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Undergrad Major Information

Undergraduate Major in Astronomy


The Astronomy Department offers a B.S. degree in a program which is designed to prepare students for graduate work or professional employment in astronomy, astrophysics and related fields. The curriculum combines courses and research in astronomy and astrophysics with a strong foundation in physics and mathematics. The major requires 36 units of coursework.

Major programs are described below. Prospective students are urged to contact Professor Yancy Shirley for additional information about our major.

Please note:  in order to give each astronomy major the proper advice and best chance to succeed in this rigorous curriculum, we recommend a visit to the student's astronomy advisor each semester.   You will receive an email (to the address you have on file at UA) from us telling you who your advisor is, and will receive  at least one email per semester announcing that it's registration time.

Required Preparatory Courses


ASTR 250
Fundamentals of Astronomy





MATH 122A/B or 125

MATH 129

MATH 223
Vector Calculus

MATH 254 or 355
Ordinary Differential Equations


PHYS 161H or 141
Intro. to Mechanics

PHYS 162H or 142
Intro. to Thermodynamics& Optics

PHYS 261H or 241
Intro. to Electricity & magnetism

PHYS 263H or 242
Intro. to Relativity & Quantum Physics


Intro. to Scientific Computing

PHYS 204
Math Techniques in Physics



Course Requirements


ASTR 300A & 300B
Astronomy & Astrophysics
2 semesters          

ASTR 302
Observational Astronomy

Stellar Astrophysics


Galactic & Extragalactic Astrophysics

ASTR 492, 498 or 499
Senior Independent Research


PHYS 305
Computational Physics

PHYS 321
Theoretical Mechanics I

PHYS 426
Thermal Physics

PHYS 331
Electricity & Magnetism I

PHYS 371
Quantum Theory I


Typical Four-Year Plan (Astronomy major only)


Double Major (Astronomy & Physics)

Students who wish to double-major in astronomy and physics should refer to the Astronomy major 4-year plan and consult with their astronomy and physics faculty advisors. See also the Physics Dept. list of 4-year plans on pages 4 and 5.

Concentrations in theoretical astrophysics and in astronomical instrumentation are also available to majors. These concentrations are informal programs of mentoring and research opportunities for students with high academic standing. Interested students should talk to their departmental advisor about these programs. Prospective students should be aware that the curriculum for the major in Astronomy is very demanding and requires solid preparation in high school mathematics and science. A student who lacks such preparation should expect to take longer than four years to complete the degree requirements.

Pass/Fail Option for Graduate Courses

Undergraduate students may take astronomy graduate core courses, seminars, and electives for letter grades or as pass/fail, if the student obtains the prerequisites and instructor approval. No more than two pass/fail astronomy graduate courses per semester are allowed. The student should make sure to have a sufficient number of credits in letter-graded courses.

Course Credit for Independent Research

Astronomy majors may receive course credit for doing independent research projects with Astronomy Department faculty and also with Steward Observatory research staff. Three units of such credit are required for the major, but more than three units are also allowed. See the link for guidelines on academic credit for research experience and the approval form for undergraduate research credit, which is required to sign up for independent study.


The Astronomy major does not require a minor subject.

Teaching Majors

The Astronomy Department does not offer a teaching major in astronomy. Students interested in secondary school science may pursue a BS in Science Education with a concentration in physics or in earth sciences (which includes astronomy). A minor in science education is available for students completing a BS in Astronomy by completing STCH 250, 310, 410, 420, 499 and one of the following: CHEM 437A, GEOS 401, PHYS 437 or BIOC 433, plus ECOL 401. This series of courses meets the requirements for students who wish to complete student teaching (STCH 494A and STCH 496A) in pursuit of an Arizona teaching application.

Computer Facilities for Majors

The Astronomy Department has computers in Room 208 that are available to Astronomy majors when that room is not being used by a class (such as Phys 305).  The room is normally open Monday-Friday from 9AM to 5PM.

Besides a variety of PC-based software, these computers can be used as terminals on the Observatory local network, providing access to all the software tools available -- for example, e-mail, Web-browsers, and astronomy data reduction packages.

Astronomy majors can have personal accounts on the network. To set yours up, see Jeff Fookson in Room 366 at Steward Observatory.




If you are interested in declaring as an Astronomy major, please contact Professor Yancy Shirley.

If you are a current Astronomy major with advising questions, please contact Holly Brown.

Further Information is also available by contacting:

Department of Astronomy Academic Office
933 N Cherry Avenue, Room N204
Tucson AZ 85721-0065
Phone: (520) 621-2288
Fax: (520) 621-1532