Students may complete a major or minor in Astronomy at Haverford College.
R. Bruce Partridge, Bettye and Howard Marshall Professor of Natural Sciences, Emeritus
Stephen P. Boughn, John Farnum Professor of Astronomy
Beth Willman, Assistant Professor of Astronomy
The astronomy department's curriculum is centered on studying the phenomena of the extraterrestrial Universe and on understanding them in terms of the fundamental principles of physics. Our department offers two majors: astronomy or astrophysics. Both majors provide substantial training in quantitative reasoning and independent thinking through work in and out of the classroom. The astronomy major is appropriate for students that desire an in-depth education in astronomy that can be applied to a wide-range of career trajectories, but who do not necessarily intend to pursue graduate study in astronomy. The astrophysics major is appropriate for students who wish to pursue the study of astronomy with additional attention to the physical principles that underlie astrophysical phenomena. The depth of the physics training required for a degree in astrophysics will prepare students who wish to pursue a career in astronomy or astrophysics, or to enter graduate study in astronomy or astrophysics. The department also offers a minor in astronomy.
Although a variety of pathways can lead to a major in the department, prospective astronomy or astrophysics majors are advised to study physics (PHYS 105 and 106, or 101 and 102, or Bryn Mawr equivalents) beginning in their first year, and to enroll in ASTR 205/206 and PHYS 213/214 in their sophomore year. It is also recommended to take ASTR/PHYS 152 in the second semester of the first year.
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.
The department emphasizes student research with faculty members. Students at all levels have the opportunity to apply for paid summer research assistantships at Haverford. Students have presented their work at conferences, visited colleagues at other institutions, and visited telescopes around the country. The upper level courses contain substantial project-based investigation and/or are substantially research-driven.
Students may major in astronomy or astrophysics, but not both. Astrophysics majors may not double major in either physics or astronomy, nor can they minor in either physics or astronomy. Astronomy majors may pursue a double major or a minor in physics. A concentration in scientific computing is available for astronomy and astrophysics majors. This concentration is described under the Computer Science program. The department coordinator for this concentration is Beth Willman.
Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. ASTR/PHYS 152 is recommended but not required.
Astrophysics Major Requirements
Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. ASTR/PHYS 152 and PHYS 308 are recommended but not required.
Astronomy Minor Requirements
1. PHYS 105 (or 101); PHYS 106 (or 102)
2. ASTR 205; ASTR 206; one 300-level astronomy course. ASTR/PHYS 152 is recommended but not required.
Requirements For Honors
All astronomy and astrophysics majors are regarded as candidates for Honors. For both majors, the award of Honors will be made in part on the basis of superior work in the departmental courses and in certain related courses. For astronomy majors, the award of Honors will additionally be based on performance on the comprehensive examinations, with consideration given for independent research. For astrophysics majors, the award of Honors will additionally be based on the senior thesis and talk.
ASTR H101 Astronomical Ideas
Fundamental concepts and observations of modern astronomy, such as the properties of planets, the birth and death of stars, and the properties and evolution of the Universe. Not intended for students majoring in the physical sciences. Typically offered in alternate years. (Willman)
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. Typically offered in alternate years. (staff) Not offered in 2009-10.
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. Typically offered in alternate years. (staff) Not offered in 2009-10.
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. Typically offered in alternate years. (Willman)
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. Typically offered in alternate years. (Boughn) Not offered in 2009-10.
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. Typically offered in alternate years. (Willman) Not offered in 2009-10.
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)