Five College Consortium

Five College Astronomy Department

The Five College Astronomy Department

The Five College Astronomy Department


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 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 plus 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.