Astronomy Major

Program Director: Melissa Hayes-Gehrke, Ph.D.

The Astronomy Department offers courses leading to a Bachelor of Science in Astronomy as well as a series of courses of general interest to non-majors. Astronomy majors are given a strong undergraduate preparation in Astronomy, Mathematics, and Physics. The degree program is designed to prepare students for positions in government and industry laboratories or for graduate work in Astronomy or related fields. Courses offered by this department may be found under the following acronym: ASTR.

Program Objectives

The Department of Astronomy B.S. program educates majors toward achieving an understanding of modern astronomical concepts, applying physics and mathematics to astrophysical situations, and gaining experience in gathering and reducing data using astronomical instrumentation and computational tools. Completion of this program provides the opportunity for majors to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for graduate school or employment after graduation.

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Identify basic concepts from the many areas of astronomy, including motions in the sky, gravity, electromagnetic radiation, solar system, stars, and galaxies.
  2. Develop mathematical skills, acquire physics knowledge, and practice applying these skills and knowledge in astrophysical situations.
  3. Use astronomical telescopes/instruments and reduce astronomical data using modern computational methods.
  4. Demonstrate advanced level knowledge in several different areas of astronomy.

For further details, see the department's assessment plan:

Course Title Credits
Required Basic Astronomy Courses
ASTR120Introductory Astrophysics - Solar System3
ASTR121Introductory Astrophysics II - Stars and Beyond4
ASTR310Observational Astronomy4
ASTR320Theoretical Astrophysics3
Advanced Astronomy Courses
Select any two 400 level Astronomy courses of the following:6
Stellar Structure and Evolution
Radio Astronomy
Computational Astrophysics
The Solar System
Astrophysics of Exoplanets
Orbital Dynamics
High Energy Astrophysics
Optional Astronomy Seminars:
Special Projects in Astronomy (ASTR288C-Astronomy Research Techniques)
Special Projects in Astronomy (ASTR288M-Current Events in Astronomy Research)
Special Projects in Astronomy (ASTR288I Introduction to the Astronomy Major)
Special Projects in Astronomy (ASTR288P-Introduction to Astronomical Programming)
Required Introductory Physics Courses 1
PHYS165Introduction to Programming in the Physical Sciences 23
PHYS171Introductory Physics: Mechanics and Relativity3
PHYS174Physics Laboratory Introduction1
PHYS272Introductory Physics: Fields3
PHYS273Introductory Physics: Waves3
PHYS275Experimental Physics I: Mechanics and Heat2
PHYS276Experimental Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism2
Advanced Physics Courses
PHYS371Modern Physics3
PHYS373Mathematical Methods for Physics II3
PHYS401Quantum Physics I4
PHYS404Introduction to Statistical Thermodynamics3
Supporting Mathematics/Mathematical Methods Courses
MATH140Calculus I4
MATH141Calculus II4
MATH241Calculus III4
PHYS274Mathematical Methods for Physics I 33
Total Credits65

Also accepted with consent of advisor: PHYS161, PHYS165, PHYS260, PHYS261, PHYS270, PHYS271 (14 credits)


For students with experience with computer programming this course can be replaced by PHYS474 Computational Physics or ASTR415 Computational Astrophysics. If students complete ASTR415 for this requirement, it cannot be counted as an advanced astronomy course (400-level course) requirement.


Completion of both MATH246 and either MATH240 or MATH461 will be accepted in place of PHYS274.

Grades in all of the above required courses must be “C-” or better.

Click here for roadmaps for four-year plans in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

Additional information on developing a four-year academic plan can be found on the following pages: