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Academic Program

learning the night sky at Whitin

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.

Choosing a First Course in Astronomy

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:

ASTR 100 Life in the Universe
ASTR 100L Life in the Universe with Laboratory

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.

ASTR 101 Introduction to Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology
ASTR 101L Introduction to Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology with Laboratory

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.

developing film in ASTR 101 ASTR 101 lab preparing for astrophotography

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:

ASTR 104/PHIL 104 Stars and the Sages: Philosophy and the Cosmos

The quintessential transdisiplinary introduction to college. Satisfies Epistemology requirement.

ASTR 107 Extrasolar Planet Research with Laboratory

Intended for science majors. Use our telescopes for real research.

ASTR 108 Discovering Our Universe with Laboratory

Intended for students from all disciplines. A project-based course that includes use of our telescopes.

See the College course catalog for a complete list of courses and descriptions. (PDF file; requires Acrobat Reader.)

(Next page: Major and Minor Programs)