Astronomy and Astrophysics

2016-17 General Catalog

Astronomy Department Office
211 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building
(831) 459-2844

Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

The science of astronomy has the universe as its domain. Galaxies, stars, planets, and an ever-increasing variety of phenomena observed from ground- and space-based observatories are among the objects of study. Areas of special interest at UCSC include cosmology, the formation and evolution of planets, stars, and galaxies, high-energy astrophysics, active galaxies, supernovae and nucleosynthesis, extrasolar planets, interstellar medium, intergalactic medium, solar system dynamics, and all aspects of observational optical and infrared astronomy. Astronomers use concepts from and contribute to the development of many other scientific disciplines, including optics, mechanics, relativity, atomic and nuclear physics, applied mathematics, chemistry, geology, and meteorology. The interdisciplinary nature of astronomy, including its historical and philosophical elements, makes its study valuable to those planning careers in a variety of fields.

The Astronomy and Astrophysics Department offers a broad undergraduate curriculum that fulfills the needs of students seeking a general education but also enables students wishing to obtain a minor or major in astrophysics to study the subject in greater depth.

The graduate program is intended for those with a professional interest in the subject. The interests of the faculty embrace a wide range of both theoretical and observational aspects of astronomy. Current research and course offerings include our solar system and other planetary systems, stellar structure and evolution, stellar spectroscopy, the interstellar medium, galactic structure, active galaxies and quasars, cosmology, general relativity and gravitational radiation, the origin of the elements, optical and infrared astronomy, high-energy astrophysics, and advanced astronomical instrumentation.

Graduate students have access to state-of-the-art instrument development and data reduction technology, the UCO/Lick Observatory computer network, and an on-campus supercomputer dedicated to astrophysical computation. Graduate students may conduct supervised research using selected telescopic facilities of the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, 55 miles from Santa Cruz. The 10-meter Keck Telescope in Hawaii, the world’s largest, is administered from the UCSC campus and is used for frontier research by UC astronomers.

Undergraduate Courses

Instruction in astronomy for undergraduates at UCSC is designed to meet the needs of several groups of students.

Courses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, providing a general survey of the universe as now understood from historical and modern observations, are offered for those not specializing in a scientific discipline. Course 1 is a non-mathematical introduction to the Universe, while courses 2 through 6 provide an introduction, with the use of basic mathematics, to a diverse array of modern astronomy, from planets to the formation and evolution of the Universe.

Courses 12, 13, 15, 16, and 18, emphasizing basic physical laws and theories as applied to astronomy, taken together provide a survey of modern astronomy for students with some facility in mathematics. Taken separately, these courses provide an in-depth introduction to particular fields within astronomy. These courses are designed for students intending to major in a scientific subject, although qualified nonscience majors may enroll. A good high school background in mathematics and physics is required.

Prior or concurrent enrollment in a basic calculus course (Mathematics 11A or 19A) and a basic physics course (Physics 5A/L or 6A/L) is helpful but not required.

Finally, a more thorough quantitative treatment of selected topics in astronomy and astrophysics at the upper-division level is provided by courses 111, 112, 113, 117, and 118. Completion of coursework in calculus of several variables (Mathematics 22 or 23A-B) and Physics 5B/M or 6B/M and 5D is required for these advanced courses. Course 119 is an introduction to modern scientific computing with a focus on astrophysics problems.

Astrophysics Minor

For undergraduate students having a particular interest in the subject, a minor in astronomy and astrophysics is offered. Most students who minor in astronomy and astrophysics are majors in another science, though majors in other fields are also possible.

Introductory Requirements

Calculus:  Mathematics 19A and 19B

Vector Calculus:  Mathematics 23A

Two introductory astronomy courses chosen from the following:

ASTR 12, Stars and Stellar Evolution
ASTR 13, Galaxies, Cosmology, and High Energy Astrophysics
ASTR 15, Dead Starts and Black Holes
ASTR 16, Astrobiology: Life in the Universe
ASTR 18, Planets and Planetary Systems

Physics:  Physics 5A/L, 5B/M, 5C/N, and 5D; or Physics 6A/L, 6B/M, 6C/N, and 5D

Advanced Requirements

Modern Physics:  Physics 102

Four upper-division astronomy electives chosen from the following:

ASTR 111, Order-of-Magnitude Astrophysics
ASTR 112, Physics of Stars
ASTR 113, Introduction to Cosmology
ASTR 117, High Energy Astrophysics
ASTR 118, Physics of Planetary Systems
ASTR 119, Introduction to Scientific Computing
ASTR 171, General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology
PHYS 129, Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics

Astrophysics Major

The UCSC major in astrophysics is administered by the Physics Department and combines a core physics major with advanced electives in astrophysics, an astrophysics laboratory course, and senior thesis work on a topic in astrophysics. It is a rigorous program designed to prepare students for a broad range of technical careers or for entry into graduate or professional programs. A full description of the major can be found in the physics section of this catalog.

Preparation for Graduate Work in Astrophysics

The UCSC graduate program in astronomy and astrophysics is designed for Ph.D. students seeking a professional career in teaching and research. In view of the thorough preparation in mathematics and physics required for graduate study, most entering astronomy graduate students major in physics or astrophysics as undergraduates.

