Harry Augensen

Harry J. Augensen, PhD

  • Director of Widener Observatory
  • Professor
Areas of Expertise:
  • Science & Environment

Programs I Teach


  • PhD, Astronomy (1978)
    Northwestern University (IL)

About Me

I have always maintained a strong interest in astronomy education. My document "Astronomy Education and Instructional Aids" was distributed worldwide by the International Astronomical Union. With colleague Wulff D. Heintz (Swarthmore College), working under contract with Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, I translated the three-volume Compendium of Practical Astronomy from German into English. In order to acquaint people with the night sky, in 2002, I initiated weekly and monthly telescope viewing sessions at Widener University. In 2003, I began writing a monthly column "Night Words" in the local newspaper Town Talk.

As a teacher of physics and astronomy, I have endeavored to convey the knowledge and excitement of those subjects to students with many diverse backgrounds, including interested non-science students, aspiring physics majors, and adult graduate students in liberal studies. As a scientist, I have impressed upon all my students not only what is currently known about a particular subject, but more importantly, how that knowledge has been obtained.

I apply this philosophy in the descriptive courses that I teach by emphasizing the painstaking observations, experiments, and calculations that have been employed to produce the values that appear in their textbooks. I also continually remind them that all results, however "accurate" are subject to the limitations of our current understanding of the physics of the particular problem, as well as to the precision or lack thereof of the measuring instruments used to derive them.

Research Interests

My research interests include galactic structure, planetary nebulae, and late stages in stellar evolution. I have carried out astronomical research at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, at the Laboratory for Astronomy and Solar Physics at the NASA-Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and at the Sproul Observatory in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Most recently I have worked on the monitoring of suspected variable stars. Widener University is a member of the National Undergraduate Research Observatory (NURO), which operates a 31-inch telescope on the Anderson Mesa outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.


  • Augensen, H.J. (1985). A search for radial velocity variations in the central stars of southern planetary nebulae and planetary-like objects. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 213(2), 399–405.
  • Heap, S.R., & Augensen, H.J. (1987). Mass distribution and evolutionary scheme for central stars of planetary nebulae. The Astrophysical Journal, 313, 268–283.
  • Augensen, H.J., and Heintz, W.D. (1992). A new orbit determination for Alpha Ophiuchi. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 104, 314.

Professional Affiliations & Memberships

American Astronomical Society (AAS), Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi


  • Widener University, Faculty Development Grants (1989–90) (1990–91) (1991–92) (1992–93)
  • Elmhurst College Alumni Merit Award (1984)
  • NASA/Goddard Summer Faculty Fellowships (1982) (1983)


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