Contacts | Program of Study | General Education Courses | Study Abroad Program | Major in Astrophysics | Grading | Honors | Summary of Requirements for the BA in Astrophysics | Summary of Requirements for the BS in Astrophysics | Sample Programs | BA in Astrophysics | BS in Astrophysics | Electives | Minor in Astronomy and Astrophysics | Astronomy and Astrophysics Courses

Department Website: http://astro.uchicago.edu

Program of Study

Astronomy is the oldest of the natural sciences; since antiquity astronomers have sought to understand the origin and destiny of the universe and its celestial contents. How did the universe evolve from an early, almost uniform, state to the rich structure that we see at the present epoch? Where did the elements of the periodic table come from? How do stars, along with their systems of planets, form and how do they change with time? Do other life-bearing worlds exist? These questions have evolved over millennia, with answers now sought using the mathematical, technological, and computational tools of modern astronomy.

For students interested in examining fundamental questions through scientific study of the universe, the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics offers several choices to explore. Options include general education courses, Study Abroad, the minor program in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the major program in Astrophysics, with both BA and BS tracks. 

General Education Courses

Many options are available for choosing two- or three-quarter sequences that satisfy the general education requirement in the physical sciences from among six courses numbered in the 12000s. These courses present a range of foundational topics, from the grand principles governing the universe and understanding its beginning, to the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies, and the search for habitable extrasolar planets. All courses numbered in the 12000s include labs for engaging in astronomical inquiry through classical experiments, opportunities for telescope observing, and data analysis. Students seeking a more in-depth examination of selected astrophysical topics may take a course numbered in the 18000s as a third course in the physical sciences or as a general elective. While the 12000 and 18000 courses are aimed at students not majoring in the sciences, quantitative analysis is an important part of all courses offered by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Any tools beyond pre-calculus algebra will be taught as needed.

Study Abroad Program

The Study Abroad program in Paris is another option for completing the general education requirement in the physical sciences. Every Spring Quarter, a three-course Astronomy program is offered at the University of Chicago Center in Paris, composed of courses numbered in the 12000s. This sequence is designed for students not majoring in the sciences, but it also may be of interest to science majors who want to supplement their work in physics and chemistry with a quarter devoted to the cosmos. In Spring Quarter 2025, the Paris program will offer ASTR 12700 StarsASTR 12710 Galaxies, and ASTR 12720 Exoplanets. For details, see the Study Abroad page for Paris: Astronomy.

Students who have already completed their general education requirement in the physical sciences may count the three courses taken in Paris toward the five required to satisfy the minor in Astronomy and Astrophysics. 

Major in Astrophysics

The major program in Astrophysics reflects Chicago’s tradition of interdisciplinary study and emphasis on mastery of the intellectual processes of inquiry and discovery. Students will gain broad knowledge of the universal, physical laws from the nuclear to cosmological; familiarity with computational methods and statistical data analysis; and experience with experimental and observational techniques through participation in research. Graduates of the Astrophysics program will be positioned to pursue advanced degrees in physics, astronomy, or similar fields, or enter government service, science education, or scientific journalism.

There are two tracks for students interested in the major. The program leading to a BA in Astrophysics consists of sixteen courses beyond the general education requirement. The program leading to a BS in Astrophysics consists of eighteen courses beyond the general education requirement. The BS track is recommended for students expecting to apply to graduate school in the physical sciences.

The mathematics requirement is the sequence MATH 18300-18400-18500-18600 Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences I-II-III-IV. Students interested in a more advanced mathematics track may substitute the MATH 18300-18400-18500-18600 sequence with MATH 20250 and MATH 20300-20400-20500 Analysis in Rn I-II-III or MATH 20250 and MATH 18400-18500. Students invited to take the MATH 20700-20800-20900 Honors Analysis in Rn I-II-III sequence may also use it as a substitution for MATH 18300-18400-18500-18600.

Students considering the major in Astrophysics are strongly encouraged to meet with the Academic Affairs Administrator in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics as early as possible to review program requirements. 

Grading

Courses must be taken for quality grades (no P/F grading). Students must receive a quality grade of at least C in all of the ASTR-coded courses counted toward their major or minor program. Students in the Astrophysics major must also receive a quality grade of at least C– in required courses offered by other departments. Students who do not meet the grading requirement for a course must retake it before advancing to higher-level courses in the program. In addition, students are expected to meet the academic performance standards set forth by the Office of College Community Standards.

