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Haverford College

Course Catalog

Astronomy: 2007-2008

DescriptionFacultyMajor RequirementsMinor RequirementsRequirements for HonorsCoursesDepartment Homepage


The objective of a major in astronomy is to study the phenomena of the extraterrestrial Universe and to understand them in terms of the fundamental principles of physics. 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. Prospective majors usually study physics (Physics 105 and 106, or 101 and 102, or Bryn Mawr equivalents) before enrolling in Astronomy 205 in the fall semester of their sophomore year, when they concurrently enroll in Physics 213. Astronomy 206 and Physics 214 follow in the spring semester. Astronomy majors may then take up to four 300-level courses and may enroll in a research course (Astronomy 404). Students planning on graduate study in astronomy are advised to study physics at an advanced level; in fact, many astronomy majors choose to double major in physics and astronomy. The department also offers a minor in astronomy.

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John Farnum Professor of Astronomy: Stephen P. Boughn
Bettye and Howard Marshall Professor of Natural Sciences: R. Bruce Partridge

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Major Requirements

Requirements in the major subject are 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; and written comprehensive examinations. Prerequisites: Physics 105 (or 101); Physics 106 (or 102); Physics 213; Physics 214. Two mathematics courses are also required for the astronomy major; Mathematics 121 and all 200-level or higher mathematics courses can be used to satisfy this requirement. Bryn Mawr equivalents may be substituted for the non-astronomy courses. Astronomy/Physics 152 is recommended but not required.

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Minor Requirements

Recommended: Astronomy/Physics 152.
Required: Physics 105 (or 101); Physics 106 (or 102); Astronomy 205; Astronomy 206; one 300-level astronomy course.

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Requirements for Honors

All astronomy majors are regarded as candidates for Honors. The award of Honors will be made on the basis of superior work in the departmental courses, in certain related courses, and in the comprehensive examinations, with consideration given for independent research.

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  • 101 Astronomical Ideas NA
    Fundamental concepts and observations of modern astronomy, such as the motions and surface properties of the planets, the birth and death of stars, and the properties and evolution of the Universe. Not intended for students majoring in the physical sciences. Offered in 2007-08 and in alternate years.
  • 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. Offered in 2008-09 and in alternate years.
  • 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. Offered in 2008-09 and in alternate years. 
  • 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 101 or 105 and concurrent enrollment in Physics 102 or 106 (or Bryn Mawr equivalents).
  • 205 Introduction to Astrophysics I NA
    General introduction to astronomy including: the structure and evolution of stars; the structure and formationof the Milky Way; the interstellar medium; and observational projects using the Strawbridge Observatory telescopes. Prerequisite: Physics 105 and 106 & Math 114 or equivalent.
  • 206 Introduction to Astrophysics II NA
    Introduction to the study of: the properties of galaxies and their nuclei; cosmology; the Hot Big Bang model; the properties and evolution of the solar system; planetary surfaces and atmospheres; and exo-planets. Prerequisite: Astronomy 205, Math 114 or equivalent or permission of the instructor.
  • 313 Observational Optical Astronomy NA
    One credit, full year course. Five 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: Astronomy 205.
  • 320 Cosmology and Extragalactic Astronomy NA
    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. Prerequisite: Astronomy 206. Offered in 2007-08 and in alternate years.
  • 321 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. Offered in 2008-09 and in alternate years.
  • 322 Non-Optical Astronomy NA
    Introduction to the basic techniques of radio astronomy, to the various emission mechanisms at radio wavelengths, and to radio studies of astronomical phenomena. Some discussion of other non-optical branches of astronomy, especially X-ray astronomy, but also including neutrino, cosmic-ray, gravitational wave, infrared, and ultraviolet astronomy. Prerequisite: Astronomy 205 and 206, or consent of instructor. Offered in 2008-09 and in alternate years.
  • 404 Research in Astrophysics NA
    S.Boughn, B.Partridge
    Intended for those students who choose to complete an independent research project in astrophysics under the supervision of a faculty member. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor.
  • 480 Independent Study NA
    Intended for students who want to pursue some topic of study that is not currently offered in the curriculum. In order to enroll, a student must have a faculty sponsor. Prerequisite: Astronomy 206.

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