New Minor Offers Students the Chance to Study the Stars

The Kakos School of Science will introduce an astronomy minor in the fall.

Manhattan College’s Kakos School of Science will launch a minor in astronomy this fall, giving students the opportunity to explore the universe through a rigorous and challenging curriculum. Astronomy students will be required to take Physics I, Physics II, Astronomy, Topics in Astrophysics and at least one additional elective from the department’s varied courses. The College’s physics department has officially been renamed the Department of Physics and AstronomyAstronomy Students

“Students will be dealing with the universe's most captivating physical occurrences, studying everything from planetary atmospheres to the identification and analysis of planets,” said Rostislav Konoplich, Ph.D., department chairperson, physics and astronomy and professor of physics. “The minor investigates characteristics of galaxies, the stars and black holes within them and the evolution of the universe itself.” 

Konoplich said that recent discoveries such as observations of gravitational waves from collisions of black holes and detection of high-energy neutrinos, along with the identification of some of their sources, “signify a new age of multi-messenger astronomy.” 

The department’s evolution from physics to physics and astronomy is a reflection of increased student and faculty interest in astronomy, according to Bart Horn, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics. This interest could lead to increased enrollment of students in science-related disciplines, according to Konoplich. 

Many of our faculty and students do research in the field, including topics such as neutron star astrophysics, multi-messenger astronomy and connections between particle physics and early universe cosmology,” Horn said. 

Besides the required courses mentioned above, students can choose from a wide variety of electives including Topics in Cosmology, Computational Physics, Mechanics I, Atomic and Nuclear Physics, Quantum Mechanics I, Electromagnetic Waves and Optics.  

A newly acquired 130 mm Celestron NexStar reflecting telescope will be used for classes and stargazing events sponsored by the department and the Society of Physics. Horn said the new telescope should be able to view mountains and craters on the moon, planets, stars and deep-sky objects. Farrooh Fattoyev, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, teaches a section of astronomy with the Arches program and the class has partnered with the Friends of Jerome Park to host public outreach events. 

Horn said that everyone in the department is excited about the upcoming solar eclipse that will pass through the western and northern parts of New York on April 8, 2024. 

“These events happen every few years somewhere on the globe, but only once every few hundred years at any given point on the map,” Horn said. “The Society of Physics Students has been stocking up on solar filter glasses and if the weather cooperates, we’re hoping to organize an eclipse-chasing expedition.”

"The new Astronomy minor expands options for students at Manhattan College through the department of Physics and Astronomy, " said Marcy Kelly, Ph.D., dean of the Kakos School of Science. “The minor will leverage our faculty expertise in astronomy.  We are excited to provide our students with opportunities to engage with our faculty in creative and meaningful ways."

By Patrice Athanasidy