than most folks would find necessary; typically many of the things it takes a chapter to talk about are relegated to a sentence or two in other texts, but if somebody wants to know (for instance) instead of the 'general' view in ancient Greece the difference of opinions between Aristotle, Plutarch, Porphyry, Democritus, Macrobius, Cicero, Hyginus, etc. it can be a fairly unique reference. Other chapters are likewise detailed. The main attraction of the book from my point of view putting a lecture together, was the collection of plates at the end of the book reprinting various Milky Way theories from a variety of original sources from ~ 1500 to the early 1900s.

Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei
Astrophysics of gaseous nebulae and active galactic nuclei
Authors: Donald E. Osterbrock and G. J. Ferland
QB855 .55 O88 2005

- This book covers physics in photo-ionized regions, provide very useful tables of constants for observers whose research involves ionized gas. The appendices are especially comprehensive for anyone who is just learning radioactive processes, or wants a quick recap of the subjects. I would at least highly recommend the appendices to everyone.

- A great reference for those studying spectra of emission nebulae (H II regions, planetary nebulae).

General Relativity
Spacetime and geometry: an introduction to general relativity.
Authors: Sean Carroll
QC 173.6 .C377 2004

This is the book that I used as an introduction to GR. It is very readable and is easier to follow than other GR books I tried.

General relativity
Authors: Robert M. Wald
QC 173.6 .W35

A thorough and rigorously modern approach to GR. Great reference when I forget how to do something.

Numerical relativity : solving Einstein's equations on the computer
Authors: Thomas W. Baumgarte and Stuart L. Shapiro
QC 173 .59 B38 2010

This is an amazing reference to learn the necessary background for work in numerical relativity.

3+1 formalism in general relativity bases of numerical relativity
Author: Eric Gourgoulhon
QC 173 .6 .G68 2012

This book contains a very in depth derivation of the 3+1 equations used in numerical relativity. A very good reference as it does the computations in detail.

Gravitational Waves
Fundamentals of Interferometric Gravitational Wave Detectors
Author: Peter R. Saulson
QC 179 .S28 1994

I make sure I have it on my shelf.

Gravitational-wave physics and astronomy: An Introduction to theory, experiment and data analysis
Authors: Jolien Creighton and Warren Anderson
QC 179 .C74 2011

This is likely to become a standard reference.

High Energy Astrophysics
High energy astrophysics, 3rd edition
Author: Malcolm S. Longair
QB 464 .L66 2011

A self-contained and through introduction to high-energy astrophysics. Great for studying for the qual.

Interstellar Medium
Dust in the galactic environment, 2nd edition
Author: D. C. B. Whittet
QB 791 .W54 2003


The interstellar medium
Author: James Lequeux
QB 790 .L47 2005


The physics of the interstellar medium, 2nd edition
Authors: J.E. Dyson and D.A. Williams
QB 790 D97 1997

- A clearly written introduction to processes in the interstellar medium. It can serve as a good starting point for anyone new to the field.

- This book is the best textbook for ISM, very well written, provides comprehensive but not overwhelmingly detailed physics in ISM. I would recommend this book to study for the general qual and use other ISM textbooks as supplement.

Physical processes in the interstellar medium
Author: Lyman Spitzer
QB 790 .S67 2004

Offers a more rigorous approach to the physics in the interstellar medium.

Physics of the interstellar and intergalactic medium
Author: Bruce T. Draine
QB 790 .D73 2011

A really annoying book to try to pick up, and far too detailed for the qualifier, but we used it whenever we needed details on any process. The introductory paragraphs in each section are also a lot more palatable.

Lecturing and Teaching
What's the use of lectures?
Author: Donald A. Bligh
LC 6515 .B55 2000

An authoritative summary of best practices for those times when lecturing is the only option. Well supported by research.

Teaching as a subversive activity
Authors: Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner
LA 217 .P67 1969

Should be required reading for anyone who comes in contact with students anywhere ever. Outlines the philosophy behind active learning and, more importantly, makes an excellent case against teacher-centered teaching techniques.

Introduction to smooth manifolds
Author: John M. Lee
QA613 .L44 2003 (Mathematical Sciences Library)

A very readable but rigorous introduction to differential geometry and smooth manifold theory. For everyone who wants to know all the technical details usually swept under the rug in GR books.

Data reduction and error analysis for the physical sciences
Authors: Philip R. Bevington and D. Keith Robinson
QA 278 .B48 2003


Mathematical methods in the physical sciences, 3rd edition
Author: Mary L. Boas
QA 37.3 .B63 2006


Data analysis: Bayesian tutorial, 2nd edition
Authors: D. S. Sivia with J. Skilling
QA 279 .5 .S55 2006. DA


Statistical Data Analysis
Authors: Glen Cowan
QA 276 .C658 1998

This book should be a required text for astronomy. Rather than the *extremely* shallow slope provided by introduction statistics texts meant for general statistics, this text is meant for physical scientists (with a mathematical background) that have no familiarity with statistics.

Principles of optics: Electromagnetic theory of propagation, interference and diffraction of light, 7th edition
Authors: Max Born and Emil Wolf
QC 351 .B67 1999

I make sure I have it on my shelf.

Polarized Light, 3rd edition
Author: Dennis Goldstein
QC 441 .G65 2011

The authority on polarized light (not astronomy specific).

