The astronomy major is designed to provide a good foundation in modern science with a focus on astronomy. Taken alone, it is suited for students who wish to apply scientific training in a broad general context. If coupled with a major in physics, the astronomy major provides the foundation to pursue a career as a professional astronomer. Advanced courses in mathematics and a facility in computer programming are strongly encouraged.
Astronomy majors choose courses from a dozen varied offerings that provide a solid background in both observational and theoretical aspects of astronomy. Recent course offerings include Planetary Science, Stellar Astronomy, Galactic and Extragalactic Astronomy, Cosmology, Techniques in Optical and Infrared Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Astronomy and Public Policy. Since astronomy relies heavily on foundations in mathematics and physics, astronomy majors pursue studies in these fields as well.
Many astronomy majors conduct independent research projects, experiencing both the discipline and the excitement of making astronomical discoveries. A recent senior thesis project "How Twisted Is the Sun? A Study of Magnetic Helicity in Sunspots," won the Five College Astronomy Mary Dailey Irvine Prize for best undergraduate thesis.
Requirements for the Major
Eleven courses (44 credits), including:
- AST 111 (or 228 with permission)
- AST 113
- PHY 117 and 118
- Three astronomy courses at the 200 level, including 228 and 224 or 225
- One astronomy course at the 300 level
- Three additional courses at 200/300 level*
*Up to two of the additional three courses may, after consultation with and approval by your adviser, be selected from 200- or higher-level courses in a related discipline, such as mathematics, physics, geology, computer science, or the history or philosophy of science.