Students may complete a major or minor in Astronomy at Haverford College.
Stephen P. Boughn, Professor
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.
Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. Astronomy/Physics 152 is recommended but not required.
Astrophysics Major Requirements
Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. Astronomy/Physics 152 and Physics 308 are 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 101 Astronomical Ideas NA/QU
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.
ASTR 112 Survey of the Cosmos NA/QU
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 Astronomy 101 is useful. Typically offered in alternate years.
ASTR 114 Planetary Astronomy NA
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.
ASTR 152 Freshman Seminar in Astrophysics NA (Cross-listed in Physics)
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). Typically offered every Spring.
ASTR 205 Introduction to Astrophysics I NA
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 206 Introduction to Astrophysics II NA
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 341 Advanced Topics: Observational Astronomy NA
A project-based course focusing on observational techniques as used in modern astronomy, which may include CCD imaging or spectroscopy at optical, near infrared, or radio wavelengths. Students will acquire and analyze data obtained with on-campus telescopes and with off-campus, research-grade facilities. Typically offered in alternate years. Prerequisite: Astronomy 205 and 206. Typically offered in alternate years.
ASTR 342 Advanced Topics: Modern Galactic Astronomy NA
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. Prerequisite: Astronomy 205 and 206. Typically offered in alternate years.
ASTR 343 Advanced Topics: Stellar Structure and Evolution NA
The theory of the structure of stellar interiors and atmospheres and the theory of star formation and stellar evolution, including compact stellar remnants. Prerequisite: Astronomy 205 and Physics 214. Typically offered in alternate years.
ASTR 344 Computational Astrophysics NA
This course will survey general methods utilized in computational physics and astrophysics. The course will focus on coding techniques, numerical recipes, and both abstract and practical concepts in utilizing computers to solve physical problems. No prior coding experience is necessary. Prerequisite: Phys 214. Typically offered in alternate years. Typically offered in alternate years.