Honors

ASTR 29900 Honors Thesis is an independent research course, supervised by a faculty member, in which the student may contribute to a faculty project, or engage in independent research, over the course of the academic year. To be considered for honors, a fourth-year student must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the required courses for the major and 3.0 overall, and a faculty-approved research project. Eligible students who wish to be considered for honors must notify the Academic Affairs Administrator as early as possible before the start of the Autumn Quarter and obtain the department's Guidelines for the Honors Thesis Course. The student and research supervisor complete the Honors Thesis Form and return it to the Academic Affairs Administrator before the end of the third week of the Autumn Quarter. The student enrolls in the thesis course by completing the College Reading and Research Course Form and returning it to the Academic Affairs Administrator. Students who do not meet the GPA requirements for the thesis course but have a faculty-approved research project may contact the Deputy Chair for Academic Affairs in Astronomy and Astrophysics for consent to enroll.

Summary of Requirements for the BA in Astrophysics

GENERAL EDUCATION
PHYS 13100-13200Mechanics; Electricity and Magnetism (or higher)200
One of the following sequences:200
Calculus I-II *
Honors Calculus I-II
Total Units400
MAJOR
ASTR 13300Introduction to Astrophysics100
PHYS 13300Waves, Optics, and Heat (or higher)100
MATH 18300-18400-18500-18600Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences I-II-III-IV400
ASTR 21000Statistical Techniques in Astrophysics 100
ASTR 21100Computational Techniques in Astrophysics100
ASTR 21200Observational Techniques in Astrophysics100
PHYS 22500Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism I100
ASTR 29800Undergraduate Research Seminar100
ASTR 25400Radiation Processes in Astrophysics100
ASTR 24100The Physics of Stars100
One of the following:100
Astrophysics of Exoplanets
Physics of Galaxies
Cosmological Physics
Two electives to be selected from list of approved courses200
Total Units1600

Summary of Requirements for the BS in Astrophysics

GENERAL EDUCATION
PHYS 13100-13200Mechanics; Electricity and Magnetism (or higher)200
One of the following sequences:200
Calculus I-II *
Honors Calculus I-II
Total Units400
MAJOR
ASTR 13300Introduction to Astrophysics100
PHYS 13300Waves, Optics, and Heat (or higher)100
MATH 18300-18400-18500-18600Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences I-II-III-IV400
ASTR 21000Statistical Techniques in Astrophysics 100
ASTR 21100Computational Techniques in Astrophysics100
ASTR 21200Observational Techniques in Astrophysics100
PHYS 22500Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism I100
PHYS 23410Quantum Mechanics I100
ASTR 29800Undergraduate Research Seminar100
ASTR 25400Radiation Processes in Astrophysics100
ASTR 24100The Physics of Stars100
PHYS 27900Statistical and Thermal Physics100
One of the following:100
Astrophysics of Exoplanets
Physics of Galaxies
Cosmological Physics
Two electives to be selected from list of approved courses200
Total Units1800

The Astrophysics BS Chemistry Variant track has been temporarily suspended. Students who matriculated prior to 2023 with the intention of pursuing this track should contact the Academic Affairs Administrator.

Sample Programs

The sample programs below illustrate the order in which courses in the Astrophysics major are intended to be taken, with the sequence of courses aligned to prerequisites. Students are encouraged to contact the Academic Affairs Administrator for assistance in planning individual programs. 

In the first year, a physics sequence is taken concurrently with Mathematical Methods and ASTR 13300 Introduction to Astrophysics. The Mathematical Methods sequence could also start in the Winter or Spring Quarter, if additional exposure to calculus is needed. Note that it is possible to complete all program requirements in three years. 

BA in Astrophysics

First Year
Autumn QuarterWinter QuarterSpring Quarter
PHYS 13100PHYS 13200PHYS 13300
MATH 18300MATH 18400MATH 18500
  ASTR 13300
Second Year
Autumn QuarterWinter QuarterSpring Quarter
MATH 18600PHYS 22500ASTR 21200
ASTR 21000ASTR 21100ASTR 29800
Third Year
Autumn QuarterWinter QuarterSpring Quarter
ASTR 25400ASTR 24100ASTR 28500 (Elective)
ASTR 21400 (Elective)ASTR 25800 

BS in Astrophysics

First Year
Autumn QuarterWinter QuarterSpring Quarter
PHYS 13100PHYS 13200PHYS 13300
MATH 18300MATH 18400MATH 18500
  ASTR 13300
Second Year
Autumn QuarterWinter QuarterSpring Quarter
MATH 18600PHYS 23410ASTR 21200
ASTR 20500 (Elective)ASTR 21100ASTR 29800
Third Year
Autumn QuarterWinter QuarterSpring Quarter
ASTR 21000PHYS 22500ASTR 28500 (Elective)
Fourth Year
Autumn QuarterWinter QuarterSpring Quarter
ASTR 25400ASTR 24100ASTR 24300
PHYS 27900  

