Astronomy

http://www.smith.edu/astronomy

Professors
Suzan Edwards, Ph.D. †1
James Daniel Lowenthal, Ph.D., Chair



Laboratory Instructor
Margaret Glynn Lysaght Thacher, M.S.

Five College faculty teaching in the undergraduate program
Melinda Darby Dyar, Ph.D. (Professor, Mount Holyoke College)
Salman Arshad Hameed, Ph.D. (Professor, Hampshire College)
Houjun Mo, Ph.D. (Professor, University of Massachusetts)
Alexandra Pope, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts)
F. Peter Schloerb, Ph.D. (Professor, University of Massachusetts)
Stephen E. Schneider, Ph.D. (Professor, University of Massachusetts)
Ronald Snell, Ph.D. (Professor, University of Massachusetts)
Min Su Yun, Ph.D. (Professor, University of Massachusetts)

The Major

Advisers: Suzan Edwards and James Lowenthal

The astronomy major provides 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 or minor provides the foundation to pursue a career as a professional astronomer. Advanced courses in mathematics and a facility in computer programming are strongly encouraged.

Requirements: 11 courses (44 credits), which will normally include the following eight courses: 111, 113, three astronomy courses at the 200 level (including 228 plus at least one of either 224 or 225), one astronomy course at the 300 level, PHY 117 and PHY 118.  Students with especially strong background in physics or astronomy may, in consultation with their advisers, replace 111 with a more advanced course. The remaining three courses must be at the 200 or 300 level.

The Minor

Advisers: Suzan Edwards and James Lowenthal

The minor provides a practical introduction to modern astronomy. If combined with a major in another science or mathematics-related field, such as geology, chemistry or computer science, it can provide a versatile scientific background that would prepare a student for future work as a scientist or technical specialist. Alternatively, the minor may be combined with a major in a nonscientific field, such as history, philosophy or education, for students who wish to apply their astronomical backgrounds in a broader context, which could include history of science, scientific writing or editing, or science education.  

Requirements: 24 credits, including the following three courses: 111, 224 or 225, and PHY 117. The remaining three courses will be two additional astronomy courses plus either an astronomy or a physics offering. 

Minor in Astrophysics

Advisers: Suzan Edwards and James Lowenthal

The astrophysics minor is an alternate option for the student who is considering a career as a professional astronomer. Central to this approach is a strong physics background, coupled with an exposure to topics in modern astrophysics. Students are advised to acquire a facility in computer programming. Especially well-prepared students may enroll in graduate courses in the Five College Astronomy Department.
 
Requirements: Completion of physics major plus any three astronomy classes except AST 100, 102, 103 and 111.

Honors

Director: Suzan Edwards or James Lowenthal



AST 430D Honors Project
Available to qualified students ready for rigorous independent work. Students are expected to define their research project and work in close consultation with an adviser. Full-year course. Credits: 8
Members of the department


Additional classes offered through the Five College Astronomy Department.  See Five College website: https://www.fivecolleges.edu/astronomy/courses

AST 200 Practical Astronomy
AST 223 Planetary Science
AST 226 Cosmology
AST 301 Writing about Astronomy
AST 330 Seminar:  Topics in Astrophysics: 
 Mars
AST 335 Astrophysics II:  Stellar Structure
AST 339 Astronomy in a Global Context
AST 341 Observational Techniques II
AST 352/452 Astrophysics III: Galaxies and the Universe
AST 445 Astrophysical Dynamics


Students who are considering a major in astronomy should complete PHY 117 and 118 and the mathematics sequence through Calculus II (MTH 112 at their first opportunity.

Good choices for first-year astronomy courses for science majors are AST 111 and 113. Courses designed for nonscience majors who would like to know something about the universe are AST 100, AST 102, AST 103, PHY/AST 109 and AST 220. Check the astronomy department Web page for full descriptions of each course.

The astronomy department is a collaborative Five College department. Students majoring in astronomy will normally take all their classes at Smith for the first two years of study, and then will normally take one or two astronomy classes per year at one of the other four campuses. Five College classes available for credit towards the major are listed below.  Additional information, schedules, and registration for the Five College astronomy classes are available on the Five Colleges, Inc. website. 



