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  Five College Astronomy Department
  Saturn Picture courtesy of NASA

Internationally known for research, the Five College Astronomy Department offers a range of courses not typically found at a single undergraduate institution. Saturn picture courtesy of NASA


The natural sciences form a set of theories, methods, and data for understanding the world in which we live. Science is not just information to learn; it is a process and way of thinking. Hampshire’s School of Natural Science engages students deeply in interdisciplinary problem solving.

Astronomy students at Hampshire take advantage of courses on campus and throughout the Five College consortium through the Five College Astronomy Department. The interlinking of Five College resources allows for a richer environment for doing astronomy research than would be possible if each operated independently.

Moreover, by combining the traditional emphasis on small classes and individual attention that is found at small liberal arts colleges with the research opportunities and infrastructure of a large university, students can find a mix of fine teaching and rich opportunities for independent research.

Affiliated Faculty
  • » Salman Hameed, associate professor of integrated science and humanities
Student Project Titles
  • » The Air on Mars
  • » A Community Builds a Telescope
  • » Cosmology: Where We Are
  • » Essentials of Research Astronomy
  • » Galaxies of Learning
  • » The Hampshire Astronomical Research Program
  • » Planetary Science: Exploration of The Galaxies
  • » Star Formation in Southern Hemisphere Spiral Galaxies
Sample First-Year Course

Aliens: Close Encounters of a Multidisciplinary Kind

This course can be summed up as everything you wanted to know about aliens but were afraid to ask (a scientist). The course will explore the topic of extraterrestrial intelligence from the perspective of several different fields. We will look at the history of UFO sighting claims and analyze the reliability of eyewitness testimonies, explore psychological and sociological reasons behind claims of alien abductions, and analyze the current state of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) from the perspective of astronomy and planetary research. We will also examine how film and television have shaped our view of aliens in popular culture. We will conclude the course by looking at religions that have been inspired by UFOs and extraterrestrials.

Sample Courses at Hampshire
  • » Aliens: Close Encounters of a Multidisciplinary Kind
  • » Astronomy and Public Policy
  • » Astrophysics of Stars and Galaxies
  • » Baby Clusters: an Investigation of Young Star Clusters in the Milkyway
  • » Calculus in Context
  • » Cosmology
  • » Inventing Reality: the Human Search for Truth
  • » The Lure of the Paranormal
  • » Physics I: Intro to Classical Mechanics
  • » Revolutionary Ideas in Science
  • » Science in the Islamic World
Through the Consortium
  • » Astronomical Orbs (UMass)
  • » Astronomy and Physics Onstage (AC)
  • » Cosmology (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • » Cosmology and General Relativity (UMass)
  • » Extragalactic Astronomy (UMass)
  • » History of Astronomy (MHC, SC, UMass)
  • » History of the Universe (SC)
  • » Modern Astrophysics (MHC, UMass)
  • » Planetary Science (AC, SC, UMass)
  • » The Solar System (UMass)
  • » Survey of the Universe (SC)
Facilities and Resources

Hampshire College Observatory
The Hampshire College Observatory was established in 2004 in a joint effort by Natural Science Division III student Sam Singer and Five College Astronomy Fellow Douglas Leonard. It was made possible by generous grants from the School of Natural Science at Hampshire College, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center, located adjacent to the observatory.

The observatory, called H.A.R.P. after the title of Sam Singer’s Division III project, The Hampshire Astronomical Research Program, serves Hampshire and Five College students as a resource for astronomical research and artistic, astrophotography projects. It is also open to local communities for public observing nights. The observatory is equipped with a 12” Meade LX-200 GPS SCT telescope, a 14.5” truss-mounted telescope, built by Singer, and an 8” Classical Dobsonian constructed by students during a January Term class in 2002. For photometry or astrophotography a SBIG STV Integrating Video CCD Camera with scientific grade UBVRI filter wheel is available. Spectroscopic research is also possible with our Sivo Scientific Fiber Optics Spectrometer.

Five College Astronomy Department
The Five College Astronomy Department has several major research programs, including: the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory, which operates a 14-m radio telescope near the Quabbin reservoir; the 2-Micron All Sky Survey, which has mapped the sky at infrared wavelengths; and the Large Millimeter Telescope, recently constructed in Mexico. Faculty supervise research programs using supercomputers, satellite observatories, and major telescopes around the world. The Five College Astronomy Club holds star parties, uses the wide variety of optical telescopes available in the valley, and offers workshops. In addition, the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomy Association is a very active local astronomy club with many public activities.


Contact Us

Office of the Dean of Faculty
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002
Fax 413.559.6081

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