Electives

ASTR 20500Introduction to Python Programming with Applications to Astrophysics100
ASTR 21400Creative Machines and Innovative Instrumentation100
ASTR 23900Physics of Galaxies §100
ASTR 24300Cosmological Physics §100
ASTR 24500The Physics of the Dark Universe100
ASTR 25000Order-of-Magnitude Astrophysics100
ASTR 25800Astrophysics of Exoplanets §100
ASTR 28200Current Topics in Astrophysics100
ASTR 28500Science with Large Astronomical Surveys100
ASTR 29001
  &  29002
Field Course in Astronomy and Astrophysics I
   and Field Course in Astronomy and Astrophysics II
200
ASTR 29700Participation in Research100
ASTR 30100Stars100
ASTR 30400Galaxies100
ASTR 30600Detection of Radiation100
ASTR 31000Cosmology I100
ASTR 31100High Energy Astrophysics100
CMSC 23010Parallel Computing100
CMSC 25025Machine Learning and Large-Scale Data Analysis100
CMSC 25400Machine Learning100
GEOS 22000Origin and Evolution of the Solar System100
GEOS 22040Planet Formation in the Galaxy I: From Dust to Planetesimals100
GEOS 22050Planet Formation in the Galaxy II: From Planetesimals to Planets100
GEOS 22060What Makes a Planet Habitable?100
PHYS 22600Electronics100
PHYS 23410Quantum Mechanics I (BA in Astrophysics only)100
PHYS 23510Quantum Mechanics II (BA or BS in Astrophysics)100
PHYS 24310Advanced Quantum Mechanics100
PHYS 26400Spacetime and Black Holes100

Other courses may be approved as electives by the Deputy Chair for Academic Affairs. When choosing electives, students should be mindful of any course prerequisites.

Minor in Astronomy and Astrophysics

The grand narrative of astronomy holds wide popular appeal and lends itself to interdisciplinary study: there is a deep history and cultural context, the night sky is profoundly inspiring and accessible to everyone, and the spirit of exploration is communicated in daily media reports of new discoveries. The minor in Astronomy and Astrophysics is designed for students not majoring in the sciences to cultivate understanding of science as a human endeavor across multiple social, historical, and cultural contexts, and to develop comprehension of the quantitative reasoning that supports a deep conceptual understanding of science. Students are allowed flexibility in selecting five courses to compose a rigorous program of study according to individual interest. The selection must include at least two courses numbered in the 12000s and at least one in the 18000s. It is possible for a student pursuing the minor to enroll in select courses numbered in the 20000s; students interested in this option should contact the Academic Affairs Administrator in Astronomy and Astrophysics to discuss course selection. Please note: courses taken to satisfy the general education requirement in the physical sciences may not be counted towards the minor. 

There are no Physics or Mathematics prerequisites for the minor. Courses must be taken for quality grades (no P/F grading), and students must receive a quality grade of at least C in all courses counting toward program requirements. Students should contact the Academic Affairs Administrator before the end of Spring Quarter of their third year to declare their intention to complete the minor and fill out the College's Consent to Complete a Minor Program form. 

Astronomy and Astrophysics Courses

ASTR 12600. Matter, Energy, Space, and Time. 100 Units.

A comprehensive survey of how the physical world works, and how matter, energy, space, and time evolved from the beginning to the present. A brief survey of the historical development of mathematics, physics, and astronomy leads to a conceptual survey of the modern theory of the physical universe: space and time in relativity; the quantum theory of matter and energy; and the evolution of cosmic structure and composition. The major theme of this course is the understanding of all nature, from the prosaic to the exotic, using powerful quantitative theory grounded in precise experiments. Although quantitative analysis will be an important part of the course, students will not be expected to employ mathematics beyond algebra. (L)

Instructor(s): Paolo Privitera     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PHSC 12600

ASTR 12610. Black Holes. 100 Units.

