Chair: P. Crotty

ASTR 101 offers students an introduction to our solar system. It can fulfill a requirement for a minor in astronomy, but it is not a part of the major in astronomy-physics. Students who are interested in majoring in astronomy-physics or astrogeophysics should enroll in PHYS 131 in the fall semester of their first year. Please also see the Physics department description for more information.



Deals with the exploration of the solar system through ground-based observations and spacecraft missions. Topics include motions of solar system objects, properties of the solar system, origin and evolution of the solar system, uncovering the nature of objects in our solar system through comparative planetology, detection techniques and characteristics of planets orbiting other stars, and the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. Evening observing and Ho Tung Visualization Lab sessions supplement lectures.

Professor Balonek 

Deciphering the Sky: Practical and Historic Astronomy 

An investigation of the observed motions of the stars, Sun, Moon and planets in the celestial sky. Study of the physical models that explain these motions. The historic and cultural development of our understanding of celestial motions will be considered. Using the planetarium capabilities of the Ho Tung Visualization Laboratory, observations will be made of the night sky from different locations on Earth over time intervals ranging from minutes to centuries. Basic algebra, trigonometry and graphs will be used to quantify and visualize these motions. As part of a semester-long project, students develop their own instructional module that utilizes the "VisLab" to demonstrate and explain a celestial motion. Additional outdoor observing sessions will supplement the class instruction. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for ASTR 220 and satisfy one half of the Natural Science and Mathematics area of inquiry requirement. 

Professor Tom Balonek is an observational astronomer whose research focuses on the study of the variability of quasars – a class of active galactic nuclei. He and his research students utilize the Colgate Foggy Bottom Observatory in this research. He enjoys stargazing from the dark skies at Colgate.