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Thacher's Astronomy Program Overview

The Astronomy Program at Thacher is designed to expose students to a vibrant, creative, and rigorous endeavor to understand more deeply and broadly the physical universe of which we are a part. There are many entry and exit points to the program, which allow students to engage and commit themselves at various levels. From Astronomy Club participation which exposes students to current astronomical events and discoveries while also providing opportunities for students to casually explore the cosmos, to committing to a multi-year research effort requiring the highest levels of commitment, perseverance, and growth within a scientific discipline, students can dip in and out of the Astronomy Program at a level commensurate with their interest, dedication, and skill set.


The program was built starting in the 2014-2015 academic year while plans for the redesign and renovation of the Thacher Observatory were being finalized. The completion of the renovated observatory on December 15, 2016 was a landmark event providing a key resource for the program as it exists today.


​Participation in the program can start as early as the 9th grade year as all students learn foundational concepts for pursuing any scientific endeavor in the Integrated Science 1 class that all 9th graders take. There are also opportunities for 9th graders to participate in the Astronomy Club events, such as our Open Observatory events, and join our upper level students in research as an Astronomy Intern. We also have recently revamped and expanded our capabilities for astrophotography that students can join in on at any level. 


​The next level of participation would be to take the Advanced Astrophysics course. This course is designed to expand students' capacities for complex and abstract thinking in parallel with a more sophisticated use of mathematics to build fluency with quantitative reasoning and the use of science as a tool for deeper comprehension and synthesis. This course requires Math 4H as a prerequisite due to the heavy use of trigonometry in this course. It is typically taken in the 11th or 12th grade year, but can be taken in the 10th grade year if sufficient preparation for success is demonstrated. Many students in this course also become more deeply involved with the ongoing research being done through our Advanced Astronomy Research class by serving as Astro Research Interns. 


​The Advanced Astronomy Research class is the highest level of participation in the Astronomy Program and, if taken in the 11th grade year, can be repeated in the 12th grade year to participate at an ever higher level within the professional astronomical community. This course requires a 45 minute interview in which students demonstrate their readiness as this class is run much more like a research group than a standard high school science class.

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