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.
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.
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 (now the Center for Design), 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.