COOL CLASSES: “Astronomical Ideas”

This astronomy course provides an introduction to both modern and ancient astronomy, and provides a framework to discuss the nature of science and astronomy.

Class name: Astronomical Ideas”

Taught by: Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Karen Masters


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

This class is an exploration of astronomy in culture, both today and in the ancient world. It introduces astronomical concepts with minimal mathematics so is suitable for students with low science or math comfort levels. I hope that students take away an understanding of the scientific method and how to apply it to observations they make of the world, as well as an understanding of how astronomy impacts our everyday lives.

I enjoy talking about astronomy with students, and the general public in general, who are less familiar with it. It reminds me of the initial wonder I had learning about astronomy for the first time. There’s nothing like the look on someone’s face when they see a planet through a telescope for the first time, or understand something new about the Universe. The class also gives me an opportunity to explore some of the cultural links with astronomy—for example learning about constellations from cultures other than Ancient Greece—which I don’t usually spend much time on as an astrophysicist.

It’s one of only two courses in astronomy we offer that can be taken without the two-semester “Intro Physics” sequence and calculus as prerequisites (the other is ASTR104 “Topics in Intro Programming: Astronomy and Physics”). Modern astrophysics is a part of physics and really requires mathematical (and computational) skills to make progress and do research in astrophysics. But astronomy is also one of the most accessible of the sciences—we can all look up at the same skies—so it’s also interesting to learn about from a less technical and mathematical perspective, and provides a really nice inclusive way in for a lot of people to want to learn about science.



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

Photo: Karen Masters (center) and her class exploring items in Quaker and Special Collections in the library. Photo: Emily Williams ’20.

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