Astronomy and Astrophysics

The study of astronomy helps us to understand the formation and evolution of planetary systems, the stars, galaxies, and the universe as a whole. At Allegheny, astronomy has always included much more than the study of the constellations: the underlying goals are to give students an appreciation of the beauty and order of the known universe and also to show students how astronomers have come to learn what we know.

Astronomy classes at Allegheny address questions such as: “What would it be like to travel to a black hole?” “What is the fate of the universe?” “Is there other intelligent life?” We explore the reasons for everyday phenomena such as the seasons and the phases of the Moon, and we probe the cutting-edge science that describes heavenly bodies such as planets, stars, and galaxies.

There are at least two pathways for pursuing astronomy at Allegheny:

  • Astronomy minor
  • Physics major, astrophysics emphasis

The Astronomy Minor

Astronomy is by nature a very interdisciplinary science, as reflected in the collection of chemistry, geology, mathematics, philosophy, and physics courses that can be counted toward the astronomy minor at Allegheny College. The minor therefore provides students with the opportunity to apply and combine their classroom knowledge from a variety of courses. A minor in astronomy requires a total of at least 22 semester hours. The five core courses (18 semester hours) are chosen from:

  • Mathematics 158 OR a higher calculus
  • Physics 101 OR Physics 110: Introductory Physics I
  • Physics 129: Fundamentals of Astronomy (with lab) OR Physics 020: Introductory Astronomy (with permission from the department)
  • Physics 320: Astrophysics
  • A two-semester hour course from Physics 420-429: Current Topics in Astrophysics

The minor is completed with one of the following courses or pair of courses:

  • Chemistry 110 and 112: Principles of Chemistry I and II
  • Geology 110: Physical Geology
  • Philosophy 230: Science in Its Cultural Setting
  • Physics 102: Introductory Physics II
  • A higher level Physics course