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Advanced Astronomy Research


31 weeks

About the Course

This year-long class provides students with a unique opportunity to engage in meaningful astronomical research and to interact with the professional community through international collaborations and conferences. Our studies leverage Thacher’s research-grade observatory and its fully automated capabilities to produce timely images and measurements that help to advance the world community’s understanding of the cosmos in which we live. There is a research legacy in several distinct areas: the detection and characterization of eclipsing binary stars and transiting exoplanets, the nightly monitoring of interesting targets such as Boyajian’s Star and active galactic nuclei, searches for nearby supernovae and other transient astronomical events, and the development of customized software for our observatory. However, there is always the possibility of creating new research paths for the school. This is a demanding course that operates less like a typical high school class and more like a typical research group at the university level and requires a high level of independent study and self-motivation.

Prerequisites: Advanced Astrophysics

Your Instructor

Dr. Jon Swift

Dr. Jon Swift

Jon was born in New York but grew up surfing and playing sports in North County San Diego. His first loves are poetry and music. However, Jon’s fascination with the natural world led him into the fields of astronomy and astrophysics, where he has published research in several areas of specialization, including cosmology, star formation, exoplanets, and astronomical instrumentation. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA with a BS in physics, and earned an MA and a PhD in astronomy & astrophysics from UC Berkeley. At the Thacher School, Jon redesigned and renovated the campus observatory which now includes a fully automated, research-grade telescope. In addition to directing the observatory and maintaining a vibrant astronomy program where students are able to participate in relevant research, Jon teaches astronomy, physics, mathematics, and data science. Outside the classroom, Jon has developed the Thacher surfing program, which he coaches in the fall. Jon lives on the Thacher campus with his wife Gloria, daughter Annika, and son Ansel.

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