The Astronomy Department offers a range of courses to interest scientists and dabblers alike. For students intending to pursue graduate study in Astronomy, we offer an Interdepartmental Astrophysics Major jointly with the Physics Department. For students who would like to incorporate astronomy into their lives in other ways, we also offer an Astronomy Major and an Astronomy Minor.
All of our introductory courses are open to any student who has passed the Basic Skills component of the QR requirement. Neither high school physics nor calculus is required. Students who might pursue a major or minor should elect the laboratory along with the course. Astronomy labs are held at night.
The following introductory courses are offered every semester and may be taken in any order:
This course investigates the origin of life on Earth and the prospects for finding life elsewhere in the cosmos, and begins with an overview of Earth's place in the solar system and the universe. The course examines the early history of Earth and the development of life, changes in the Sun that affect Earth, characteristics of the other objects in our solar system and their potential for supporting life, the detection of planets around stars other than the Sun, and the search for extraterrestrial life. Satisfies NPS requirement.
This course examines the life stories of stars, from birth in clouds of gas and dust, through placid middle age, to violent explosive demise, leaving white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes. It also explores the makeup and structure of galaxies, which contain billions of stars and are racing away from each other as part of the overall expansion of the universe. Finally, it presents modern cosmological models for the origin and ultimate fate of the universe. The course emphasizes the interaction of observations and the mathematical models developed from these data. Satisfies MM or NPS requirements.
ASTR 100L and ASTR 101L both satisfy the laboratory requirement. The weekly hands-on astronomy laboratory introduces visual observing and astronomical imaging, including both historical (visual, film astrophotography, darkroom) and modern (electronic imaging) equipment and techniques.
We also sometimes offer First Year Seminars. Examples are:
The quintessential transdisiplinary introduction to college. Satisfies Epistemology requirement.
Intended for science majors. Use our telescopes for real research.
Intended for students from all disciplines. A project-based course that includes use of our telescopes.
(Next page: Major and Minor Programs)
To ensure a safe environment for astronomy work at Whitin, the driveway and circle to the Observatory are closed to all motor vehicles from sunset until sunrise.
Make sure that you attend the first class meeting of a subject which you intend to take, or hope to take if space is available. Generally speaking, registered or not, attending the first class meeting of the semester is required in order to be able to take the class.