Physics & Astronomy Program: Guide to the Astronomy Major

The department offers a bachelor of arts degree in Astronomy as well as minors in Astronomy and in Astrophysics. The astronomy major is appropriate for students interested in careers such as teacher of earth science, planetarium director, science museum educator, science writing, and historian of science. Physics courses are described in the Guide to the Physics Major; those that are unique to Astronomy and Astrophysics are listed below. 

Introductory Courses
  • Astronomy 50 (or 105):  The Solar System (Introduction to Planetary Sciences)
  • Astronomy 51 (or 100):  Introduction to Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Astronomy 52:  Relativity, Black Holes, and Quasars
  • Astronomy 58: Astrobiology (cross-listed with Biology 58)

Courses numbered in the 50s provide an introduction without calculus to assorted topics in astronomy and astrophysics at a level accessible to non-science majors. Astronomy 50 and 51 contain labs. Astronomy 100 provides an introduction to astronomy and astrophysics and Astronomy 105 an introduction to planetary sciences to students with a background in first-year physics.

Intermediate and Advanced Courses
  • Astronomy 200: Stars
  • Astronomy 210: Galaxies
  • Astronomy 220: Cosmology
  • Astronomy 230: Observational Astronomy
  • Astronomy 240: Radio Astronomy

Astronomy 200, 210, and 220 provide discussion of upper level astrophysics at a level suitable for all science and engineering majors. Astronomy 230 and 240 are observation-based courses in which students use the Union College 20-inch telescope (Astronomy 230) and the 2-meter radio telescope (Astronomy 240) and learn how to process and analyze professional-level astronomical data.

In addition Astronomy 290/291/292: Astronomy Practicum is available to interested students to obtain experience relevant to astronomy careers.

Student Research

The Astronomy major also requires the completion of a senior thesis project. Astronomy students gain the experience of professional level astronomical research. To see some of the projects our students have worked on in recent years, look at the Student Research Page.

Major Requirements

The requirements for the Astronomy major consist of:

  1. Two introductory physics courses: Physics 110 & 111 OR Physics 120 & 121
  2. Physics 122 & 123 OR two introductory Biology, Chemistry, or Geology courses:  Biology 110 and 112 OR Chemistry 101 and 102 OR Geology 110 and 120
  3. At least one observation-based astronomy course: Astronomy 230 or 240
  4. One introductory course in astronomy: Astronomy 51 or 100
  5. One introductory course in planetary science: Astronomy 50 or 105 or Geology 303 
  6. Any three courses among:
    • Astronomy 58 (cross-listed with Biology 58)
    • Astronomy 52
    • Astronomy 200
    • Astronomy 210
    • Astronomy 220
    • Astronomy 230 or 240 (whichever was not used in requirement #3)
    • Astronomy 290/291/292 (Practicum)
    • Physics 230
  7. A senior research course (Physics 490) culminating in a written senior thesis;
  8. One course in mathematics (Math 113), and
  9. One science course outside the department (if above requirements were satisfied in Physics and Astronomy Department)

The requirements for the Astrophysics minor are:

Any six of the following courses:

  • Astronomy 105 or Geology 303,
  • Astronomy 100,
  • Astronomy 200,
  • Astronomy 210,
  • Astronomy 220,
  • Astronomy 230,
  • Astronomy 240

 

The requirements for the Astronomy minor are:

  1. Introductory physics courses: Physics 110 & 111 OR Physics 120 & 121 
  2. One introductory course in astronomy: Astronomy 51 or 100
  3. One introductory course in planetary science: Astronomy 50 or 105 or Geology 303 
  4. Any two courses among:
    • Astronomy 52
    • Astronomy 58 (cross-listed with Biology 58)
    • Astronomy 200
    • Astronomy 210
    • Astronomy 220
    • Astronomy 230 or 240 (whichever was not used in requirement #3)
    • Astronomy 290/291/292 (Practicum)
    • Physics 122
    • Physics 123
    • Physics 495