Previous abstract Next abstract

Session 32 - Curriculum in Crisis: Reinventing Stellar Astrophysics for Today's Graduate Student.
Oral session, Tuesday, June 11

[32.05] Solar and Stellar Atmospheres in the Graduate Curriculum

L. S. Anderson (Univ. of Toledo)

The study of semi-infinite radiating media has reached a critical stage in its development. Back in Eddington's day, analytic theory blossomed and set seed for the present, with fertilization from quantum mechanics and stellar spectroscopy. In the 1970's, computers became powerful enough to integrate all the interactions of radiation with cosmic plasmas in simple geometries. Today, the classical atmosphere problem, consisting of atoms and molecules stratified in a simple one-dimensional geometry and in hydrostatic and radiative equilibrium with a constant radiative luminosity, essentially has been solved. Such model solutions can (or should) be found for most of the HR Diagram with a little exploration of the internet.

Because of this completion of a global problem, work in the field has fragmented. The classical models are pretty good at matching today's high signal-to-noise observations. The failures of the models cannot be as easily classified as the original stellar spectra the models were designed to match. These failures vary between individual stars and/or small classes of stars by as much as the error itself, so it is harder to make general statements and for workers to compare results. The non-classical physics in one area of the HR Diagram might be completely different from that of a nearby area, or even from one star to the next in the same area. How do we train today's students to approach this scattered disparity? How do we excite students to carry on in the steps of Eddington, Mihalas, Kurucz, and the many other contributors to the solution of the classical problem? What, if any, are the outstanding problems of global significance? Our tools are extremely powerful; any department or personal workstation can do the work of yesterday's Cray, and the supercomputers today can take on the challenge of multi-dimentional moving media.

Program listing for Tuesday