Choosing a First Course

Choosing a First Course in Astronomy

All of our introductory courses are open to any student who has passed the Basic Skills component of the QR requirement. Neither high school physics nor calculus is required. 

Survey courses

We offer two flavors of survey course: 100 and 107. ASTR 107 includes a laboratory and is the place to start if you wish to major in astronomy or astrophysics. ASTR 100 is for junior and senior nonmajors, as well as students considering astronomy as a minor.

ASTR 100 Life in the Universe

This course investigates the origin of life on the Earth and the prospects for finding life elsewhere in the cosmos, and begins with an overview of Earth's place in the solar system and the universe. The course examines the early history of the Earth and the development of life, changes in the sun that affect the Earth, characteristics of the other objects in our solar system and their potential for supporting life, the detection of planets around stars other than the sun, and the search for extraterrestrial life. Our own sense of place as living beings within the cosmos, both scientifically and humanistically, will be explored through nighttime observing from our on-campus observatoriy, visits to the Special Collections library, readings, creative writing, and reflective essays. Satisfies NPS requirement.

Astronomy 108 DarkroomASTR 107 Exploring the Cosmos: Introductory Astronomy w/Lab

This course provides an overview of the Universe through the lens of the physical principles that help us to probe it from right here on our puny planetary perch. Topics include stars and their planetary companions, the lives and deaths of stars, black holes, galaxies, and the origin and fate of the Universe. Regularly-scheduled weekly daytime laboratories cover both naked-eye astronomy (e.g., the motions of the Sun and stars) and techniques of modern astronomy (e.g., digital imagery). Additional required nighttime sessions (scheduled according to the weather) guide students through their own observations of the sky with both naked eyes and the historic and modern telescopes of Whitin Observatory. This course serves as a gateway to more advanced courses in our astronomy curriculum. (Open only to first year and sophomore students.) Satisfies NPS, MM, and Lab requirements.