2017-18 Catalog

Astronomy

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

Faculty

Scott Engle, Visiting Assistant Professor
Andrea Lommen, Professor
Bruce Partridge, Bettye and Howard Marshall Professor of Natural Sciences and Professor of Astronomy Emeritus
Paul Thorman, Laboratory Instructor in Physics

The range of astronomical phenomena is vast—from the Big Bang origin of the universe, to the death throes of collapsing stars, to the rings of Saturn. The astronomy and astrophysics curricula are based on the study of these systems and of their evolution. Any study of astronomy and astrophysics is enriched by a firm understanding of the physics underlying these phenomena. Our curriculum is shaped to provide both astronomy and astrophysics majors with a solid foundation in the basic principles of both astronomy and physics, an understanding of the most recent developments in astronomy and cosmology, and the inspiration to pursue further learning in the sciences.

Entry to either major is through a pair of courses that survey all major areas of modern astrophysics: ASTR 205 and 206. These are typically taken in the sophomore year, to allow students to build a foundation in physics (our majors require physics courses, as explained below). We also offer as number of more focused, upper level courses on specific topics in astronomy, including one on observational techniques. Some of these reflect the research interests of our faculty.

Student research is a vital part of both majors. Our faculty work at the cutting edge of modern astronomy and cosmology, creating exceptional research opportunities for majors. Some of those opportunities are based on campus, within the College’s William J. Strawbridge Observatory, equipped with telescopes and powerful computer facilities. Other opportunities lie off-campus through the department’s alliances with national and private observatories, including Kitt Peak in Arizona and the Simons Observatory in Chile.

Curriculum

Introductory Courses
The department regularly offers courses that require no prerequisites or prior experience in astronomy. These are intended primarily for non-science students.

ASTR/PHYS 152, is a half-credit course for first-year students who are considering a physical science major and wish to study some of the most recent developments in astrophysics early in their college education.

Major Programs
Our department offers two majors: astronomy and astrophysics. Both majors provide substantial training in quantitative reasoning and independent thinking through work in and out of the classroom.

The department also offers a minor in astronomy.

The astronomy major is appropriate for students who 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 do graduate study in astronomy or astrophysics.

Although a variety of pathways can lead to a major in the department, we advise prospective astronomy or astrophysics majors to:

  • study physics (PHYS 105 or 115 and 106, or PHYS 101 and 102, or Bryn Mawr equivalents). beginning in their first year.
  • enroll in ASTR 205/206 and PHYS 213/214 in their sophomore year.
  • take ASTR/PHYS 152 in the second semester of their first year.

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.

Astronomy Major Requirements

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.

  • PHYS 105 (or 101 or 115), PHYS 106 (or 102), PHYS 213, PHYS 214.
  • Two mathematics courses; MATH 121 and all 200-level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement.
  • ASTR 205, ASTR 206, four 300-level astronomy courses, one of which may be replaced by an upper-level physics course. Majors can substitute 100-level Swarthmore astronomy seminars for 300-level astronomy courses.
  • ASTR 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 non-astronomy courses. ASTR/PHYS 152 is recommended but not required.

Astrophysics Major Requirements

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.

  • PHYS 105 (or 115 or 101), PHYS 106 (or 102), PHYS 213, PHYS 214, PHYS 211 (usually taken concurrently with PHYS 213).
  • Two mathematics courses. MATH 121 and all 200-level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement.
  • ASTR 205, ASTR 206, and any two 300-level astronomy courses. Majors can substitute 100-level Swarthmore astronomy seminars for 300-level astronomy courses.
  • PHYS 302, PHYS 303, and PHYS 309.
  • The Senior Seminar, PHYS 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 and Astronomy Department 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 adviser and a Haverford adviser if the research adviser is not a Haverford faculty member.
    Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. ASTR/PHYS 152 and PHYS 308 are recommended but not required.

Minor Requirements

  • PHYS 105 (or 115 or 101); PHYS 106 (or 102).
  • ASTR 205; ASTR 206; one 300-level astronomy course. Minors may substitute a 100-level Swarthmore astronomy seminar for the 300-level astronomy course.

We strongly recommend (but do not require) ASTR/PHYS 152.

COURSES

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. At least 30 spaces will be reserved for freshmen, perhaps more as space dictates. (Offered Spring 2018)

ASTR H152 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. Crosslisted: Astronomy, Physics;
Prerequisite(s): PHYS H101 or H105 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS H102, H106 or B121 (or Bryn Mawr equivalents). (Offered Spring 2018)

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(s): Prerequisite(s): MATH H118 or equivalent; PHYS H105 or PHYS B121; Co-requisite(s): PHYS H106 or B201. (Offered Fall 2017)

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(s): ASTR H205A and MATH H118 or equivalent. (Offered Spring 2018)

ASTR H304 COMPUTATIONAL PHYSICS
An introduction to the methods and problems of computational physics, including matrix methods, ordinary differential equations, integration, eigensystems, Monte Carlo techniques, Fourier analysis, and iterative methods. Course will include a substantial independent project. Crosslisted: Physics, Astronomy, Computer Science;
Prerequisite(s): CMSC H105 (or equivalent) and either PHYS H213 or PHYS H306. (Offered Spring 2018)

ASTR H341 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. Prerequisite(s): ASTR H206. (Typically offered every other fall)

ASTR H344 ADVANCED TOPICS IN ASTROPHYSICS
Topics drawn from one of the following areas in current astrophysics: stellar structure and evolution, galaxy structure and evolution, extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, radio astronomy, x-ray astronomy, and gravitational wave astronomy. Prerequisite(s): ASTR H205 and ASTR H206. (Offered Fall 2017)

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(s): Instructor consent. (Offered Fall 2017 and Spring 2018)