The past decade has seen the stunning discovery of gravitational waves from black holes merging together, allowing physical theory to be tested in the most exotic and extreme environment in the universe. Black holes are mathematically the most perfectly understood of any physical structure, but their visible effects can be extraordinarily complex. This course will survey the physics of space and time; the nature of black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarf stars; their effects on surrounding matter and light; the astrophysical contexts in which they are observed; and frontier areas of research. The development of Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity will be placed in historical context, including a review of observational confirmation of predictions of the theory. Experimental work will include use of a robotic telescope to observe circumstances related to extreme gravity, such as supernovae and the centers of giant galaxies that harbor super-massive black holes. Quantitative analysis will be an important part of the course, but mathematics beyond algebra will not be required. (L)

Instructor(s): Fausto Cattaneo (Summer Quarter); Rich Kron (Winter Quarter)     Terms Offered: Summer Winter. Summer Quarter instructor is Fausto Cattaneo.
Prerequisite(s): PHSC 12600 or PHSC 12700
Equivalent Course(s): PHSC 12610

ASTR 12620. The Big Bang. 100 Units.

The Big Bang model describes the Universe on the largest scales and its evolution from the earliest observationally accessible times through the formation of the complex world we live in today. This powerful framework allows us to interpret a wide range of observations and to make detailed and precise predictions for new experiments. The key motivating observations include the expansion of the Universe and how it has changed with time; the existence of radiation indicating a hot and dense early phase; the abundance of the light elements; and how matter is organized over a wide range of physical scales. The model naturally incorporates dark matter and dark energy, two surprising and poorly understood components that govern the growth of structure over time. The course will explore the history of scientific cosmology and the evidence for the Big Bang model, its consequences for the earliest moments after the Big Bang, and its predictions for the eventual fate of the Universe. Labs will include a hands-on measurement of the relic cosmic microwave background radiation from the early universe and the use of astronomical data to verify key discoveries in the history of Big Bang cosmology. Quantitative analysis will be an important part of the course, but prior experience with mathematics beyond algebra will not be required. (L)

Instructor(s): Edward Kolb     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): PHSC 12600
Equivalent Course(s): PHSC 12620

ASTR 12700. Stars. 100 Units.

Elements such as carbon and oxygen are created in fusion reactions at high temperatures and pressures in the deep interiors of stars, conditions that naturally arise in stars like the Sun. This course will outline the physical principles at work and the history of the development of the key ideas: how nuclear physics and the theory of stellar interiors account for how stars shine, why they live for such long times, and how the heavy elements in their cores are dispersed to form a new generation of stars. Gravity assembles stars out of more diffuse material, a process that includes the formation of planetary systems. The course shows how, taken together, these physical processes naturally lead to the ingredients necessary for the emergence of life, namely elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, and planets in stable orbits around long-lived stars. The course features quantitative analysis of data; any tools needed beyond pre-calculus algebra will be taught as part of the course. (L)

Instructor(s): Fausto Cattaneo (Summer Quarter); Damiano Caprioli (Autumn Quarter)     Terms Offered: Autumn Summer. Summer Quarter instructor is Fausto Cattaneo.
Equivalent Course(s): PHSC 12700

ASTR 12710. Galaxies. 100 Units.

Galaxies have been called island universes, places where stars are concentrated, where they are born, and where they die. The study of galaxies reaches back to the Renaissance; Galileo Galilei first pointed a telescope skyward in 1610 and confirmed a then 2000 year-old Greek conjecture about the nature of our own galaxy -- the Milky Way. This course will use extensive modern observational data from a wide range of telescopes to trace the modern picture for the formation and evolution of galaxies and the stars in them. Galaxies will then be used as markers of yet larger scale structures, in order to explore the influence of gravity over cosmic time. The object of study in this course is galaxies, and the narrative arc traced through that extensive data and understanding will highlight our profound discovery that most of the mass in galaxies (and the Universe as a whole) is in fact an exotic form of matter -- dark matter -- that we cannot directly see. Quantitative analysis will be an important part of the course in both laboratory work and lectures, but mathematics beyond algebra and some geometric understanding will not be required. This course will feature several observationally-oriented labs that will allow students to directly experience how some of the modern understanding of galaxies has arisen. (L)

Instructor(s): Michael Gladders     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): PHSC 10800, PHSC 12600 or PHSC 12700. PHSC 12710 can be taken as the first course in a sequence combined with PHSC 12720.
Equivalent Course(s): PHSC 12710

ASTR 12720. Exoplanets. 100 Units.

