Astronomy and Astrophysics
Astronomy Department Office
269 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building
(831) 4593081
https://www.astro.ucsc.edu/
Program Description
The science of astronomy has the universe as its domain. Galaxies, stars, planets, and an everincreasing variety of phenomena observed from ground and spacebased observatories are among the objects of study. Areas of special interest at UCSC include cosmology, the formation and evolution of planets, stars, and galaxies, highenergy astrophysics, active galaxies, supernovae and nucleosynthesis, exoplanets, 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, highenergy astrophysics, and advanced astronomical instrumentation.
Graduate students have access to stateoftheart instrument development and data reduction technology, the UCO/Lick Observatory computer network, and an oncampus 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 10meter 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, 6, 7, and 8 provide a general survey of the universe as now understood from historical and modern observations, and are offered for those not specializing in a scientific discipline. Course 1 is a nonmathematical introduction to the universe. Course 1 and Course 6 on exploring our solar system in the space age, satisfy the Scientific Inquiry (SI) general education (GE) requirement. Courses 25 and Course 7 provide an introduction, with the use of basic mathematics, to a diverse array of modern astronomy, covering planets, stars, the formation of the universe, and black holes, and satisfy the Mathematical and Formal Reasons (MF) general education requirement. Course 8 explores the universe with astronomical data and satisfies the Statistical Reasoning (SR) GE.
Courses 12, 13, 15, 16, and 18, emphasize basic physical laws and theories as applied to astronomy. Taken together, these classes provide a survey of modern astronomy for students with some facility in mathematics. Taken separately, these courses provide an indepth 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. These courses satisfy the MF GE.
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 upperdivision level is provided by courses 111, 112, 113, 117, and 118. Prior completion of coursework in calculus of several variables (Mathematics 22 or 23AB) 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, or Mathematics 20A and 20B
Advanced Calculus: Vector Calculus Mathematics 23A
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 upperdivision astronomy electives chosen from the following:
Astronomy 111, OrderofMagnitude Astrophysics
Astronomy 112, Physics of Stars
Astronomy 113, Introduction to Cosmology
Astronomy 117, High Energy Astrophysics
Astronomy 118, Physics of Planetary Systems
Astronomy 119, Introduction to Scientific Computing
Physics 129, Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics
Physics 133, Intermediate Laboratory
Astronomy 136, Advanced Astronomy Laboratory
Astronomy 171, General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology
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 Department 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, 5C, and 5D).
Basic mathematics. Calculus (Mathematics 19AB and 23AB or equivalent) and statistics (Applied Mathematics and Statistics 5).
Intermediatelevel physics. Mechanics (Physics 105); electricity, magnetism, and optics (Physics 110AB); mathematical methods in physics (Physics 116ABC); nuclear and particle physics (Physics 129); and quantum mechanics (Physics 139AB).
Intermediatelevel 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 twoyear cycle of 11 onequarter 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 leadauthor paper to a refereed journal that is based on research conducted at UCSC. By the time of the Board Review, secondyear 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 abovementioned 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 oneyear 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, HighEnergy Astrophysics
Astronomy 231, Diffuse Gas In and Between Galaxies
Astronomy 234, Statistical Techniques in Astronomy
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 NonRelativistic Quantum Mechanics
Physics 216, Advanced Topics in NonRelativistic Quantum Mechanics
Physics 217, Quantum Field Theory I
Physics 218, Quantum Field Theory II
Physics 227, Advanced Fluid Dynamics
Revised: 07/15/18