Quantum Field Theory
Field quantization
Authors: Greiner and Joachim J. Reinhardt
QC174.45 .G72 1996 (Gerstein Science Library and Physics Library)

A great introduction to quantum field theory with lots of worked problems. Eases the reader from familiar concepts all the way to path integral quantization.

Radio Astronomy
Radio astronomy, 2nd edition
Author: John D. Kraus
QB 475 .K67 1986

The authoritative reference on all things radio.

Tools of Radio astronomy, 5th edition
Author: K. Rohlfs, T.L. Wilson, S. Hutemeister.
QB 475 .R63 2009
If it's not in Kraus, it's in here. A little more up-to-date than Kraus.
Interferometry and synthesis in radio astronomy, 2nd edition
Authors: A. Richard Thompson, James M. Moran, George W. Swenson Jr.
QB 479.2 .T47 2001

- Should be called The Interferometry Bible. It has just about everything one could need to know about interferometry. Perfect for grad students.

- I make sure I have it on my shelf.

- Interferometry and Synthesis in Radio Astronomy by Thompson, Moran, and Swenson has been recommended to me by a few different people and often shows up referenced in published papers for the basics of radio astronomy.

Synthesis imaging in radio astronomy II
Edited by G. B. Taylor C. L. Carilli, and R. A. Perley
QB 479.2 A87 1998
Astronomical Society of the Pacific, c1999
This volume is mainly thorough lecture notes from the NRAO's Synthesis Imaging Workshop, and focuses on lots of observational details that are useful for figuring out how to deal with noise, calibration, cleaning, etc.
Solar System
Solar system dynamics
Authors: Carl D. Murray and Stanley F. Dermott
QB 501 .M87 1999

Dynamics: a comprehensive book for the understanding planetary dynamics and tides.

The Solar system beyond Neptune
Edited by M. Antonietta Barucci
QB 694 .S65 2008


Statistical Mechanics
Statistical physics of particles
Author: Mehran Kardar
QC174.8 .K37 2007 (Physics Library)

A thorough introduction to statistical mechanics.

Statistical mechanics, 2nd edition
Author: Franz Schwabl
QC174.8 .S3813 2006 (Gerstein Library and Physics Library)

An advanced text on statistical mechanics with great coverage of quantum statistics. Not for the faint of heart.

Star Formation
The formations of stars
Author: Steven W. Stahler and Francesco Palla
QB806 .S735 2004

It's a recent substantial overview of the topic by a pair of experts.

Principles of star formation
Author: Peter H. Bodenheimer
QB 806 .B63 2011


An introduction to star formation
Author: Derek Ward-Thompson
QB 806 .W36 2011


Star Formation in Galaxies Along the Hubble Sequence
Author: Robert C. Kennicutt, Jr.

THE review paper you need to read if you want to get a sense of how star formation is measured in other Galaxies.

The stellar initial mass function
Author: J.M. Scalo

The only place where the IMF is really described in detail right from construction. Available online at http://www.as.utexas.edu/astronomy/people/scalo/Scalo1986.IMF.FundCosPhys.pdf

Towards Understanding Massive Star Formation
Author: Hans Zinnecker and Harold W. Yorke

The place to get an understanding of what questions (and nomenclature) exists in massive star formation.

Stellar Astronomy
Stellar structure and evolution
Authors: R. Kippenhahn and A. Weigert
QB 806 K56 1990

- A complete course on the physics of stellar interiors.

- A great book for understanding the basic (at the level of graduate student but this is also a very good reference for undergraduates taking AST320) physics behind stellar structure and evolution.

- Stellar structure including compact objects and the lives of stars. The bible on stellar structure, extremely insightful and a wonderful read in general. It might be a bit difficult for novices to pick up, but Marten's probably using it for his grad-level stars class, so a large number of people will get introduced to it. For those looking for a supplement, I suggest - Stellar interiors : physical principles, structure and evolution by Carl J. Hansen.

Stellar interiors : physical principles, structure, and evolution, 2nd edition
Authors: Carl J. Hansen, Steven D. Kawaler, Virginia Trimble
QB 808 .H36 2004

Somewhat more easy to understand than Kippenhahn, but I found it slightly more difficult to use as a reference text, and had the feeling it was a bit shallower than Kippenhahn.

An introduction to the theory of stellar structure and evolution, 2nd edition
Author: Dina Prialnik
QB 808 .P74 2009

Theoretical models of stellar structure

An introduction to close binary stars
Author: R. W. Hilditch
QB 821 .H54 2001

Observational and theoretical on close binary stars.

Introduction to stellar winds
Author: Henny J.G.L.M. Lamers and Joseph P. Cassinelli
QB 466 .M37 .L35 1999

It is easy to read and covers all the basic ideas in stellar wind theory in a coherent fashion.

Stellar atmospheres, 2nd edition
Author: Dimitri Mihalas
QB 809 .M5 1978


An introduction to the study of stellar structure
Author: S. Chandrasekhar
QB 461 .C45 1967

A very detailed mathematical treatment of the equations of stellar structure, including quantum effects.

Nonradial oscillations of stars, 2nd edition
Author: Wasaburo Unno
QB 838 N66 1989

A great book for understanding stellar pulsation (nice comprehensive mathematics).

Stellar Spectral Classification
Author: O. Gray and Christopher J. Corbally
QB 881 .G73 2009

If you have ever had to classify stellar spectra, this is your bible. Covers everything from the UV to the NIR. Not meant as a text, but rather a reference.


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