The discovery of planets in orbit around other stars is one of the newest developments in astronomy, which set off a race to characterize these "exoplanetary" systems. The architectures of planetary systems are set by the formation of the parent star and its protoplanetary disk, but they also encode subsequent evolution. We are now able to place our Solar System into the context of other worlds, and we find some aspects familiar and other aspects quite alien. A challenging next step is to find planets like the Earth in orbit around stars like the Sun. This course will review the techniques for discovery of planets around other stars, what we have learned so far about exoplanetary systems, and the driving questions for the future, including the quest for habitable environments elsewhere. Although quantitative analysis will be an important part of the course, students will not be expected to employ mathematics beyond algebra. (L)

Instructor(s): Leslie Rogers     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): PHSC 10800, PHSC 10100, PHSC 12700 or PHSC 12710.
Equivalent Course(s): PHSC 12720

ASTR 13300. Introduction to Astrophysics. 100 Units.

The course is intended for first-year students intending to major in Astrophysics as an introduction to the range of important physical processes that operate in astrophysical environments, and how these govern structures across a wide range of scales, from planets to superclusters to the Universe. Throughout the course, we will see that similar physical principles (gravity, radiation, particle physics) come in at different stages and systems (planets, stars, galaxies, the Universe). We will also incorporate into each class relevant current active research areas in Astrophysics, especially focusing on connection with research in the department. We anticipate a highly interactive class with a large number of group activities, demos and discussions.

Instructor(s): Joshua Frieman     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): PHYS 13300; may be taken concurrently.

ASTR 18100. The Milky Way. 100 Units.

Within a largely empty universe, we live in a vast stellar "island" that we call the Milky Way. As we survey the stellar and interstellar components of the Milky Way-the distribution and motions of stars and interstellar gas, and how these dynamic, ever-changing components interact with each other during their life cycles inside the Milky Way-we will follow the path of ancient astronomers, wonder at their mistakes and prejudices, and form our own understanding.

Instructor(s): Nick Gnedin     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Any two-course 10000-level general education sequence in chemistry, geophysical sciences, physical sciences, or physics. Can be used as a third course in physical sciences to meet the general education requirement (of six courses total in the biological, physical, and mathematical sciences).
Equivalent Course(s): PHSC 18100

ASTR 18200. The Origin and Evolution of the Universe. 100 Units.

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to modern cosmology for students wishing to delve deeper into the subject than PHSC 12620 (which is not a prerequisite) but at a similar mathematical level. It will discuss how the fundamental laws of physics allow us to understand the origin, evolution, and large-scale structure of the universe. After a brief review of the history of cosmology, the course will cover the expansion of the universe, Newtonian cosmology, Einstein's Special and General Relativity, black holes, dark matter, dark energy, the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, Big Bang nucleosynthesis, the early universe, primordial inflation, the origin and evolution of large-scale structure in the universe, and cosmic surveys that are probing inflation and cosmic acceleration.

Instructor(s): Edward Kolb     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Any two-course 10000-level general education sequence in chemistry, geophysical sciences, physical sciences, or physics. Can be used as a third course in physical sciences to meet the general education requirement (of six courses total in the biological, physical, and mathematical sciences).
Equivalent Course(s): PHSC 18200

ASTR 18850. Interpreting Nature: On the Relation Between Art and Science. 100 Units.

In this course we will investigate the role of art and science in history and contemporary life, and challenge the artificial distinctions between them that we are often taught. We will explore the deeper, abstract connections that unite the two subjects, and through understanding beautiful things in nature as both artistic and scientific, apply this way of thinking to everyday experience. Coursework will be highly interactive and will involve readings, discussions, guest lectures, and field trips. A final project, presented as part of an art exhibit, will highlight the connections between art and science students discovered from daily life that most inspired and excited them.

Instructor(s): Chihway Chang     Terms Offered: Spring

ASTR 20500. Introduction to Python Programming with Applications to Astrophysics. 100 Units.

This course is intended for students who are planning to major in Astrophysics to introduce them to programming using Python. It will review basic code elements and data structures commonly used in Python and introduce Python libraries, such as numpy and scipy, and the concepts of vector operations that greatly aid scientific computations with Python. Plotting graphs and data using Matplotlib library will also be introduced.

Instructor(s): Harley Katz     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): This course is aimed at students planning to major in Astrophysics.

ASTR 21000. Statistical Techniques in Astrophysics. 100 Units.

Python programming techniques will be illustrated and applied to basic statistical concepts that are used in astronomical research. Working knowledge of Python is required for this course.

Instructor(s): Staff     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 20500 or CMSC 12100 or CMSC 14100 or consent of instructor.

ASTR 21100. Computational Techniques in Astrophysics. 100 Units.

