Astronomy
Offered by the Physics and Astronomy department.

Tony Houser adjusts telescopeAstronomy students at all levels study the universe using the unique capabilities of the Wheaton Observatory. Beginning with small 4-inch scopes, and working their way up to computer-controlled 14-inch scopes, our students gain a wealth of hands-on astronomy experience. Over 2,000 undergraduate students have used our telescopes in astronomy courses. The Observatory is also open to the public on clear Friday nights, and several thousand visitors have looked through the telescopes in recent years.

-The observatory serves both educational and research purposes.  Multiple telescopes equipped with CCD cameras give us unique research capabilities, including automated survey work, simultaneous UBVRI asteroid photometry, mosaic survey work for supernovae in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, and rapid follow-up of gamma ray burster reports. We are very interested in collaborating on these and similar projects.

Wheaton College is currently involved in a partnership with the Grove Creek Observatory in New South Wales, Australia, where one of Wheaton College’s telescopes has been installed.  This telescope can be operated remotely by Wheaton College observatory staff and students. The “Wheaton Telescope” at The Grove Creek Observatory offers some of its stunning images for online visitors to enjoy, too.

For more information, contact Jason C. Goodman, chair.

Minor requirements

Astronomy minor worksheet

The minor in astronomy consists of 5 courses.

AST 130 The Universe

One of the following courses:
AST 140 The Solar System
PHYS 170 Introductory Physics I
PHYS 180 Enhanced Introductory Physics I
AST 250 Ancient Astronomies

Three of the following courses:
AST 202 Frontiers of Astronomy
AST 298 Introduction to Astrophysics
AST 302 Advanced Astrophysics
AST 303 Astrobiology
AST 305 Observational Astronomy

  • Astronomy

    AST 099 – Independent Study

    An opportunity to do independent work in a particular area not included in the regular courses.

  • Astronomy

    AST 130 – The Universe

    Properties of stars and how they are born and die, black holes, galaxies, quasars and the origin and evolution of the universe. Weekly two-hour laboratories retrace the steps involved in measuring the age and size of the universe, with enrichment laboratories in astronomical photography and observing.

  • Astronomy

    AST 140 – The Solar System

    The processes that shape the surfaces and atmospheres of planets and satellites and how the planets have evolved in different directions. Students will learn how planetary data are gathered and how to interpret those data and will design a mission to address one of the many remaining mysteries of the solar system.

  • Astronomy

    AST 198 – Experimental Course

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • Astronomy

    AST 202 – Frontiers of Astronomy

    Students will write on topics of their own choosing in modern astronomy, such as neutron stars, black holes, quasars, active galaxies, the Redshift Controversy, the Big Bang and the fate of the universe. Prerequisite: one previous course in astronomy.

  • Astronomy

    AST 250 – Ancient Astronomies

    We will study coordinate systems, celestial navigation, eclipses and the motions of the sun, moon and planets. We will then use this knowledge to view the skies through ancient eyes, especially those of Islamic and Mayan astronomers, and gain insight into these cultures and their shared passion for astronomy.

  • Astronomy

    AST 272 – Introduction to Astrophysics

    In this class we will start exploring the physics behind astronomical phenomena. Why and how do stars shine? How do we find out compositions of stars, nebulae, and galaxies? What is the life cycle of stars? What powers supernovae, quasars, and blazars? We will also discuss unanswered problems like dark matter, dark energy and an accelerating universe.

  • Astronomy

    AST 298 – Experimental Course

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • Astronomy

    AST 299 – Independent Study

    An opportunity to do independent work in a particular area not included in the regular courses.

  • Astronomy

    AST 302 – Advanced Astrophysics

    Topics will include orbital mechanics: from Kepler to Newton; stellar structure and evolution: from protostars to main sequence stars to degenerate remnants; radiative processes: blackbody, synchrotron, bremsstrahlung, and Compton scattering; accretion disks and jets near black holes and neutron stars.

  • Astronomy

    AST 303 – Astrobiology

    Is there life on other planets?  Science has not yet answered this fundamental question.  We can approach an answer by examining current research on the origin of life, habitable environments on other planets, and the cosmic distribution of life’s building blocks.  A multidisciplinary seminar for students from any science background.

  • Astronomy

    AST 305 – Observational Astronomy

    Students will use Wheaton telescopes and our observatory in Australia to carry out independent research projects, such as color imaging, astrometry and photometry of near-earth asteroids, searching for supernovae and determining the light curves of variable stars.

  • Astronomy

    AST 398 – Experimental Course

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • Astronomy

    AST 399 – Independent Study

    An opportunity to do independent work in a particular area not included in the regular courses.

  • Astronomy

    AST 500 – Individual Research

    Selected majors are invited by the department to pursue individual research in preparation for writing an Honors Thesis.

Timothy Barker

Professor of Astronomy

Geoffrey Collins

Professor of Geology

Dipankar Maitra

Assistant Professor of Physics/Astronomy