Introductory courses include those for a broad audience (100, 102, 103) and for science/math majors (111, 113). Meeting times and locations for courses for the current semester can be found in the Course Search tab in the online Smith Course Catalog or, for those 200/300 level courses taught off campus in the Five College Astronomy Department, in the Five College Course Listing. Because of the differences among the academic calendars of the Five Colleges, courses taught off campus may begin earlier or later than Smith courses do.
100 Survey of the Universe
Discover how the forces of nature shape our understanding of the cosmos. Explore the origin, structure, and evolution of the earth, moons and planets, comets and asteroids, the sun and other stars, star clusters, the Milky Way and other galaxies, clusters of galaxies and the universe as a whole. Designed for non-science majors. 4 credits.
102 Sky I: TIME
Explore the concept of time, with emphasis on the astronomical roots of clocks and calendars. Observe and measure the cyclical motions of the sun, the moon, and the star, and understand phases of the moon, lunar and solar eclipses and seasons. Designed for non-science majors. Enrollment limited to 25 per section. 4 credits.
103 Sky II: Telescopes
View the sky with the telescopes of the McConnell Rooftop Observatory, including the moon, sun, planets, nebulae and galaxies. Learn to use a telescope on your own, and find out about celestial coordinates and time-keeping systems. Designed for non-science majors. Enrollment limited to 20 students per section. 3 credits.
111 Introduction to Astronomy
A comprehensive introduction to the study of modern astronomy that explores the celestial bodies that inhabit the universe—planets, stars and galaxies—and examines the universe itself—its origin, structure and ultimate destiny. Designed for students who are comfortable with mathematics. Prerequisite: MTH 102 or the equivalent. 4 credits.
113 Telescopes and Techniques
An introduction to observational astronomy for students who have taken or are currently taking a physical science class. Become proficient using the telescopes of the McConnell Rooftop observatory to observe celestial objects, including the Moon, the Sun, the planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies. Learn celestial coordinate and time-keeping systems. Find out how telescopes and digital cameras work. Take digital images of celestial objects and learn basic techniques of digital image processing. Become familiar with measuring and classification techniques in observational astronomy. Not open to students who have taken AST 103. Enrollment limited to 20 students. 4 credits.
220 Special Topics in Astronomy
Recent topics include astronomy and public policy, asteroids, and the art of communicating science through electronic media. The current topic is Astronomy and Public Policy. Prerequisite: one science course in any field. 4 credits.
223 FC23 Planetary Science
An introductory course for physical science majors. Topics include: planetary orbits, rotation and precession; gravitational and tidal interactions; interiors and atmospheres of the Jovian and terrestrial planets; surfaces of the terrestrial planets and satellites; asteroids, comets and planetary rings; and origin and evolution of the planets. Prerequisites: one semester of calculus and one semester of a physical science. 4 credits.
224 Stellar Astronomy
Discover the fundamental properties of stars from the analysis of digital images and application of basic laws of physics. Extensive use of computers, scientific programming and data analysis. Prerequisites: PHY 115, MTH 111, plus one astronomy class. 4 credits. Alternates with AST 225.
225 FC25 Galaxies and Dark Matter
The discovery of dark matter and the role of gravity in determining the mass of the universe is explored in an interactive format making extensive use of computer simulations and independent projects. Prerequisites: PHY 115, MTH 111, plus one astronomy class. 4 credits.Alternates with AST 224.
Cosmological models and the relationship between models and observable
parameters. Topics in current astronomy that bear upon cosmological
problems, including background electromagnetic radiation, nucleosynthesis,
dating methods, determinations of the mean density of the universe
and the Hubble constant, and tests of gravitational theories. Discussion
of some questions concerning the foundations of cosmology and its future
as a science. Prerequisites: MTH 111 and one physical science course.
228 FC28 Astrophysics I: Stars and Galaxies
A calculus-based introduction to the properties, structure, formation and evolution of stars and galaxies. The laws of gravity, thermal physics and atomic physics provide a basis for understanding observed properties of stars, interstellar gas and dust. We apply these concepts to develop an understanding of stellar atmospheres, interiors and evolution, the interstellar medium, and the Milky Way and other galaxies. Prerequisites: two semesters of college-level physics (concurrent enrollment is acceptable) and second-semester calculus. 4 credits.
330 Seminar: Topics in Astrophysics
In-class discussions focus on formulating a set of problems, each designed to illuminate a significant aspect of the topic at hand. The problems will be significant in difficulty and broad in scope: their solution, worked out individually and in class, will constitute the
real work of the course. Students will gain experience in both oral
and written presentation. Topics vary from year to year. Recent topics include Mars, the moon, and cosmology and galaxy formation. Prerequisite depends on topic. 4 credits.
335 Astrophysics II: Stellar Structure
Direct determinations of distances in the solar system and to nearby stars. Indirect measurements of the distances to more distant stars and galaxies. Celestial mechanics, interactions of radiation with matter, thermal radiation, stellar structure, formation of spectral lines and stellar pulsation. Prerequisites: AST 228 plus 4 semesters college physics. 4 credits.
337 Observational Techniques I
An introduction to the techniques of gathering and analyzing astronomical data, with an emphasis on observations related to determining the size scale of the universe. Telescope design and optics. Instrumentation for imaging, photometry and spectroscopy. Astronomical detectors. Computer graphics and image processing. Error analysis and curve fitting. Prerequisites:at least one of AST 224, 225 or 228, 2 semesters of physics and 2 semesters of calculus. 4 credits.
341 Observational Techniques II
An immersive research experience in observational astrophysics for students who have completed AST 337. Students design an independent scientific observing program and carry it out at the WIYN 0.9m telescope on Kitt Peak, AZ in January. The rest of the semester is spent reducing and analyzing the data obtained and preparing scientific results for presentation. Professional techniques of CCD imaging, photometry, astrometry and statistical image analysis are applied using research-grade software. Weekly class seminar meetings are supplemented by individual and team-based tutorial sessions. Possible projects include studying star formation regions and star formation histories in external galaxies, measuring ages and chemical composition of star clusters, searching for exoplanets, supernova or eclipsing binary stars. Prerequisites: AST 337 and permission of the instructor. Enrollment limit of 10 students, 4 credits
352 Astrophysics III: Galaxies and the Universe
The application of physics to the understanding of astronomical phenomena related to galaxies. Dynamics and structure of stellar systems: the virial theorem and Jeans' equations and their applications; galaxy rotation and the presence of dark matter in the universe; and spiral density waves. The stellar content of galaxies, including star formation and the principle of stellar population synthesis. Physical processes in the gaseous interstellar medium: photoionization and HII regions and emission lines; shocks in supernova remnants and stellar jets; and energy balance in molecular clouds. Quasars and active galactic nuclei: synchrotron radiation; accretion disks; and supermassive black holes. Students are involved in the course in discussion, oral presentations and lab projects. Prerequisites: four semesters of physics beyond PHY 118.
400 Special Studies
Independent research in astronomy. Admission by permission of the department. The student is expected to define her own project and to work independently under the supervision of a faculty member. 1 to 4 credits.