This course will introduce basic computational techniques most often used in astronomical research, such as interpolation, transforms, smoothing, numerical differentiation and integration, integration of ordinary differential equations, and Monte Carlo methods, and elements of basic computer algorithms, data structures, and parallel programming using Python as the main course programming language with heavy use of NumPy, SciPy, and Matplotlib packages. Practical examples where these numerical techniques are applied will be covered via homework and in class exercises using real-world astronomical problems and results of recent papers with emphasis on implementing the algorithms from scratch. The course will cover the access to astronomical archival data, and how to search it efficiently, focusing specifically on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, but with introduction to other data sets. Machine learning methods will be introduced to illustrate how large data sets can be mined for interesting information.

Instructor(s): Andrey Kravtsov     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 20500 or CMSC 14100 or consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): ASTR 31200

ASTR 21200. Observational Techniques in Astrophysics. 100 Units.

This course will prepare students in methods that will be used in their independent research by introducing observation and analysis techniques in a field of astrophysics chosen by the instructor. Students will learn basics of astronomical instrumentation and will apply that knowledge in a practical context (for example, using an on-campus telescope or telescopes controlled robotically from campus). The process of data reduction and calibration will be illustrated, leading to the extraction of scientifically meaningful results.

Instructor(s): Brad Benson     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 20500 or working knowledge of Python. ASTR 13300 recommended.

ASTR 21400. Creative Machines and Innovative Instrumentation. 100 Units.

An understanding of the techniques, tricks, and traps of building creative machines and innovative instrumentation is essential for a range of fields from the physical sciences to the arts. In this hands-on, practical course, you will design and build functional devices as a means to learn the systematic processes of engineering and fundamentals of design and construction. The kinds of things you will learn may include mechanical design and machining, computer-aided design, rapid prototyping, circuitry, electrical measurement methods, and other techniques for resolving real-world design problems. In collaboration with others, you will complete a mini-project and a final project, which will involve the design and fabrication of a functional scientific instrument. The course will be taught at an introductory level; no previous experience is expected. The iterative nature of the design process will require an appreciable amount of time outside of class for completing projects. The course is open to undergraduates in all majors (subject to the pre-requisites), as well as Master's and Ph.D. students.

Instructor(s): Scott Wakely (Autumn), John Carlstrom (Winter), Stephan Meyer (Spring)     Terms Offered: Autumn Spring Winter
Prerequisite(s): PHYS 12200 or PHYS 13200 or PHYS 14200; or CMSC 12100 or CMSC 12200 or CMSC 12300; or consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): PHYS 21400, CHEM 21400, ASTR 31400, CMSC 21400, PSMS 31400

ASTR 22060. What Makes a Planet Habitable? 100 Units.

This course explores the factors that determine how habitable planets form and evolve. We will discuss a range of topics, from the formation of planets around stars and the delivery of water, to the formation of atmospheres, climate dynamics, and the conditions that allow for the development of life and the evolution of complex life. Students will be responsible for periodically preparing presentations based on papers in peer-reviewed journals and leading the discussion.

Instructor(s): E. Kite     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): GEOS 32060, GEOS 22060, ASTR 32060

ASTR 23700. Histories of Women in Science. 100 Units.

In the mid-1980s, only two female students drew women when asked what a scientist looked like and none of the male students in the study did. Only 8% of STEM workers in 1970 were women; in 2019 that number was still only 27%. This would seem to suggest that the history of women in science is a recent one. Yet historians of science have foregrounded women's involvement in fields ranging from early modern medicine to twentieth century astrophysics. This class introduces students to these histories, investigates how and why science came to be a gendered as male, and asks to what extent gendered values continue to inform modern conceptions scientific achievement or value. In so doing, this course also introduces students to feminist science studies and challenges students to reflect upon their own (gendered) experiences of science. Students are strongly encouraged to develop final research projects that draw upon their own interests, scientific expertise, and linguistic competencies. No prior experience with history is required for this course, although an enthusiasm for history is advised.

Instructor(s): Kristine Palmieri     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): KNOW 37011, PHSC 27010, CHSS 37011, GNSE 37011, GNSE 23162, HIPS 27011, HIST 27806

ASTR 23900. Physics of Galaxies. 100 Units.

This course will provide a comprehensive introduction to galaxies, the interstellar and intergalactic mediums. We will examine the basic properties of galaxies and the physical process involved in their structure and evolution. Topics will include the stellar content of galaxies and the dynamics of stars within galaxies, the Milky Way galaxy, the physical state of the interstellar medium, central supermassive black holes and active galactic nuclei, galaxy clusters and the hot intergalactic medium. We will discuss the formation of galaxies and processes that shape the distribution of dark matter and baryonic matter.

