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Astronomy at Haverford College

Stephen P. Boughn
Froney Crawford
R. Bruce Partridge

The objective of a major in astronomy is to study the phenomena of the extraterrestrial universe and to understand them in terms of the fundamental principles of physics.

Major Requirements

Requirements in the major subject are:
Astronomy 205a; 206b;
four additional 300-level astronomy courses, one of which may be replaced by an upper-level physics course;
one 400-level astronomy course that may be replaced by approved independent research; and
three written three-hour comprehensive examinations.
Astronomy 152i is recommended but not required.

Minor Requirements

Astronomy 152i is recommended. The following courses are required: Physics 105a-106b; Astronomy 205a-206b; and one 300-level astronomy course.


Physics 105a, 106b, 213a and 214b. Two 200-level mathematics courses are also required. Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses.

101a. Astronomical Ideas

Fundamental concepts and observations of modern astronomy, such as the motions and surface properties of the planets, the birth and death of stars, and the properties and evolution of the universe. Not intended for students majoring in the natural sciences. (Partridge, Division II) Offered in 2005-06.

112a. Survey of the Cosmos

A study of the properties and evolution of the universe and of large systems within it. The qualitative aspects of general relativity (including black holes) and of mathematical models for the geometry of the universe are also studied, along with the history of the universe from its early exponential expansion to the formation of galaxies. The role of observations in refining modern scientific understanding of the structure and evolution of the universe is stressed. The approach is quantitative, but any mathematics beyond straightforward algebra is taught as the class proceeds. (Partridge, Division II) Offered in 2004-05.

114b. Planetary Science

A study of the overall structure of the solar system, the laws governing the motions of the planets, the general processes affecting the surface properties of planets, and the surprising properties of planets found in other stellar systems. (Partridge, Division II) Offered in 2006-07 and alternate years.

152i. Freshman Seminar in Astrophysics

This is a half-credit course intended for prospective science majors. Topics in modern astrophysics will be viewed in the context of underlying physical principles. Topics include black holes, quasars, neutron stars, supernovae, dark matter, the Big Bang beginning of the universe and Einstein's relativity theories. Prerequisites: Physics 101 or 105a (at Haverford), or Physics 101 or 103 (at Bryn Mawr), and concurrent enrollment in Physics 102b or 106b (at Haverford) or Physics 102 or 104 (at Bryn Mawr), or equivalent. (Boughn, Division II)

205a. Introduction to Astrophysics I

General introduction to astronomy, including: the structure and evolution of stars; the structure and formation of the Milky Way; the interstellar medium; and observational projects using the Strawbridge Observatory telescopes. Prerequisites: Physics 105a-106b and Mathematics 114b or the equivalent. (Boughn, Division II)

206b. Introduction to Astrophysics II

Introduction to the study of the properties of galaxies and their nuclei; cosmology; the Hot Big Bang model; the properties and evolution of the solar system; planetary surfaces and atmospheres; and exoplanets. Prerequisites: Astronomy 205a and Mathematics 114b or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor. (Partridge, Division II)

313c. Observational Optical Astronomy

This is a one-credit, full-year course. The course consists of five observing projects that primarily involve using a CCD camera on a 16" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Projects include variable star photometry; H-alpha imaging; imaging and photometry of galaxies; star cluster photometry; instruction in the use of image processing software and CCD camera operation. Students work in groups of two with minimal faculty supervision. Formal reports are required. Prerequisite: Astronomy 205a. (Boughn)

320b. Cosmology and Extragalactic Astronomy

The theory of the origin, evolution and large-scale structure of the universe (Big Bang theory). Review of the relevant observational evidence. A study of remote galaxies, radio sources, quasars and intergalactic matter. Prerequisite: Astronomy 206b. (Partridge) Offered in 2005-06 and alternate years.

321b. Stellar Structure and Evolution

The theory of the structure of stellar interiors and atmospheres, and the theory of star formation and stellar evolution, including compact stellar remnants. Prerequisites: Astronomy 205a and Physics 214b. (Boughn) Offered in 2004-05 and alternate years.

322a. Non-Optical Astronomy

Introduction to the basic techniques of radio astronomy, including aperture synthesis, and the various mechanisms that give rise to line and continuum emission at radio wavelengths. Some discussion of other branches of non-optical astronomy (including X-ray and possibly neutrino, cosmic-ray, gravitational wave, infrared and ultraviolet astronomy). Prerequisite: Astronomy 206b. (Partridge) Offered in 2004-05 and alternate years.

404a, b. Research in Astrophysics

Intended for students who choose to complete an independent research project in astrophysics under the supervision of a faculty member. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. (staff)

480a, b. Independent Study

Intended for students who want to pursue some topic of study that is not currently offered in the curriculum. In order to enroll, a student must have a faculty sponsor. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. (staff)

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