The suggested minimum requirements for admission to graduate standing at UCSC include the following undergraduate courses:

Basic physics. Mechanics, wave motion, sound, light, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, atomic physics, and quantum mechanics (Physics 5A, 5B, and 5C).

Basic mathematics. Calculus (Mathematics 19A-B and 23A-B or equivalent) and statistics (Applied Mathematics and Statistics 5).

Intermediate-level physics. Mechanics (Physics 105); electricity, magnetism, and optics (Physics 110A-B); mathematical methods in physics (Physics 116A-B-C); nuclear and particle physics (Physics 129); and quantum mechanics (Physics 139A-B).

Intermediate-level mathematics. Linear algebra (Mathematics 21), complex analysis (Mathematics 103), and ordinary and partial differential equations (Mathematics 106 and 107).

Graduate Program

Graduate instruction is built upon a two-year cycle of 11 one-quarter courses in astronomy and physics that are required of all students.

Seven courses are specifically required:

Astronomy 202, Radiative Processes

Astronomy 204, Astrophysical Flows

Astronomy 205, Introduction to Astronomical Research and Teaching

Astronomy 212, Dynamical Astronomy

Astronomy 220A, Stellar Structure and Evolution

Astronomy 230, Diffuse Matter in Space

Astronomy 233, Physical Cosmology

Four additional courses are chosen from the list of electives given below. In addition, students must fulfill the following requirements:

Students must meet at least quarterly with an assigned adviser.

Each student must also be a teaching assistant for at least two quarters.

By the time of the annual Board Review, which occurs in July at the end of their second academic year, students must:

  • Complete one quarter of independent study with a faculty member and give a department talk on that work.

  • Pass a preliminary examination based on course material, relevant physics, and general astronomical knowledge. 

  • Submit one lead-author paper to a refereed journal that is based on research conducted at UCSC. By the time of the Board Review, second-year students are expected to either (1) have submitted a paper for publication to a refereed journal; or (2) submit to the Board Review a complete first draft of such a paper and a detailed plan for completion. If the student pursues option (2), he or she is expected to submit the paper for publication by the first day of the fall quarter, and provide the electronic submission acknowledgement for the paper to the chair of the graduate advising committee. If the student does not complete this requirement, he or she will meet with his or her adviser, the graduate advising committee chair, and the department chair before the first faculty meeting of the fall quarter, in order to discuss the status of the paper. The faculty at that meeting will then make a recommendation whether the student should be granted an extension to the next Board Review, and the full faculty will then vote on whether to grant an extension.

By the end of the third year, students must complete a qualifying examination that presents and defends a proposed thesis topic.

After passing the board review based on the above-mentioned requirements and the qualifying examination, students pursue independent research leading to the doctoral dissertation. Upon completion of the Ph.D. dissertation, students must pass an oral dissertation defense. A completed draft of the thesis must be submitted to the dissertation committee at least two weeks before the date of the defense, and the defense itself must occur at least two weeks before the campus deadline for thesis submissions in that quarter. Exceptions to this policy will be granted only under exceptional circumstances and must be approved by the department chair, associate chair, and the department graduate advising committee.

The department has established five years as the normative time to degree. Normative times is the elapsed calendar time, in years, that, under normal circumstances, will be needed to complete all requirements for the Ph.D. A one-year extension may be granted if funding is available. Funding support will not, in general, be provided beyond six years. Exceptions for extension beyond six years will be granted only for exceptional extenuating circumstances, and will be decided upon by the department chair, associate chair, and the department graduate advising committee.

Electives (four required) may be drawn from this list:

Astronomy 207, Future Directions/Future Missions

Astronomy 214, Special Topics in Cosmology

Astronomy 220B, Star Formation

Astronomy 220C, Advanced Stages of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosysthesis

Astronomy 222, Planetary Formation and Evolution

Astronomy 223, Planetary Physics

Astronomy 225, High-Energy Astrophysics

Astronomy 231, Diffuse Gas In and Between Galaxies

Astronomy 235, Numerical Techniques

Astronomy 237, Accretion Processes

Astronomy 240A, Galactic and Extragalactic Stellar Systems

Astronomy 240B, High Redshift Galaxies

Astronomy 257, Modern Astronomical Techniques

Astronomy 260, Instrumentation for Astronomy

Astronomy 289, Adaptive Optics and Its Applications

Physics/Astronomy 224, Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology

Physics/Astronomy 226, General Relativity

Earth and Planetary Sciences 262, Planetary Interiors

Earth and Planetary Sciences 263, Planetary Surfaces

Earth and Planetary Sciences 264, Planetary Atmospheres

Earth and Planetary Sciences 265, Order of Magnitude Estimation

Earth and Planetary Sciences 275, Magnetohydrodynamics

Applied Mathematics and Statistics 206, Bayesian Statistics

Applied Mathematics and Statistics 212A, Applied Mathematical Methods I

Applied Mathematics and Statistics 213, Numerical Solution of Differential Equations

Applied Mathematics and Statistics 214, Applied Dynamical Systems

Applied Mathematics and Statistics 217, Introduction to Fluid Dynamics

Physics 210, Classical Mechanics

Physics 215, Introduction to Non-Relativistic Quantum Mechanics

Physics 216, Advanced Topics in Non-Relativistic Quantum Mechanics

Physics 217, Quantum Field Theory I

Physics 218, Quantum Field Theory II

Physics 227, Advanced Fluid Dynamics

Revised: 09/01/16