Astronomy

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

Faculty

Bruce Partridge, Bettye and Howard Marshall Professor of Natural Sciences and Professor of Astronomy, Chair

Beth Willman (on leave 2015-16), Associate Professor of Astronomy

Desika Narayanan, 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. 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.

Major Requirements

  • Physics 105 (or 101), Physics 106 (or 102), Physics 213, Physics 214.
  • Two mathematics courses; Mathematics 121 and all 200-level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement.
  • Astronomy 205, Astronomy 206, four 300-level astronomy courses, one of which may be replaced by an upper-level physics course.
  • Astronomy 404, which may be replaced by approved independent research either at Haverford or elsewhere.
  • Written comprehensive examinations.

Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the nonastronomy courses. Astronomy/Physics 152 is recommended but not required.

Astrophysics Major Requirements

  • Physics 105 (or 101), Physics 106 (or 102), Physics 213, Physics 214, Physics 211 (usually taken concurrently with Physics 213).
  • Two mathematics courses. Mathematics 121 and all 200-level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement.
  • Astronomy 205, Astronomy 206, and any two 300-level astronomy courses.
  • Physics 302, Physics 303, and Physics 309.
  • 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 nonastronomy courses.
  • Astronomy/Physics 152 and Physics 308 are recommended but not required.

Minor Requirements

  • Physics 105 (or 101); Physics 106 (or 102)
  • 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.

COURSES

ASTR H152I First-year 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.
Narayanan,Desika

ASTR H205A 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.
Narayanan,Desika

ASTR H206B 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.
Partridge,Bruce

ASTR H341A Advanced Topics: Observational Astronomy

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. Students will learn about astronomical phenomena firsthand through observing and analyzing data with the tools of the research astronomer. Data are both archival and that obtained with the CCD camera on Haverfords 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Instruction in the use of image processing software and CCD camera operation.
Willman,Beth

ASTR H343B Advanced Topics: 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.
Narayanan,Desika

ASTR H404A Research in Astrophysics

Intended for those students who choose to complete an independent research project in astrophysics under the supervision of a faculty member.
Narayanan,Desika