Astrophysics (modern astronomy) is the application of physics and mathematics to the study of the universe.


Astrophysics Major

For students interested in attending graduate school in astronomy, a thorough grounding in mathematics and physics is essential. To meet the needs of such students, the Astronomy and Physics departments jointly offer an Astrophysics Major consisting of the complete physics major plus four astronomy subjects. One of the upper-level astronomy subjects can be replaced by a Senior Thesis in either Physics or Astronomy.

Course requirements

  • Astronomy: Any 100-level course in ASTR w/lab, 206, and any two additional upper-level courses in ASTR or ASPH, one of which must be at the 300-level.
  • Physics: PHYS 107, 108, 202, 207, 216, 302, 305, 310, 314
  • Mathematics: MATH 215

Typical schedule of courses

Students planning to complete the Astrophysics Major ideally start with a 100-level course with laboratory in ASTR and PHYS 107 in the Fall of their first year, followed by PHYS 108 in the Spring:

  Fall Spring
First Year ASTR 1xx with a laboratory
PHYS 107 
(MATH 116 if necessary)
ASTR 1xx with a laboratory (if not in fall term) 
PHYS 108, ASTR 210
Second Year ASTR 206  (or in 3rd year)
PHYS 202 
MATH 215

PHYS 207, PHYS 216

ASTR 202 or 210 or 220

Third Year
ASTR 206 (if not in 2nd year)
PHYS 302, ASTR 311

(ASTR 202 or 210 or 220?)

ASTR 303
PHYS 310

Fourth Year
ASTR 206 (if not already done)
(ASTR 311 or 350 or 360?)
PHYS 314
(ASTR 303 or 350 or 370?)
PHYS 305


Astronomy Major

For students intending to pursue a Ph.D. in Astronomy, we offer, jointly with the Department of Physics, a major in Astrophysics. For students interested in other pursuits, such as education, journalism, computing, and public outreach in museums, we offer a major in Astronomy. Majors in Astronomy will have a broad understanding of the varied phenomena in the heavens, from the solar system and stars to the realm of galaxies and the large-scale structure and evolution of the universe. They will understand the motions of the night sky, be familiar with modern observational techniques and computational tools, and have carried out an independent project using our 24-inch telescope. They will have the problem solving and critical-thinking skills necessary to understand astronomical research, and the ability to communicate these results with clarity and precision, both orally and in writing.

The Astronomy major consists of 10 courses. Required courses include any 100-level ASTR course with lab; ASTR 206; two 300-level courses in ASTR; PHYS 107; PHYS 106 or PHYS 108; any 200-level course in MATH; any two courses in ASTR at the 200-level or above; and any other course in ASTR or a related field. Students should consult with faculty about choosing electives and research opportunities appropriate for their fields of study. For example, students interested in earth science should elect ASTR 203/GEOS 213 (Planetary Geology) and ASTR 223/GEOS 223 (Planetary Climates) and add courses in geosciences and chemistry. Students working toward teacher certification would add courses in other sciences and in education, and might coordinate their fieldwork with ASTR 350, while those planning to enter the technical workforce might elect additional courses in computer science. Students planning to pursue graduate study in astronomy should instead elect an interdepartmental major in Astrophysics.


Astronomy Minor

If you liked your introductory astronomy course, you might want to consider an Astronomy Minor. This program is offered to meet the needs of students in other fields who don't necessarily want to take physics, but who love astronomy.

Course requirements

  • Any 100-level course in ASTR, ASTR 206, any ASTR 3xx, and two additional units in astronomy.