College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2021-2022
Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science
Astronomy, Bachelor of Science
In the words of NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla, “When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system.”
What Can I Do with a Bachelor of Science in Astronomy?
Did you spend most of your childhood behind a telescope? Do you have a habit of thinking about very big things, like the universe? If you ponder the big questions, then maybe you're an astronomer in the making. Indulge your scientific curiosity and build a career path. The science of astronomy uses the laws of physics to reveal the nature of celestial objects. Our program focuses on astrophysics and planetary science. You will be encouraged to think independently and to join in faculty research projects. You'll benefit from our proximity to world-class Lowell Observatory and the university's own new twenty-inch research-class telescope. If you want to search for planets outside the solar system, you'll receive the guidance you need at Northern Arizona University. Find your way to questions you haven't yet learned to ask.
Career opportunities that might be pursued:
- Research assistant
- Telescope operator
- Industrial researcher
- Scientific programmer
- Defense industry team member
With further education, one of these paths is possible:
- Planetary scientist
- University professor
- Optical engineer
To receive a bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete at least 120 units of credit that minimally includes a major, the liberal studies requirements, and university requirements as listed below.
- All of Northern Arizona University's liberal studies, diversity, junior-level writing, and capstone requirements.
- All requirements for your specific academic plan(s).
- At least 30 units of upper-division courses, which may include transfer work.
- At least 30 units of coursework taken through Northern Arizona University, of which at least 18 must be upper-division courses (300-level or above). This requirement is not met by credit-by-exam, retro-credits, transfer coursework, etc.
- A cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 on all work attempted at Northern Arizona University.
In addition to University Requirements:
- At least 45 units of major requirements
- Up to 9 units of major prefix courses may be used to satisfy Liberal Studies requirements; these same courses may also be used to satisfy major requirements
- Elective courses, if needed, to reach an overall total of at least 120 units
Please note that students may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.
|Minimum Units for Completion||120|
|Highest Mathematics Required||MAT 239|
|University Honors Program||Optional|
|AZ Transfer Students complete AGEC-S||Recommended|
|Progression Plan Link||View Progression Plan|
Student Learning Outcomes
Our BS in Astronomy program is designed to prepare students for a career in a technical field or for graduate studies in astronomy or planetary sciences. Below we describe the learning outcomes our program.
Students will have an understanding of the laws of physics in the areas of:
- classical mechanics
- electricity and magnetism
- special relativity
- atomic physics
- nuclear physics
Students will be able to apply the laws of physics in order to understand the:
- origin and evolution of the Solar System and other planetary systems
- origin and evolution of stars
- origin and evolution of galaxies
- evolution of the Universe, i.e. cosmology
- understand how to take good data with increasingly sophisticated equipment in introductory, intermediate, and advanced physics laboratories
- be able to take good data with a research grade telescope and a CCD imaging system
- know how to identify random and systematic errors, and propagate errors
- be able to synthesize an appropriate conclusion from a physics experiment or an astronomical observation
- be able to apply mathematical tools such as elementary probability theory, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, differential and integral calculus, vector calculus, ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, and linear algebra to solve physics and astronomy problems
- become proficient in a computing language such as MATLAB
- be able to write code in a computing language in order to explain or predict the behavior of a complex physical system
- be able to reduce and analyze data from a research grade telescope and a CCD imaging system using professional astronomical software such as IRAF
Students will develop problem-solving capacities. In particular, a student will be able to:
- ascertain the known and unknown aspects of a problem
- describe the fundamental physical principles in the problem
- articulate a pathway toward solving the problem
- successfully follow the path and solve the problem
Students will be able to:
- clearly communicate and defend their work in verbal, written, and visual formats to scientific and non-scientific audiences
This major requires 45 - 47 units:
- AST 280, AST 391, AST 401, AST 401L (10 units)
- AST 390 or AST 392 (3 units)
- (PHY 161 or PHY 171*), (4-5 units)
- (PHY 262 and PHY 262L), or PHY 172* (4-5 units)
- PHY 263, PHY 265, PHY 321, PHY 331, PHY 332, PHY 361 (18 units)
- PHY 333W which meets the junior-level writing requirement.
- PHY 498C which meets the senior capstone requirement.
Additional coursework is required, if, after you have met the previously described requirements, you have not yet completed a total of 120 units of credit.
You may take these remaining courses from any academic areas, using these courses to pursue your specific interests and goals. We encourage you to consult with your advisor to select the courses that will be most advantageous to you. (Please note that you may also use prerequisites or transfer credits as electives if they weren't used to meet major, minor, or liberal studies requirements.)
MAT 136, MAT 137, MAT 238, MAT 239, and PHY 301 are not required for this degree, but are prerequisites for other courses. (You may be able to count these prerequisites toward your liberal studies or general elective credit.)
Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also take. For prerequisite information click on the course or see your advisor.
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