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Astronomy | Courses | Faculty

Degrees: Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Arts

Contact: Min S. Yun, Chief Adviser
Office: 522 Lederle GRC Tower B
Phone: (413) 545-2215

Head, Department of Astronomy:Stephen E. Schneider. Five College Astronomy Chair: Ronald L. Snell. Professors Calzetti, Irvine, Katz, Mo, Schloerb, Schneider, Wang, Weinberg, Young; Associate Professors Giavalisco, Tripp, Wilson, Yun; Assistant Professor Pope; Research Professors Erickson, Heyer; Research Associate Professor Narayanan; Visiting Professor Hanner.

Other Astronomy faculty in the Five Colleges: Dennis, Dyar, Edwards, Fardal, Greenstein, Gutermuth, Hameed, Levine, Lowenthal, Stage.

The Five College Department of Astronomy is administered jointly with Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges. The elementary courses for nonmajors are taught separately at each campus, but all advanced courses are given on a joint basis for students from the five participating institutions. Five College courses are identified in this Guide by the rubric ASTFC.

The Field

Astronomy is the study of the regions beyond the Earth: planets, moons, stars, galaxies, and the universe itself. Astronomers study these objects not only by observing them with telescopes and other instruments, but also with mathematical and computer models. Astronomers therefore make heavy use of physics, mathematics, and computer science.

Equipment used ranges from radio telescopes half a mile across and high-speed computers to optical telescopes so big a truck could park on the mirror. The discipline ranges over many areas: radio astronomy; study of stars; their structure and evolution; origin of the universe and other astronomical systems; and the atmospheres and surfaces of planets.

Career Opportunities

Students receiving a degree in astronomy follow three primary career paths: 1) Graduate school and a professional degree. After completing an advanced degree, many astronomers are employed by universities as researchers and teachers. Professional positons are also available at national observatories, NASA, and in the aerospace industry in such companies as Lockheed, Boeing, and Grumman. 2) Astronomy-related mission support. With an undergraduate degree, positions are available at research centers supporting many major astronomical and aerospace projects, including the Space Telescope Science Institute, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and MIT Lincoln Laboratories. Support positions at national observatories and astronomy-related industries are also available. 3) Teaching and public outreach. Combined with preparation through the School of Education, teaching positions in middle- and secondary-school science are available. Astronomy majors have also gone on to work in museums and planetariums.

In addition, the major can provide a broad platform for learning about the wide range of sciences involved in astronomy, making it suitable preparation for science journalism or pre-medical studies, for example.

B.S. Degree in Astronomy
The Bachelor of Science degree in Astronomy offers two tracks geared toward different career directions. The Astrophysics track provides preparation for advanced studies in astronomy or allied fields after graduation; students acquire the substantial background in physics and math essential for pursuing a research career in astronomy. The Space Sciences track provides preparation for a career in astronomy-related mission support; it requires somewhat less physics and math than the Astrophysics track, and provides more flexibility for pursuing additional coursework suited to the individual student’s goals. Students may change tracks after consultation with and approval by their adviser.

Requirements for both tracks:
114 Stars and Galaxies, or any introductory Astronomy course numbered 200 or higher.
191 Freshman Seminar (recommended)
335 Modern Astrophysics
ASTRON 397A Junior Year Writing or PHYSICS 381

Astrophysics Track
Advanced astrophysics: ASTRON 451 Stars and Stellar Evolution or 452 Galaxies
One additional Astronomy course at the 300-level or greater
MATH 131-132 or 135-136 Calculus I and II
MATH 233 Multivariate Calculus
MATH 331 Ordinary Differential Equations for Scientists and Engineers
PHYSICS 181-184 Physics I and Physics Lab II
PHYSICS 281 Introduction to Computational Physics
PHYSICS 282 Techniques of Theoretical Physics
PHYSICS 284 Modern Physics, 286 Modern
Physics Laboratory, 287 Physics II, 289 Physics Lab II
PHYSICS 421 Mechanics
PHYSICS 422 Electricity and Magnetism
PHYSICS 423 Statistical Physics and Thermodynamics
PHYSICS 424 Modern Physics II
Additional courses, approved by the Astronomy adviser, to reach a total of at least 60 credits in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Space Sciences Track
Two additional Astronomy courses at the 200 level or above
One additional Astronomy course at the 300 level or above
MATH 131-132 or 135-136 Calculus I and II
MATH 233 Multivariate Calculus
PHYSICS 151-154 General Physics I and II (with labs) or PHYSICS 181-184
PHYSICS 284 Modern Physics and 286 Modern
Physics Laboratory, or 287 Physics III and 289 Laboratory III
PHYSICS 281 Introduction to Computational Physics
Two additional 3-credit Physics courses at the 400 level or higher
Additional courses, approved by the Astronomy adviser, to reach a total of at least 60 credits within the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

B.A. Degree in Astronomy
The Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy is intended to be flexible enough for a wide variety of career directions: teaching, museum work, science writing, pre-medical studies, etc. This degree program is aimed at students interested in pursuing a broader understanding of the sciences centered on astronomy, including cross-disciplinary fields such as astrobiology or archaeoastronomy.

This flexibility in the curriculum requires the student to work closely with an adviser to design a program of study that will meet the student’s goals. A written plan should be developed and approved by the junior year.

114 Stars and Galaxies
191 Freshman Seminar (recommended)
224 Stellar Astronomy or 225 Galactic and Extragalactic Astronomy
335 Modern Astrophysics
ASTRON Junior Year Writing or PHYSICS 381
Two additional courses at any level in Astronomy, or in closely related courses offered in other departments.
Upper-division courses: at least 8 additional credits at the 300 level or higher in Astronomy courses or in closely-related courses in other departments.
Introductory Physics (with labs): PHYSICS 131-134 or 151-154
Introductory Calculus: MATH 127-128 or 131-132

1. ASTRON 100 Exploring the Universe, or 101 The Solar System may be substituted (with permission) for ASTRON 114.
2. “Closely-related courses in other departments” include PHYSICS 116 Relativity, PHYSICS 120 Big Bang to Black Holes, PHYSICS 354 Meteorology, GEO-SCI 354 Climatology, and GEO-SCI 567 Planetary Geology. Other courses may be substituted with written approval of the Astronomy adviser.
3. Up to three credits of independent study in Astronomy may be applied to the major requirements.

Research Opportunities

Independent study and honors work are encouraged for all majors. Opportunities for theoretical and observational work are available in cosmology, radio astronomy, planetary science, computational astrophysics, astronomical instrumentation, stellar astrophysics, and extra-galactic astronomy. Local facilities available to qualified students include several optical and infrared telescopes of sizes 16, 18, and 24 inches, equipped with CCD cameras and spectrographs.

Astronomy also operates several high-performance parallel Beowulf-type computers for computational studies. These computer clusters are currently used to simulate the growth of structure in a cold dark matter-dominated universe and to study galaxy dynamics and interactions.

The university is the U.S. partner in an international project with Mexico to build a 50-m diameter telescope that will operate at millimeter wavelengths. The Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) is in its final stages of construction. Its enormous collecting area and high angular resolution will enable cosmological studies of forming galaxies in the early universe, as well as detailed mapping of galaxies in the local universe with unprecedented sensitivity. Undergraduates are involved in some of the work to build new instruments for this facility.

Opportunities for summer research internships are also available. Original publications have resulted from undergraduate research.

The Minor

The minor requires five Astronomy courses of at least three credits each:
114 Stars and Galaxies (ASTRON 100 or 101 may be substituted with consent of the Astronomy adviser)
Four additional courses at the 200 level or above.

Astronomy | Courses | Faculty