COOL CLASSES: “Advanced Topics: Observational Astronomy”

This observational astronomy course makes use of the telescopes we have on campus, including a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain, and includes a field trip to the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia to do some radio astronomy.

Class name: “Advanced Topics: Observational Astronomy”

Taught by: Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Karen Masters


Here’s what Masters has to say about her course:

This class is about modern observational astrophysics. So a part of it is using to make use of the telescopes we have right here on campus, but we’ll also be exploring how professional astronomers apply for time on national or international facilities [by] running our own mock version of the process and using modern databases to explore the data mining and data science of astrophysics with Python. We also have a field trip planned: just after spring break we’ll be taking a weekend to visit the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, where they’ll show us how to use one of their radio telescopes to do some radio astronomy.

While astrophysics can feel very remote, it’s also one of the most accessible sciences—everyone can look up and wonder about the stars, and that’s the root of astrophysics—wondering about what we see in the night sky and using what we know about physics here on Earth to try to explain it. Haverford has a long history of astronomy being central to the education here; indeed the College was founded with an observatory—now just a sundial remains to mark the location of that observatory—and all Haverford students for a while were required to take astronomy classes. So it’s wonderful to be part of that history and reinvigorate the observatory for the modern students.

See what other courses the Department of Physics and Astronomy is offering this semester.

Cool Classes is a recurring series on the Haverblog that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford College experience. 

Photos by Holden Blanco ’17.