In a sense, astronomy is the ultimate scientific endeavor — the attempt to know the unknowable, the entirety of the universe. Astronomers are only beginning to peer into the distant past, at least 10 billion years, to explore the origins of the cosmos. Even the deepest explorations into space have barely taken us beyond our terrestrial doorstep. And while centuries of ever-more-sophisticated observations and measurements from Earth have revealed a great deal, they have also raised mind-boggling new questions. But the study of astronomy also has critical long-term implications for practical science and our own well being, from space flight to environmental and health issues. In addition, a basic knowledge of the universe helps us to live with imagination and insight in our own technological world.
At Hamilton, the astronomy program is part of the Physics Department. Students interested in the field can choose to minor in astronomy by taking five designated courses, including an independent study project, within the physics program. The sequence begins with a basic survey of physics, continues with study of the solar system, stars and galaxies, and advances to inquiry into such topics as motion, gravitation, thermodynamics, special relativity and quantum theory.