Students may complete a major or minor in Astronomy at Haverford College.
Stephen P. Boughn, Professor (on leave semesters I and II)
Scott Engle, Visiting Instructor
R. Bruce Partridge, Professor Emeritus
Beth Willman, Assistant Professor
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. We emphasize student research with faculty members and upper level courses contain substantial project- and/or research-based investigation. 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 (Physics 105 and 106, or 101 and 102, or Bryn Mawr equivalents) beginning in their first year, and to enroll in Astronomy 205/206 and Physics 213/214 in their sophomore year. It is also recommended to take Astronomy/Physics 152 in the second semester of the first year.
The department offers three courses, Astronomy 101a, Astronomy 112, and Astronomy 114b, which can be taken with no prerequisites or prior experience in astronomy. The department also offers a half-credit course, Astronomy/Physics 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.
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. The department coordinator for this concentration is Beth Willman.
1. Physics 105 (or 101), Physics 106 (or 102), Physics 213, Physics 214.
2. Two mathematics courses; Mathematics 121 and all 200-level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement.
3. Astronomy 205, Astronomy 206, four 300-level astronomy courses, one of which may be replaced by an upper-level physics course
4. Astronomy 404, which may be replaced by approved independent research either at Haverford or elsewhere
5. Written comprehensive examinations.
Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. Astronomy/Physics 152 is recommended but not required.
Astrophysics Major Requirements
1. Physics 105 (or 101), Physics 106 (or 102), Physics 213, Physics 214, Physics 211 (usually taken concurrently with Physics 213).
2. Two mathematics courses. Mathematics 121 and all 200-level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement.
3. Astronomy 205, Astronomy 206, and any two 300-level astronomy courses.
4. Physics 302, Physics 303, and Physics 309.
5. The Senior Seminar, Physics 399, including a talk and senior thesis on research conducted by the student. This research can be undertaken in a 400-level research course with any member of the Physics or Astronomy departments or by doing extracurricular research at Haverford or elsewhere, e.g., an approved summer research internship at another institution. The thesis is to be written under the supervision of both the research advisor and a Haverford advisor if the research advisor is not a Haverford faculty member.
Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. Astronomy/Physics 152 and Physics 308 are recommended but not required.
1. Physics 105 (or 101); Physics 106 (or 102)
2. Astronomy 205; Astronomy 206; one 300-level astronomy course.
Astronomy/Physics 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. Lottery: 12 spaces for Freshmen; 20 spaces for Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors.
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: Physics 101a or 105a and concurrent enrollment in Physics 102b or 106b (or Bryn Mawr equivalents).
Cross-listed in Physics
Typically offered every Spring.
ASTR H205 Introduction to Astrophysics I
General introduction to astronomy including: the structure and evolution of stars; the properties and evolution of the solar system including planetary surfaces and atmospheres; exoplanets; and observational projects using the Strawbridge Observatory telescopes. Prerequisite: Physics 105 and 106 & Math 114 or equivalent.
Typically offered every Fall.
ASTR H206 Introduction to Astrophysics II
Introduction to the study of: the structure and formation of the Milky Way galaxy; the interstellar medium; the properties of galaxies and their nuclei; and cosmology including the Hot Big Bang model. Prerequisite: Astr 205a and Math 114b or equiv or consent.
Typically offered every Spring.
ASTR H341 Advanced Topics: Observational Astronomy
Prerequisite: Astronomy 205
Typically offered in alternate years.
ASTR H342 Advanced Topics: Modern Galactic Astronomy
Prerequisite: Astronomy 205 and 206.
Typically offered in alternate years.
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.
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: Astronomy 206.