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Undergraduate Catalog 2014-2015

Astronomy (ASTR)

College of Computer, Mathematical & Natural Sciences
1208 Physical Sciences Complex, 301-405-3001
Chair: S. Vogel
Director: E. McKenzie
Professors: M. C. Miller, L. D. Deming, D. Hamilton, A. Harris, L. Mundy, R. Mushotzky, K. Papadopoulos, C. Reynolds, D. Richardson, J. Sunshine, S. Veilleux
Associate Professors: A. Bolatto, M. Ricotti
Assistant Professors: M. Boylan-Kolchin, S. Gezari
Instructors: G. Deming
Lecturers: M. Hayes-Gehrke (Senior Lect), R. Olling (Res Assoc), A. Peel, P. Romani
Adjunct Professors: S. Cenko (Adjunct Asst Prof), E. Dwek, N. Gehrels (College Park Prof), S. McGaugh, M. Mumma, E. Ostriker, N. White
Professors Emeriti: M. A'Hearn, J. Earl, W. Erickson, J. Harrington, M. Leventhal
Visiting Faculty: D. Neufeld

The Major

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.

Academic Programs and Departmental Facilities

The Department of Astronomy is a partner in the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA) which operates a millimeter wavelength radio array located near Bishop, California.  The array is the largest and most sensitive array of its type in the northern hemisphere.  The Department is a full partner in the 4.3m Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT), one of the largest and most technologically advanced telescopes in the continental U.S.  The Department is involved with major space missions, such as NASA's EPOXI mission which visited Comet Hartley 2 in 2010.  Additionally, the Department operates a small observatory on campus which has four fixed telescopes ranging in aperture from 20" to 7" and six portable 8" telescopes.  This facility is used for undergraduate majors' classes and for small-scale research projects, as well as for an Open House Program for the public.  Finally, the Department maintains and upgrades a Beowulf cluster for computation-intensive science projects.  Opportunities are available for undergraduates to become involved in research with all of these facilities.

Requirements for the Major

  Required Courses Credits
ASTR120Introductory Astrophysics: Solar System 3
ASTR121Introductory Astrophysics II: Stars and Beyond 4
ASTR310Observational Astronomy 3
ASTR320Theoretical Astrophysics 3
ASTR4--400 level astronomy courses 6
PHYS171*Introductory Physics: Mechanics and Relativity 3
PHYS174*Physics Laboratory Introduction 1
PHYS272*Introductory Physics: Fields 3
PHYS273*Introductory Physics: Waves 3
PHYS275*Experimental Physics I: Mechanics and Heat 2
PHYS276*Experimental Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism 2
PHYS374Intermediate Theoretical Methods 4
PHYS401Quantum Physics I 4
PHYS404Introduction to Statistical Thermodynamics 3
MATH140Calculus I 4
MATH141Calculus II 4
MATH240Introduction to Linear Algebra 4
MATH241Calculus III 4
MATH246Differential Equations for Scientists and Engineers 3

*With the permission of the advisor, PHYS160, 260, 261, 270, 271 can be substituted for this  sequence.

The program requires that a grade of "C-" or better be obtained in all courses required for the major. Beginning with students matriculating in Fall 2012, to be awarded a baccalaureate degree, students must have a minimum "C" (2.0) cumulative grade point average across all courses used to satisfy major degree requirements.

Detailed information on typical programs and alternatives to the standard program can be found in the pamphlet entitled, Department Requirements for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Astronomy which is available from the Astronomy Department office.

Requirements for the Minor


A minor in Astronomy may be earned by completing the following with grades of "C-" or better.  Beginning with students matriculating in Fall 2012, to be awarded a baccalaureate degree, students must have a minimum "C" (2.0) cumulative grade point average across all courses used to satisfy minor requirements.  An appointment must be made to register for the minor before final 30 credits are taken.  Please contact Department for complete rules and procedures.

  One from: Credits
ASTR100Introduction to Astronomy 3
ASTR101General Astronomy 4
ASTR1--any other  Introductory sequence in Astronomy  
 One from:  
ASTR220Collisions in Space - The Threat of Asteroid Impact 3
ASTR230The Science and Fiction of Planetary Systems 3
 Three from:  
ASTR300Stars and Stellar Systems 3
ASTR305Astronomy and the Media 3
ASTR330Solar System Astronomy 3
ASTR340Origin of the Universe 3
ASTR380Life in the Universe - Astrobiology 3
ASTR498Special Problems in Astronomy 3
CRSxxOr a course approved by the department  3

Planetary Sciences

The Departments of Astronomy and Geology jointly sponsor a minor program in Planetary Science. Details about this minor and its course requirements are provided in Chapter 8.


Further information about the program can be obtained by calling the Department of Astronomy office at 301-405-3001.

Students who have been away more than two years may find that due to curriculum changes the courses they have taken may no longer be adequate preparation for the courses required to complete the major. Students in this situation must meet with the Departmental Advisor to make appropriate plans.


Many undergraduate students do astronomy research internships at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.  More information is available on the department website under ' Undergraduate Research '.

Honors Program

The Honors Program offers students of exceptional ability and interest in Astronomy opportunities for research participation.  Honors students work with a faculty advisor on a research project for which academic credit is earned.  Certain graduate courses are open for credit toward the bachelor's degree. (Students are accepted into the Honors Program by the Department's Honors Committee on the basis of grade point average or recommendation of faculty.)  Honors candidates enroll in ASTR399, complete a research project, write a thesis and do an oral presentation before a committee.  Satisfactory grades lead to graduation With Honors (or High Honors) in Astronomy.  Further information about the Honors Program can be obtained by calling the Department of Astronomy office at 301-405-3001.

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