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Peter van de Kamp Observatory

van de Kamp Dome

Department Overview

The Peter van de Kamp Observatory atop the Science Center at Swarthmore College houses a 24-inch telescope with a suite of imaging, photometric, and spectroscopic instrumentation. It is used by Swarthmore faculty, staff, and students for research, teaching, and outreach and is open to the public the second Tuesday of each month.

Astronomy professors Eric Jensen and David Cohen use the telescope in their research on exoplanets, young stars, and massive stars. Swarthmore students participate in these projects, and students in classes ranging from Introductory Astronomy to the Observational Techniques Seminar use the telescope in the lab components of their courses. Prof. Jesse Rivera regularly uses the telescope for his lab teaching (his research involves radio telescope data, rather than optical) and he also does astrophotography from the roof along with some students in our SPS chapter.

The main telescope is supplemented by several 8-inch Meade LX-200s, which are located on the roof outside of the observatory dome and are primarily used for labs.

The van de Kamp Observatory is named in honor of Professor Peter van de Kamp, long-time faculty member at Swarthmore College and director of the Sproul Observatory on campus.

Construction of the observatory, including installation of the dome, began in 2008. The observatory was dedicated in 2009. It  was funded by the National Science Foundation's PREST program, by an anonymous alum, and by Swarthmore College.

Physics & Astronomy

The Physics & Astronomy Department offers a wide variety of classes, including an ambitious curriculum of advanced seminars for our physics and astrophysics majors, as well as many introductory classes for all students. As befits a department of scientists with a strong liberal arts outlook, these include several interdisciplinary offerings from gender in science to the Earth and its climate.

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