2008-2009 Undergraduate Catalog

2008-2009 Catalog


Students may complete a major or minor in Astronomy at Haverford College.


Stephen P. Boughn, John Farnum Professor of Astronomy
R. Bruce Partridge, Bettye and Howard Marshall Professor of Natural Sciences, Emeritus
Anna Sajina, Visiting Assistant Professor
Beth Willman, Assistant Professor

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. The department offers three courses, ASTR 101a, ASTR 112, and ASTR 114b, which can be taken with no prerequisites or prior experience in astronomy. The department also offers a half-credit course, ASTR/PHYS 152, intended for first-year students who are considering a physical science major and wish the opportunity to study some of the most recent developments in astrophysics.

Prospective majors usually study physics (PHYS 105 and 106, or 101 and 102, or Bryn Mawr equivalents) before enrolling in ASTR 205 in the fall semester of their sophomore year, when they concurrently enroll in PHYS 213. ASTR 206 and PHYS 214 follow in the spring semester. Astronomy majors may then take up to four 300-level courses and may enroll in a research course (ASTR 404). Students planning on graduate study in astronomy are advised to study physics at an advanced level; in fact, many astronomy majors choose to double major in physics and astronomy. The department also offers a minor in astronomy.

Major Requirements

Requirements in the major subject are ASTR 205; ASTR 206; four 300-level astronomy courses, one of which may be replaced by an upper-level physics course; ASTR 404, which may be replaced by approved independent research either at Haverford or elsewhere; and written comprehensive examinations. Prerequisites: PHYS 105 (or 101); PHYS 106 (or 102); PHYS 213; PHYS 214. Two mathematics courses are also required for the astronomy major; MATH 121 and all 200-level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement. Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. ASTR/PHYS 152 is recommended but not required.

Minor Requirements

Recommended: ASTR/PHYS 152. Required: PHYS 105 (or 101); PHYS 106 (or 102); ASTR 205; ASTR 206; one 300-level astronomy course.

Requirements For Honors

All astronomy majors are regarded as candidates for honors. The award of honors will be made on the basis of superior work in the departmental courses, in certain related courses, and in the comprehensive examinations, with consideration given for independent research.

ASTR H101 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 physical sciences. (staff) Typically offered in alternate years.

ASTR H112 Survey of the Cosmos

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 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. No prerequisites but ASTR 101 is useful. (staff)Typically offered in alternate years.

ASTR H114 Planetary Astronomy

A survey of the overall structure of the solar system, the laws governing the motions of the planets and the evolution of the solar system. Next, we study general processes affecting the surface properties of planets. This takes us to a detailed treatment of the properties of several planets. We end by studying the (surprising) properties of planets found in other stellar systems. (staff) Typically offered in alternate years.

ASTR H152 Freshman Seminar in Astrophysics

This half-credit course is intended for prospective physical science majors with an interest in recent developments in astrophysics. 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, and Einstein’s relativity theories. Prerequisite: PHYS 101a or 105a and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 102b or 106b (or Bryn Mawr equivalents). (Boughn)

ASTR H205 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. Prerequisite: PHYS 105 and 106 and MATH 114 or equivalent. (Boughn)

ASTR H206 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 exo-planets. Prerequisite: ASTR 205a, MATH 114b or equivalent or permission of the instructor. (Willman)

ASTR H313 Observational Optical Astronomy

One credit, full year course. Five observing projects that involve using a CCD camera on a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Projects include spectroscopy; variable star photometry; H-alpha imaging; imaging and photometry of galaxies and star clusters; 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: ASTR 205a. (Boughn)

ASTR H320 Cosmology and Extragalactic Astronomy

The study 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 space. Prerequisite: ASTR 206b. (staff) Typically offered in alternate years.

ASTR H321 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. Prerequisite: ASTR 205 and PHYS 214. (Boughn) Typically offered in alternate years.

ASTR H333 Modern Galactic Astronomy

The study of the structure, formation, and evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy using a number of observational tools including stellar populations and the interstellar medium. Students will conduct individual research projects. (Willman)

ASTR H404 Research in Astrophysics

Intended for those students who choose to complete an independent research project in astrophysics under the supervision of a faculty member. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor. (Boughn, Willman)

ASTR H480 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: ASTR 206. (Boughn)

Updated August 25, 2008 by Tracy Kellmer