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Science Course
Course CodeASTR
Year Opened1982
Sites OfferedLAN
Previously OfferedJHU, SAR, CLN, HKG, LOU, TEC, UNI
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Course Description

When the sun runs out of fuel, will it explode in a giant supernova or fade into a white dwarf? Does every galaxy revolve around a supermassive black hole? Will the universe keep expanding or eventually collapse upon itself? Astrophysics—the study of the physical laws governing astronomical objects and the universe—is key to determining how the universe started, how it works, and where it’s headed. In this course, you and your classmates will learn about scale and distances between planets, stars, and galaxies. You’ll explore stellar evolution; the birth, life, and death of stars and their inner workings; and consider how objects such as neutron stars and black holes are formed. You’ll investigate galaxies, including the Milky Way, comparing their shapes, compositions, and rotational speeds, and calculate distances to other galaxies using Hubble’s Law. Lastly, you’ll explore topics in modern cosmology, such as the Big Bang and inflationary universe hypotheses, and consider the ultimate fate of the universe.

Astrophysics covers an introductory astronomy textbook, from solar system motions, through stellar evolution and galaxies, to relativity and cosmology. It also involves hands-on experience with equipment during Study Hall. The course used to include a trip to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Class History


Astronomy at Lancaster has been taught by Jason St. Pierre for the past few years. He is "really honkin'" fantastic (and is rumored to play the King in the RA circle during American Pie). Remember, former LAN Astro students: Gravity works!

ASTR.LAN.09.1 was TA'd by Lauren Weiss.

ASTR.B.LAN 16.1 (otherwise known as Astrology B or Astroloby G) was instructed by Mohammad Shahabuddin and TA'd by our savior Henry Cornell. Class consisted of photons being "like large birds who just kinda flap around and run into stuff," Ratboy Genius and the quest to save Summer Solstice Baby from the clutches of evil King Little John, vigorous paper eating, $110 bets on whether TA Henry had watched Cowboy Bebop, unnecessarily gendered straight bats, Doppler sportsball (which quickly resulted in the wreckage of scientific equipment), Moomin Valley, "yiffersnappers," people floating nicely into black holes, BBC Carl Sagan, and theories that TA Henry was the user behind the twitter account @dril. The instructor was soon denounced to just be some guy who is always giving lectures because it was agreed by the class that Henry was "our real teacher," as he knew our names by the end of the session. While the course was difficult to many students and it was hard to pay attention because of the droning nature of the instructor's voice during lectures, the class became good friends with one another and suffered together to make the class worth it.

ASTR.B.LAN 17.2 included the award-winning beach ball Pat along with a large amount of air spent attempting to save him after a game of S**t ball gone wrong. The majority of breaks were spent saving Pat and using duct tape to patch him. This led to chants on Harvard Green along the lines of “SAVE PAT! SAVE PAT!” or coming up with campaign slogans such as “Do you want happy blue balls?” or “Make big balls happy again”. The course was amazing, there were a multitude of field trips and a people who worked well together. Indoor breaks consisted of playing Super Smash Flash II on computers. Kirby was the best.

ASTR.A.LAN 18.1 was instructed by Maria Niland and TA'd by Henry Cornell.

ASTR.B.LAN.18.2 was instructed by Shawn Lemke and TA'd by Andrew. There was a beautiful gender divide of nine boys and nine girls but within the first few days we were a homogenous mess of hormonal teens reigned only by the electromagnetic spectrum song, Aidan's questionable music taste, Lemke's physics puns, and our love for Andrew. Aside from actual astrophysics, we learned that:

  • Yeet can and should be used as a verb
  • Bose is the plural of bees
  • Cole is the best pineapple
  • Male lactation should always be explained in terms of Harry Potter
  • The electromagnetic spectrum can lead to uncontrollable sobbing
  • 3E is not hungry
  • It's a lamb, duh
  • Frisbees are dangerous weapons, especially when wielded by Aanya
  • Balls are to be stolen, then fondled
  • Bathrooms are for High School Musical singalongs
  • Bathrooms are also not soundproof
  • Bathrooms also have terrible plumbing systems
  • Bathrooms in general

In summary, it was the best class ever.

ASTR.B.LAN.22.1 was instructed by Shawn Lemke and TA'd by Tina Harris. As always, the Electromagnetic Spectrum Song became a big hit, causing it to be blasted across several dorm halls across several days. During the Great Covid Scare, it was blasted every single time the whole class tested negative for covid. Truly a godsend. It was one of the last classes to have nobody test positive for COVID until Charles got it on Last Thursday. Most people had a huge obsession with something: baseball, Rubix cubes, web development, reading, League of Legends, or sexual jokes (notice none of them were astrophysics). Curse words were screamed late into the night, but so were the lyrics to our favorite song. Frisbees were thrown (very far) and caused several injuries with even more close encounters. Beach balls were brutally abused, dead beetles were worshipped with cults, cicada killers were dissected, and markers were excessively sniffed. COVID Charles kind of became the de-facto nerd of the class, and other Charlie (fondly known as "Kim") told the most sexual jokes. Truly a wide spectrum of personalities. Speaking of wide spectrums...