AST 100 A 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 nonscience majors. {N} Credits: 4
Julie N. Skinner Manegold
Normally offered each fall

AST 102 Sky and Time
This course explores the astronomical roots of clocks and calendars, and relies on both real and simulated observations of the Sun, Moon and stars. In addition to completing weekly projects based on collecting and interpreting data, students independently research a clock and a calendar from another culture, either ancient or modern. There are no prerequisites, and students from all disciplines and backgrounds are welcome. Enrollment limited to 25 per section. {N} {QS} Credits: 4
Members of the department
Normally offered each spring

AST 103 Sky and Telescopes
View the sky with the telescopes of the McConnell Rooftop Observatory, including the Moon, the Sun, the planets, nebulae and galaxies. Learn to use a telescope on your own and find out about celestial coordinates and time-keeping systems. Designed for nonscience majors. Enrollment limited to 20 students per section. {N} Credits: 3
Margaret Glynn Lysaght Thacher
Normally offered each fall

AST 111 Introduction to Astronomy
A comprehensive introduction to the study of modern astronomy, covering planets—their origins, orbits, interiors, surfaces and atmospheres; stars—their formation, structure and evolution; and the universe—its origin, large-scale structure and ultimate destiny. This introductory course is for students who are planning to major in science or math. Prerequisite: MTH 111 or the equivalent. {N} Credits: 4
James Daniel Lowenthal
Normally offered each fall

AST 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. {N} Credits: 4
James Daniel Lowenthal
Normally offered each spring

AST 220 Special Topics in Astronomy
Topics course.

Astronomy and Public Policy
This seminar explores the intersection of physical science, social science, psychology, politics and the environment. How do scientists, decision makers and the public communicate with each other, and how can scientists do better at it? What should the role of scientists be in advocacy and social movements? How does scientific information influence lifestyle and behavior choices among the public at large? We focus on three topics with close ties to astronomy: (1) global climate change, which involves basic atmospheric physics; (2) light pollution, which wastes billions of dollars per year and ruins our view of the starry sky without providing the safety it promises; and (3) controversial development of mountaintop observations such as the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, HI. Throughout the course we will develop science communication skills using proven techniques borrowed from theater. Prerequisite: one college science course in any field and MTH 111 or the equivalent. {N} Credits: 4
Members of the department
Normally offered each spring

AST 224 FC24 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 and scientific programming and data analysis. Offered in alternate years with 225. Prerequisites: PHY 117, MTH 111, plus one astronomy class. Credits: 4
Members of the department
Normally offered in alternate years

AST 225 FC25 Galaxies and Dark Matter
Discover the compelling evidence that most of the mass of a galaxy is dark matter based on analysis of orbital data, stellar populations, and basic laws of physics in a simulated research experience. Interactive format includes computer simulations, data analysis, and confronting observations with theory. Final projects explore the viability of dark matter candidates. Offered in alternate years with 224. Prerequisites: PHY 117, MTH 111, plus one astronomy class. Credits: 4
Members of the department
Normally offered in alternate years

AST 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 and second-semester calculus. {N}
Julie N. Skinner Manegold
Normally offered each spring

AST 337 FC37 Observational Techniques in Optical and Infrared Astronomy
In this section of AST 337 we provide an introduction to the techniques of gathering and analyzing astronomical data, with an emphasis on optical observations related to studying stellar evolution. Students use Smith’s telescopes and CCD cameras to collect and analyze their own data, using the Python computing language. Topics covered include astronomical coordinate and time systems; telescope design and optics; instrumentation and techniques for imaging and photometry; astronomical detectors; digital image processing tools and techniques; atmospheric phenomena affecting astronomical observations; and error analysis and curve fitting. Prerequisites: at least one of AST 224, 225, 226 or 228, and one physics course at the 200-level. Previous experience in computer programming is strongly recommended. {N}
James Daniel Lowenthal
Normally offered each fall

AST 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. Credits: 1-4
Members of the department
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters

AST 430D Honors Project
Available to qualified students ready for rigorous independent work. Students are expected to define their research project and work in close consultation with an adviser. Full-year course. Credits: 8
Members of the department
Normally offered each fall

 


The information contained in the Courses of Study documents is accurate as of July 2022. Smith College reserves the right to make changes to the Courses of Study, including changes in its course offerings, instructors, requirements for the majors and minors, and degree requirements. Course information contained herein is compiled by the Office of the Provost/Dean of the Faculty from data submitted by departments and programs. All data listed are as officially and formally approved by the Office of the Provost/Dean of the Faculty, the Committee on Academic Priorities, and the faculty-at-large. Additional information may be available on the individual Web sites of departments and programs.