Astronomy Department

By linking teaching and research programs, we offer a rich and diverse environment for studying and doing astronomy.

The Five College Astronomy Department is a collaborative program of the astronomers at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which are all located in the Connecticut River valley of Western Massachusetts. By linking teaching and research programs, we offer a rich and diverse environment for studying and doing astronomy.

Astronomy majors typically take most of their required courses at their home campuses, but they have a wide variety of elective choices to take at the nearby campuses. There is a free bus service connecting all five campuses.

History of the Five College Astronomy Department

The Five College Astronomy Department (FCAD), founded in 1960 on a shared commitment to excellence in teaching and in research, is a collaborative arrangement between the Astronomy Departments of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Over the years we have collectively implemented programs that fostered a shared research community in addition to a shared educational program. The first major collective research initiative was the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory (FCRAO), begun in 1970 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and supplemented with funds from the Colleges and the Research Corporation. The original meter-wave telescope was replaced by the world’s largest mm-wave telescope and FCRAO continued as a world-class research facility for more than 3 decades. Other major FCAD initiatives included cooperative programs with the Astronomy Department at the University of Wyoming and with the Astronomy Department of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). The latter was the basis for founding the Large Millimeter Telescope, the world´s largest single-dish steerable millimetre-wavelength telescope, sited at the summit of Volcán Sierra Negra in Mexico. Currently our major shared initiative in education and research is centered on the WIYN 0.9 meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.


Katherine Follette, Assistant Professor of Astronomy
Michael Stage, Visiting Assistant Professor of Astronomy

Salman Hameed, Associate Professor of Integrated Science and Humanities

Darby Dyar, Professor of Astronomy
Jason Young, Visiting Lecturer in Astronomy

Suzan Edwards, L. Clark Seelye Professor of Astronomy (Emerita)
James Lowenthal, Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor of Astronomy

Daniela Calzetti, Professor and Department Head of Astronomy
Neal Erickson, Research Professor of Astronomy
Mauro Giavalisco, Professor of Astronomy
Robert Gutermuth, Associate Research Professor
Martha Hanner, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy
Mark Heyer, Adjunct Professor and Associate Director of Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory
William Irvine, Professor Emeritus
Neal Katz, Professor of Astronomy
Houjun Mo, Professor of Astronomy
Gopal Narayanan, Research Professor of Astronomy
Alexandra Pope, Associate Professor of Astronomy
Stephen Schneider, Professor of Astronomy
Ronald Snell, Professor of Astronomy and Undergraduate Program Chair
Peter Schloerb, Professor of Astronomy and Director of Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory
Todd Tripp, Professor of Astronomy
Daniel Wang, Professor of Astronomy
Martin Weinberg, Professor of Astronomy
Grant Wilson, Professor of Astronomy and Graduate Program Director
Min Yun, Professor of Astronomy and Honors Program Director


Core Courses in the Shared Undergraduate Astronomy Curriculum

AST 200 Practical Astronomy
AST 220 Topics (Public Policy, Science Communication, Astrobiology)
AST 223 Planetary Science
AST 224 Stars/Discovery of Fundamental Properties
AST 225 Galaxies/Discovery of Dark Matter
AST 226 Cosmology
AST 228 Astrophysics I
AST 330 Seminar (Supernovae, Mars, Moon, Galaxy Evolution)
AST 335 Astrophysics II
AST 337 Techniques of Optical and Infrared Astronomy, I
AST 341 Techniques of Optical and Infrared Astronomy, II
AST 352 Astrophysics III