Astronomy Major and Minor
The range of astronomical phenomena is vast–from the Hot Big Bang origin of the Universe, to the death throes of collapsing stars, to the canyons of Mars. Any study of astronomy is enriched by a firm understanding of the physics underlying these phenomena. Our curriculum is shaped to provide our majors with a solid foundation in the basic principles of astronomy and physics, an understanding of the most recent developments in astronomy and cosmology, and the tools and inspiration to pursue further learning in the sciences.
Student research is a vital part of the major. Extraordinary teachers and mentors, our faculty also 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 well-equipped William J. Strawbridge Observatory; others take students across the country to observatories such as the one at Kitt Peak in Arizona.
Curriculum & Courses
The astronomy major is a good fit for students who want an in-depth education in astronomy that can be applied to a range of careers, not just further study in astronomy. Core course work ranges from introductory physics, to waves and optics, to introductory quantum mechanics, to introductory astrophysics and advanced astronomy, including observational astronomy. Math classes are also required. For the department’s astrophysics major, see that Area of Study.
Minors must complete coursework that includes introductory physics, introductory astrophysics, and one advanced astronomy class.
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.
- 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.
Associated Programs and Concentrations
Research & Outreach
Astronomy majors need not submit a senior paper; however, they must take a series of comprehensive exams on astronomy and complete an independent research project as part of Astronomy 404.
Loza's senior thesis used a casting technique to fabricate photoelastic grains that exhibit stress-induced birefringence.
This physics and astronomy double major choose a thesis project that looks at the affects of magnetic fields on physical systems.
The astronomy and physics major was one of the students showcasing their summer research projects at the 11th Annual Undergraduate Science Research Symposium.
We are invested in the long-term success of our students and are committed to developing the skills and perspectives—as well as the relationships—that will enable our majors to thrive in a range of careers.
Typically, more than half of our majors pursue graduate study at the Ph.D. level in physics or astrophysics. Others go on to graduate programs in related areas such as mathematics, engineering, materials science, climate science, and computer science.
Doriese is a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and works on the development of cryogenic sensors for the measurement application of X-ray spectroscopy.
Rosenthal is the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Award and will spend a year in Germany conducting research in theoretical astrophysics.
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