Instructor(s): Irina Zhuravleva     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 24100 for Astrophysics Majors; PHYS 23410 for Physics Majors.

ASTR 24100. The Physics of Stars. 100 Units.

This course develops the physical theory of the internal structure of stars and how their structure changes with time. The material illustrates how to build model stars based on these physical principles and covers observational constraints on these models, such as the neutrino flux from the core of the Sun. Topics include supernovae and the end states of stars-white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes.

Instructor(s): Robert Rosner     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 25400 for Astrophysics Majors; PHYS 23410 for Physics Majors.

ASTR 24300. Cosmological Physics. 100 Units.

This course will provide a comprehensive introduction to the principal topics in cosmology, including theoretical and observational foundations. Key topics will include the expansion of the Universe, dark matter and energy, cosmic microwave background, hot Big Bang, and the origin and evolution of structure.

Instructor(s): Austin Joyce     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 25400 or PHYS 23410. PHYS 27900 recommended.

ASTR 24500. The Physics of the Dark Universe. 100 Units.

Approximately 85% of the mass in our universe is "dark matter," which is not made of familiar particles in disguise. The evidence for this remarkable fact comes from galactic dynamics, the clustering of matter on cosmological scales, the cosmic microwave background, gravitational lensing, and the yields of light elements formed shortly after the big bang. However, despite this vast body of evidence, the microscopic nature of dark matter is currently unknown and there are many candidate theories which make different predictions about its non-gravitational interactions with visible matter. In this course we will survey the evidence for the existence of dark matter, introduce some of the most commonly studied theories (e.g. WIMPs and axions), and explore their testable implications.

Instructor(s): Gordan Krnjaic     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 24100 for Astrophysics Majors; PHYS 23410 for Physics Majors. PHYS 27900 recommended.

ASTR 25000. Order-of-Magnitude Astrophysics. 100 Units.

In physics and astrophysics, an approximate answer is often just as (if not more) useful than an exact answer. Making order-of-magnitude estimates is helpful to develop physical intuition, to verify numerical solutions, and to evaluate whether a research problem is worth pursuing. In this course, students will receive coaching and practice in physics-based reasoning, back-of-the envelope estimation, and thinking on their feet. Students will be encouraged to take a broad perspective, to think critically, and to have fun using physics to understand the universe around them.

Instructor(s): Leslie Rogers     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): ASTR 35000

ASTR 25400. Radiation Processes in Astrophysics. 100 Units.

Most of what we know about the Universe comes from detection of electromagnetic radiation emitted by individual sources or by diffuse media. Once we understand the processes by which the radiation was created and the processes by which the radiation is scattered or modified as it passes through matter, we can address the physical nature of the sources. The physics of radiation processes includes electricity and magnetism; quantum mechanics and atomic and nuclear structure; statistical mechanics; and special relativity.

Instructor(s): Fausto Cattaneo     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): PHYS 22500 and MATH 18500.

ASTR 25800. Astrophysics of Exoplanets. 100 Units.

Extrasolar planets, a.k.a. exoplanets, are planets orbiting other stars. First definitively detected in the mid 1990s, the planet count has rapidly expanded and their physical characterization has sharpened with improved observational techniques. Theoretical studies of planetary formation and evolution are now attempting to understand this statistical sample. The field also aspires to address questions about life in the universe. This course emphasizes hands-on activities, like working with real astronomical data to find and characterize exoplanets. Topics are the radial velocity, transit, and other discovery and characterization techniques; statistical distributions of known planets; comparisons among planet structure and planetary system types; formation in a protoplanetary disk and subsequent dynamical evolution; the goal of finding life on an exoplanet; colonization of exoplanets; and the Fermi paradox.

Instructor(s): Jacob Bean     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 25400; PHYS 18500 strongly recommended.
Equivalent Course(s): GEOS 32080

ASTR 28600. Cosmic Surveys. 100 Units.

The course covers the methods used in galaxy survey cosmology and what we already know about the Universe from them.

Instructor(s): Scott Dodelson     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 24100 for Astrophysics Majors; PHYS 23410 for Physics Majors.

ASTR 29000. Counterhistories of Mathematics and Astronomy. 100 Units.

