Department of Astronomy


Undergraduate Program

Two degrees in astronomy are offered, the Bachelor of Science degree and the Bachelor of Arts degree. The primary difference between the two degrees is that the B.A. degree allows somewhat more flexibility in choice of courses.

Both the B.A. and B.S. degrees provide excellent preparation for graduate studies. There is also a minor program in astronomy.

A broad and substantial background in physics and mathematics with introductory exposure to astronomy is emphasized in the astronomy curriculum. A faculty actively engaged in research provides first-rate instruction and opportunity for undergraduate involvement in research.
More information can be found in the following documents:

Course requirements for the Astronomy B.S. degree
Course requirements for the Astronomy B.A. degree
Astronomy Minor requirements
Sample course schedules for Astronomy majors can be found in our General Bulletin document.

And full information on general graduation requirements can always be found in the Undergraduate Handbook and the General Bulletin, both available through the Undergraduate Studies website.


Undergraduate Program

ASTR 151. Doing Astronomy (1). ASTR 151 is a one-credit hour course usually taken by students in the spring semester of their freshman year. We give a wide-ranging view of what it means to be an astronomer, and students have the opportunity to meet and hear about the research interests of astronomy faculty.

ASTR 201. The Sun and Its Planets (3). An overview of the solar system; the planets and other objects that orbit about the sun and the sun itself as the dominant mass and the most important source of energy in the solar system. Concepts and the development of our knowledge will be emphasized. Not available for credit to astronomy majors.

ASTR 202. Stars, Galaxies and the Universe (3). Stellar structure, energy sources and evolution, including red giants, white dwarfs, supernovae, pulsars and black holes. Stellar populations in the Milky Way and external galaxies. The universe and its evolution. Not available for credit to astronomy majors.

ASTR 204. Einstein's Universe (3). This course is intended to introduce the non-scientist to the concepts of modern cosmology- the structure and evolution of the universe. No mathematical background beyond simplen algebra is needed.

ASTR 206. Life in the Universe (3). This course is intended to introduce the non-scientist to the field of astrobiology -- the interdisciplinary study of, and the search for, extraterrestrial life and the conditions for extraterrestrial life in the Universe.

ASTR 221. Stars and Planets (3). Stellar structure and energy production. Formation and evolution of stars. Supernovae, neutron stars, and black holes. Star clusters. Planetary systems and the detection of extrasolar planets. The application of physical laws to the study of the universe. Prerequisite: MATH 122 or 126.

ASTR 222. Galaxies and Cosmology (3). The Milky Way Galaxy. Structure, dynamics, and evolution of galaxies. Galaxy clusters and large scale structure of the Universe. Physical cosmology and the Big Bang. Evolution of the Universe. Prerequisite: ASTR 221 or consent of instructor.

ASTR 306. Astronomical Techniques (3). Emphasis will be on acquisition of direct imaging and/or spectroscopic data at the 0.9 meter telescope and its subsequent reduction. Principles of optics applied to astronomical telescopes and instrumentation. Modern detector technology. Computational techniques will also be explored through projects emphasizing modeling of data, dynamical simulations of star clusters emphasizing modeling of data, dynamical simulations of star clusters and galaxies, or astronomical database mining.

ASTR 309. Astrophyics Seminar I (1). Selected topics in astronomy not covered ordinarily in courses. Presentation of talks by the students. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

ASTR 310. Astrophysics Seminar II (1). Selected topics in astronomy not covered ordinarily in courses. Presentation of talks by the students. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

ASTR 311. Stellar Physics (3). Radiative transfer, atomic and molecular opacities, and the observable properties of stars. Stellar interiors, nuclear processes, and energy generation. The evolution of stars of varying mass and production of the elements within supernovae explosions. Prerequisite: ASTR 222 or consent.

ASTR 323. The Local Universe (3). The Milky Way Galaxy. Galaxy populations. Quantitative structure and dynamics of galaxies. The interstellar media of galaxies. Dark matter and stellar populations. The Local Group and Virgo cluster.

ASTR 328. Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe (3). Distances to galaxies. The content of the distant universe. Large scale structure and galaxy clusters. Physical cosmology. Structure and galaxy formation and evolution. Testing cosmological models.

ASTR 351. Astronomy Capstone (1-3). A two semester course (1 hour in the Fall Semester and either 2 or 3 hours in the Spring Semester) for students desiring a Capstone Experience in astronomy. Students pursue a project based on experimental, theoretical or teaching research under the supervision of an astronomy faculty member.

ASTR 369. Independent Research (1-9).

ASTR 396. Special Topics in Astronomy (1-3). Open to astronomy majors only.