The astronomy program serves the needs of a wide range of students, from those with only a casual interest in the subject to those students planning careers in the field. The 100-level courses (which include general education offerings) are designed to introduce astronomy to the student with a minimal background in mathematics and the physical sciences. The courses taken by astronomy minors cover a variety of topics in modern astronomy and astrophysics and require significant preparations in mathematics and physics. Paired with a major in physics, the astronomy minor serves as the first step towards a career in teaching or research in astronomy.
The astronomers operate two observatories on the southern edge of the campus. Standeford Observatory contains a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, used for visual observations by general education students and other observatory visitors. Several other 10- to 13-inch telescopes are also available for instructional use by students in Astronomy 125L. Andreas Observatory houses a 0.5-meter computer-controlled Cassegrain telescope. This instrument, which is equipped with photographic and electronic cameras and photometers, is used primarily for advanced instruction and faculty research. Standeford Observatory is open regularly for students and other visitors during the spring and the fall. Public viewing nights at Andreas Observatory are held occasionally during the year as weather permits.
Policies & Faculty
GPA Policy. Astronomy minors must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA in all coursework for their astronomy program, and in addition must earn a “C” or better for a course to apply to their minor. These standards apply to the courses required for the degree and their prerequisites. A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 is required for graduation. There are no prerequisite GPA requirements for internships.
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Credits: 3Broad survey of astronomy: the night sky, seasons, moon phases, eclipses, light, telescopes, stars, stellar evolution, galaxies, cosmology, the solar system.
Goal Areas: GE-03
Credits: 3Survey of our solar system: the sun, planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and meteoroids; history of the discovery and exploration of the solar system.
Goal Areas: GE-03
Credits: 2The probability of extraterrestrial intelligent life; the chemical basis of life; planetary environments; habitable zones; the Drake equation; UFOs; space travel; interstellar communication; limits on technical civilizations. General Education Categories 2 and 3.
Goal Areas: GE-02, GE-03
Credits: 3Techniques for observing with the naked eye, binoculars and small telescopes; constellation and star identification; use of star atlases and handbooks; observations of stars, binaries, clusters, nebulae, planets and the sun and moon, etc. Students will also learn how astronomical theories are formulated and tested by observing phenomena in the sky. Evening observing labs required.
Prerequisites: AST 101
Goal Areas: GE-03
Credits: 2The celestial sphere; coordinate systems; sidereal and solar time; diurnal motion; precession; proper motion; refraction; aberration; parallax. Requires a background in trigonometry.
Credits: 4Celestial mechanics; gravitational and tidal forces; stellar motions and parallax; radiation and matter; magnitudes and stellar spectra; binary stars and stellar masses; stellar structure and evolution.
Prerequisites: MATH 121 and PHYS 221
Credits: 4Stellar endpoints; close binary systems; variable stars; the Milky Way; normal galaxies; galactic evolution; active galaxies and quasars; cosmology.
Prerequisites: AST 215, MATH 122, PHYS 222
Credits: 2Operating the 0.5 meter telescope; operating the BRC 250 astrograph; learning to install and operate ancillary equipment for both telescopes.
Prerequisites: AST 201 and AST 215, Consent
Credits: 2Photometric systems; observational techniques of point-source photometry: methods of data reduction; interpretation of data.
Prerequisites: AST 215
Credits: 2Observations of extended sources; photometric calibration of extended sources; use of secondary standard stars.
Prerequisites: AST 353
Credits: 2Reduction of digital images to determine positions, proper motions, and parallaxes of stars; analysis of errors.
Prerequisites: AST 201 and AST 215
Credits: 2Line identification; radial velocity determinations; spectral classifications.
Prerequisites: AST 225
Credits: 1-6Students will conduct supervised research in astronomy.
Credits: 1-4A course in a particular area of astronomy not regularly offered. May be repeated for credit on each new topic.
Credits: 1-8Individual study under the guidance of an astronomy faculty member.