Which astronomy course should you take? (2024)

We know picking which astronomy course to take can be a challenge, so we will try to explain the intended audience for our six introductory non-major courses, our major courses, and our three upper-division astrophysics courses. This is the "plain English" description of these courses: see the official Schedule of Classes and Course Catalog for definitive language, and consult your adviser if you have any questions about how these courses fit into your curriculum.

Introductory Non-Majors Courses

The Department of Astronomy offers several single-term courses devoted to particular current topics in modern astronomy from the solar system to the entire universe. They are designed for non-majors seeking to satisfy their GE requirements or as electives. These courses are not a sequence and they may be taken singly or multiply in any order. One of these courses, Astronomy 1101, includes a required 1-hour lab section. The Astronomy 1221, 2140 to 2143 courses are all 3-hour GE courses with only a lecture section. All of these courses are taught at the same basic level. Astronomy 1221 does not assume any familiarity with astronomy concepts but does require a higher level of Math background than the other courses.

The Astronomy Department offers 6 introductory-level courses for non-majors that satisfy the Legacy General Education (GEL) Natural Sciences - Physical Sciences requirement.

  • Astronomy 1101: From Planets to the Cosmos (4 cr: 3 cr Lecture + 1 cr Lab)
  • Astronomy 1221: Astronomy Data Analysis (3 cr)
    • Note: Astron 1221 requires a prerequisite or co-requisite of Math 1151 or equivalent
  • Astronomy 2140:Planets and the Solar System (3 cr)
  • Astronomy 2141: Life in the Universe (3 cr)
  • Astronomy 2142: Black Holes (3 cr)
  • Astronomy 2143:Cosmology: History of the Universe (3 cr)

For students on the New General Education (GEN) curriculum, one course satisfies the Natural Science Foundations requirement:

  • Astronomy 1101: From Planets to the Cosmos (4 cr: 3 cr Lecture + 1 cr Lab)

For students on the New General Education (GEN) curriculum, the following courses are available or will be available soon as themes courses:

  • Astronomy 2140:Planets and the Solar System (3 cr)
  • Astronomy 2141: Life in the Universe (3 cr)
  • Astronomy 2142: Black Holes (3 cr)
  • Astronomy 2143:Cosmology: History of the Universe (3 cr)

Astronomy & Astrophysics Majors Courses

The introductory courses for Astronomy and Astrophysics majors and minors are as follows:

  • Astronomy 2291: Basic Astrophysics and Planetary Astronomy (3 cr)
  • Astronomy 2292: Stellar, Galactic, andExtragalactic Astronomy and Astrophysics (3 cr)
  • Astronomy 2895: Topics in Astrophysics Seminar (1 cr)
  • Astronomy 3350: Methods of Astronomical Observation and Data Analysis (3 cr)

Astronomy 2291-2292: Introductory Astrophysics Sequence

This is a general survey of astrophysics, but unlike the 1000-level courses, these are intended primarily for physical sciences majors (especially Astronomy & Astrophysics majors and minors, for whom these are required). These can also be taken as GE courses for those who are interested in a more mathematical approach to the subject. Students who enroll in these courses are expected to have already taken a year of college-level calculus (through Math 1152, 2162, 2173, or equivalent) and at least one year of classical physics, either completion of or concurrent registration in Physics 1251, 1271 or equivalent.

Astronomy 2895: Topics in Astrophysics Seminar

This is a 1-credit course taught only during theAutumn Semester. It consists of a single session once per week during which different member(s) of the Department of Astronomy will discuss their research and path through academia. It is intended to give those students considering becoming Astronomy and Astrophysics majors or minors a broad overview of current research topics, the state of the field, and how to be successful in reaching their goals. Normally taken by first- and second-year students, it is open to anyone considering majoring or minoring in astrophysics.

Astronomy 3350: Methods of Observational Astronomy and Data Analysis

Unlike the courses listed above, this is a course designed primarily for Astronomy and Astrophysics majors and minors, or technically inclined students. Astronomy 3350 concentrates on the statistical treatment of experimental data as applied to astrophysical problems (photon detection and the analysis of ensembles of data). Although specific to observational astrophysics, the methods developed in this course will apply to any of the physical sciences or engineering disciplines. Prerequisites include Astronomy 2292, Math 1152, 1262, 2173, or equivalent, and Physics 1251, 1271 or equivalent. Interested students who are not astronomy majors/minors and/or who have not taken the Astronomy 2291/2292 sequence must speak with the instructor before enrolling in this course.

Upper Division Courses

In addition to the introductory sequences, there are three higher-level astrophysics courses. These are no-nonsense astrophysics courses that are intended primarily for Astronomy and Astrophysics majors/minors, as well as for physics majors/minors, or graduate students in physical sciences other than Astronomy. Astronomy and Astrophysics majors are required to take at least one of these courses, but may (and are encouraged to) take others as a free elective. There are prerequisites for each of these upper-division courses.

Astronomy 5205: Planetary Science

This course provides a multidisciplinary approach to planetary science, integrating modern methods with the Earth and Astrophysical Sciences. It is cross-listed with EarthSc 5205. This course is offered during the Spring semester in odd-numbered years (e.g., Spring 2023, 2025, 2027, ...).

Astronomy 5681: Principles of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis.

This course provides an in-depth exploration of the structure and evolution of stars, including nucleosynthesis in stellar interiors and in supernova explosions. The equations of stellar structure are derived from first principles, and the case of degenerate objects is also treated. Topics covered in detail include radiation transport mechanisms, nuclear reactions, and stellar evolution. This course is offered during the Spring Semester ineven-numbered years (e.g., Spring 2024, 2026, 2028, ...).

Astronomy 5682: Introduction to Cosmology.

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to standard Big Bang cosmology, including an introduction to the General Theory of Relativity where solutions to Einstein's equations are derived. The structure and evolution of the Universe are studied through the Friedmann equations, including the possible role of the cosmological constant. The early thermal history of the Universe is explored in detail, including primordial particle physics, nucleosynthesis, and cosmic microwave background radiation. The very early Universe, including inflation and quantum cosmology and the origin of density fluctuations, is discussed and observational tests of cosmological models are described. This course is offered every Autumn semester.

Which astronomy course should you take? (2024)
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