Mathematics and astronomy are often taught as packaged universal truths, independent of time and context. Their history is assumed to be one of revelations and discoveries, beginning with the Greeks and reaching final maturity in modern Europe. This narrative has been roundly critiqued for decades, but the work of rewriting these histories has only just begun. This course is designed to familiarize students with a growing literature on the history of mathematics and astronomy in regions which now make up the global south. It is structured as a loosely chronological patchwork of counterexamples to colonial histories of mathematics and astronomy. Thematic questions include: How were mathematical and astronomical knowledge conjoined? How were they embedded in political contexts, cultural practices, and forms of labor? How did European scientific modernity compose itself out of the knowledges of others? Where necessary, we will engage with older historiographies of mathematics and astronomy, but for the most part we will move beyond them. No mathematics more advanced than highschool geometry and algebra will be assumed. However, those with more mathematical preparation may find the course especially useful.

Instructor(s): Prashant Kumar     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ASTR 39000, CHSS 39001, KNOW 39000, HIPS 27010, SALC 39000, HIST 35305

ASTR 29001. Field Course in Astronomy and Astrophysics I. 100 Units.

In this two-quarter course students will explore an area of astrophysical research through weekly meetings in preparation for multiple observing nights at a large research telescope. The observing may be a combination of remote observing and in-person, depending on timing, the facility involved. Students will analyze data collected during their observing experiences and will collaborate to produce one or more scientific papers to be published in professional journals. Students must enroll in both ASTR 29001 and ASTR 29002.

Instructor(s): Alex Ji     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Open to third-year students majoring in Astrophysics who have completed ASTR 13300, ASTR 21100, ASTR 21200, and ASTR 29800.
Note(s): Enrollment by instructor consent

ASTR 29002. Field Course in Astronomy and Astrophysics II. 100 Units.

In this two-quarter course students will explore an area of astrophysical research through weekly meetings in preparation for multiple observing nights at a large research telescope. The observing may be a combination of remote observing and in-person, depending on timing, the facility involved. Students will analyze data collected during their observing experiences and will collaborate to produce one or more scientific papers to be published in professional journals. Students must enroll in both ASTR 29001 and ASTR 29002.

Instructor(s): Alex Ji     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 29001
Note(s): Enrollment by instructor consent

ASTR 29700. Participation in Research. 100 Units.

Participation in research may take various forms, including independent work on a small project, assisting an advanced graduate student or faculty member in their research, or participating as a member of a research collaboration. Students must arrange for a faculty-approved research project in advance of the start of the term and submit a completed College Reading and Research Course Form to the Academic Affairs Administrator in Astronomy and Astrophysics in order to enroll. Contact the Academic Affairs Administrator for more information.

Terms Offered: Autumn Spring Summer Winter
Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing and consent of instructor.
Note(s): Students may register for multiple quarters of independent research and may work with different faculty members each quarter.

ASTR 29800. Undergraduate Research Seminar. 100 Units.

In this course students will engage with various scientific practices to prepare them for participation in research. Students will critically analyze research presented in popular and scholarly scientific literature and practice computational, statistical, and observational techniques to explore astrophysical problems. The course will emphasize student-led discussions and interactive presentations to synthesize previous coursework and strengthen scientific thinking and communication skills. Guest lectures by members of research groups will highlight projects undertaken by faculty in Astronomy and Astrophysics to acquaint students with possibilities for research participation.

Instructor(s): Andrey Kravtsov     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ASTR 13300, ASTR 20500 or ASTR 21000, and ASTR 21200
Note(s): Intended for students in the Astrophysics Major program.

ASTR 29900. Honors Thesis. 100 Units.

ASTR 29900 Honors Thesis is an independent research course, supervised by a faculty member in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, in which the student either contributes to a faculty research project or engages in an approved independent research project. Eligible students enroll in ASTR 29900 for one quarter during their fourth year. Students intending to complete the Honors Thesis must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Astronomy and Astrophysics before the third week of Autumn Quarter to obtain Guidelines for the Honors Thesis Course and complete the Honors Thesis Form.

Terms Offered: Autumn Spring Winter
Prerequisite(s): Open to students who are majoring in Astrophysics with fourth-year standing. The student must earn a GPA of 3.50 or higher in the required courses for the Major and 3.0 overall, or obtain consent from the Deputy Chair for Academic Affairs to be eligible to enroll. Before the third week of Autumn Quarter students intending to complete the Honors Thesis must have an approved research project that will be supervised by a faculty member, and meet with the Academic Affairs Administrator to obtain Guidelines for the Honors Thesis Course and complete the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Honors Thesis Form. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form to the Academic Affairs Administrator in the quarter in which they enroll in the course.


Contacts

Administrative Contacts

Academic Affairs Administrator
Dr. Julia Brazas
ERC 599A
773.834.8401
Email

Deputy Chair for Academic Affairs
Professor Fausto Cattaneo
ERC 502
773.702.0562
Email