Skip to main content

Astronomy

Course Descriptions

Astronomy Courses


AST 141 Planets (SD) (4.00 SH). This course is an introduction to the science of planets, from our own Earth to exoplanets around distant stars, as well as the moons, asteroids, comets, and other bits of rock and ice that exist where planets do. We will study the properties of these objects; learn how they form, evolve and interact with their environment; explore the processes in their atmospheres, on their surfaces, and within their cores; learn how astronomers are able to detect these objects around distant stars; and, finally, study the past, present, and future of robotic and manned exploration of the Solar System and beyond. A laboratory is included. Meets Scientific Discovery Intellectual Perspective requirement (SD).

AST 142 Stars (SD) (4.00 SH). This course is an introduction to the science of stars. When we look up at the night sky, a few thousand stars can be seen with the unaided eye. Using telescopes, we have found that another few hundred billion exist in our Galaxy. But these stars are not all the same. From the smallest brown dwarfs to the largest blue supergiants, and from young stellar objects to deadly black holes, we will explore and study the processes that form, shape, power, and, in some cases, destroy stars. We will learn that life on Earth is at the same time sustained and threatened by stars. Most of all, we will learn that the atoms in our bodies, in the air we breathe, in the jewelry we wear, and in most everything we see were forged by stars long ago: we are stardust, and to stardust we will one day return. A laboratory is included. Meets Scientific Discovery Intellectual Perspective requirement (SD).

AST 143 Galaxies and Cosmology (SD) (4.00 SH).

AST 161 Life in the Universe (SD) (4.00 SH). Currently, we only know of life in one place: on Earth. This course is an introduction to the science behind the possibilities for finding life in places other than on Earth. We will investigate the scientific understanding of what life means, including the biochemical basis for life on Earth. We will investigate the conditions necessary for the formation and existence of life and where those conditions may exist in our Universe. Finally, we will talk about the search for evidence of life on other planets and moons in our Solar System and the cutting edge discovery of potentially habitable planets and moons around other stars. It is difficult to imagine a scientific discovery that would have a greater impact on our sense of place in the Universe than the definitive discovery of life that has arisen on a place other than Earth. To date, we know of no examples, but in all probability, within a few decades, we will either have discovered evidence that life exists elsewhere or we will be able to set very stringent limits on how common a life-bearing planet such as Earth is in a galaxy such as ours. A laboratory is included. Meets Scientific Discovery Intellectual Perspective requirement (SD).

AST 201 Observational Astronomy (SD) (4.00 SH). This course is an introduction to the methods and tools for observing stars, planets, galaxies, and other objects in the Universe. It will require students to learn the motions of astronomical objects in the sky and to complete several observing projects – during both the regularly scheduled night lab and on students’ own time. We will start with naked-eye observing and progress to binoculars and eventually to telescopes. With telescopes, we will progress from eyepieces to cameras and eventually to spectrometers. At the same time, the course will explore the long history of humankind’s observations of the night sky – from early hunter-gatherers through Ptolemy, Galileo, and the professional astronomers of today – and the technology created to observe it – from Stonehenge and Chichén Itzá to the Hubble Space Telescope and Atacama Large Millimeter Array. A laboratory is included. Offered Spring Semester, alternate years. Meets Scientific Discovery Intellectual Perspective requirement (SD).

 

Supporting Courses


PHY 141 Foundations Physics I (SD) (4.00 SH). The first semester of an introductory study of physics (mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and modern physics) without calculus. Basic principles used in both semesters are introduced in the first semester. Some emphasis will be given to applications of physics to biological systems. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: a good background in high school mathematics including algebra and trigonometry. Offered Fall Semester. Meets Scientific Discovery Intellectual Perspective requirement (SD).

PHY 142 Foundations Physics II (4.00 SH). The second semester of an introductory study of physics (mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and modern physics) without calculus. Some emphasis will be given to applications of physics to biological systems. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: PHY 141 or PHY 151. Offered Spring Semester.

PHY 151 Principles Physics I (SD) (4.00 SH). The first semester of an introductory study of physics (mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and modern physics). Basic principles used in both semesters are introduced in the first semester. Some basic concepts of calculus may be introduced as needed. A laboratory is included. Co-requisite: MTH 150 or higher. Offered Fall Semester. Meets Scientific Discovery Intellectual Perspective requirement (SD).

PHY 152 Principles Physics II (4.00 SH). The second semester of an introductory study of physics (mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and modern physics). Calculus methods will be used. A laboratory is included. Prerequisite: PHY 151; Co-requisite: MTH 152 or higher. Offered Spring Semester.

 

What can you do with a Astronomy degree?

Imagine yourself an astronomer, aerospace engineer, geologist, climatologist, data analyst, computer programmer, laboratory inspector, science writer, teacher, consultant, and more.