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 intending to major in astrophysics may consult this chart to determine the sequence of physics courses.  In addition, students are strongly encouraged to take:

  • First year: an introductory course in astronomy (normally ASTR 101 with lab; alternatively, one can take ASTR 100 with lab or ASTR 210).
  • Fall of sophomore or junior year: ASTR 206 on astronomical techniques.
  • Spring of sophomore or junior year: any 200-level course (e.g., ASTR 202, 203, 210, or 220).
  • Fall of junior or senior year:  ASTR 303 or ASTR 311.

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.