The Electromagnetic Spectrum is just a name
Of a range of radiation, let me tell you what they are
Microwaves, microwaves, microwave radiation
Microwaves, microwaves, microwaves, microwaves

Verse 1:
From your TV station to your microwave
That is the work of microwaves
Heating food in just seconds
Microwaves do that
Heat treatment for illness, take pictures in the dark
They are even in your microwave: Microwave radiation


Verse 2:
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue
Indigo, violet
That is the only part of the spectrum
That can be seen by us
The sun tan on your skin, kill bacteria and viruses
Used to detect forgery: That is microwaves


Verse 3:
See your broken bombs and hidden microwaves
That is the work of microwaves
Kill cancer cells and sterilize
Dangerous microwaves do that
Now we have completed The Electromagnetic Spectrum
If you still do not understand, then play this song again


(Lyrics taken and adapted from The Electromagnetic Spectrum Song)


In ASTR.JHU.11.1, both field trips were canceled

Both Astrophysics classes at Baltimore in 18.2 met Marshall Perrin, who worked with the Hubble telescope and is working on the James Webb Space Telescope. He went to CTY Lancaster '95-'98.

ASTR.A.JHU.18.2 was instructed by Rutu Das and TA'd by Jason Hathaway (not the Canadian race car-driving dude). There were four girls and 14 boys. Class members were either 12 or 13 years old; almost all had never been to CTY before and scorned tradition—only one student participated in traditions. Requests to visit the vending machine during breaks were constant. Anyone who had a smartphone was addicted to it, and the most commonly played video game was Disco Zoo.

On the first day, it was discovered that there was a widespread black hole obsession within the class.

Frankie was known for asking too many questions. While he was the one to ask the most questions, almost all the boys frequently asked questions, and multiple occasions, hands were raised before the lecture even started. (The class often got off-topic.) Frankie also made an awesome impression of Fritz Zwicky's facial expression in the photo he chose for his presentation on him.

Ethan once ate a plate of bread and only bread for lunch until Rutu made him get other food and proceeded to lecture those who were listening on the importance of a balanced plate.

Technological problems were frequent and had awful timing; a JHU tech guy often had to come in during class to work with the projector.

The most interesting class project was writing a sci-fi story using at least three astrophysics concepts learned during the course. Two of these had the entire class unable to speak coherently due to explosive giggling. The most frustrating class project was building a Flinn Scientific telescope that was impossible to put together and was confusing to use.

ASTR.B.JHU.18.2 was taught by a teacher who could not speak English fluently (likely because all Astrophysics instructors and TAs were hired late), causing the class to learn little. The teacher often responded to questions with unhelpful answers. A prime example was when one student asked what a brown dwarf was, and the teacher responded by incoherently explaining what red and blue dwarfs were. This was typical behavior for the three weeks.

Students were often left behind/forgotten outside on breaks or at various places. When visiting a telescope and a museum attached to it, the class had to stay in the five-story building for an extra hour due to lightning. Students decided to play Hide and Seek in the entire building, and the teacher lay on the ground to sleep. Many students were almost left behind.

During the car-jacker situation on campus, the TA lied to the students when they were receiving word of the situation from their friends in other classes. The TA told the students that nothing was happening, resulting in students being angry about not getting the full story.

The teacher ended the session by telling the whole class, "I hope you all can go home and be happy again."

ASTR.B.JHU.19.1 was taught by Maria Niland and TA'd by Michael. We went on a few field trips, one to the space telescope science institute where most of us took a nap, to an actual lab where we got to learn about the dragonfly mission, and we had one other field trip that got canceled so we got a telescope on the lawn. The class overall was one of the best experiences.

We played a lot of foursquare, watched tennis in the Fresh Food Cafe, and one of the days went to the cafe next to our building. Our class was pretty chill, it was five girls and like 15 guys. Most people slept during class and we were allowed to snack during our sessions.

All in all, one of the best classes ever but it was a lot of work.


ASTR.SAR.18.2 was instructed by Aziz "Saint" Kayihan and TA'd by Erin Maloney. The class had ten boys and eight girls, including both empresses, 19.2's emperor, and the TAPS lord. The classroom was lovingly named George (Uranus was named George) and was very cold. Before entering George, we always sat down in the hallway, and struggled to get back up.

Aziz was a funny, short Turkish guy with a man bun who had a love for Kurzgesagt and astronomy. He played in multiple Turkish movies about space. He has a hard time hearing people and says "anyhow" too much (over fifty times).

Erin was a TA of many rules, including no moving in chairs, no talking in the halls, and no kinetic sand on the way in.


Astronomy at Siena is very Carl Sagan-centric, with "Cosmos" videos almost every day, and various quotes repeated over and over, such as...

  • "In order to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."
  • "Crumbly, but good."
  • "He had a... zest for experimentation."
  • "Our planet, our society, everything around us is star stuff.


In the mid-to-late-90s, Astronomy was taught by future NASA scientist, Michelle Thaller.

External Links

Carl Sagan's site