College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2022-2023
Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science
Astronomy, Bachelor of Science
The Astronomy BS degree places students at the frontier of society’s quest to answer the big questions: What’s in space? How did our Universe form? How is life supported on Planet Earth? Studying these fundamental questions of astronomy and planetary science requires a multidisciplinary approach and the use of advanced technologies and equipment, including telescopes (on Earth or in space), robotic missions, and sophisticated laboratory instrumentation. Skills in math, physics, chemistry, and geology are also essential to provide us with our current understanding of the Cosmos and how we came to be within it.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor of Science in Astronomy?
Many different career trajectories are available to astronomers with a baccalaureate degree. Secondary schools hire astronomy graduates as teachers in physics or earth sciences. Astronomers work in planetariums, science museums, or in science journalism to bring the results of professional astronomy to the public. Technical support positions at national observatories, laboratories, and federal agencies are also available to Astronomy BS graduates. At NAU, you’ll gain a competitive edge with proximity to world-class Lowell Observatory , the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center, the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, NAU’s twenty-inch research-class telescope, all operating in the world’s first International Dark Sky City.
Business or private industry jobs are also available to astronomers with skills in image processing, instrumentation, remote sensing, spectroscopy, and computational programming. With additional study at the PhD level, students gain entry to an exciting world of research in astronomy and planetary science. Positions are available at government laboratories, universities, and colleges. NAU Astronomy graduates have been placed in positions at premier observatories, academic, and research institutions throughout the world.
Career opportunities that might be pursued:
- Science educator or public outreach coordinator
- Telescope operator at national observatories
- Research assistant at government laboratories
- Scientific programmer
- Industry researcher
With further education, one of these paths is possible:
- Research astronomer at government laboratories
- Space mission science team member
- Professor at a university or college
- Research scientist or engineer at a large observatory
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 77 - 87 units:
Take the following 77-80 units:
- AST 103, AST 180, AST 181L, AST 280, AST 390, AST 391, AST 392, AST 401, AST 401L (23 units)
- (AST 183 and AST 184L) or (AST 190 and AST 190L) (4 units)
- AST 333W or PHY 333W which meets the junior-level writing requirement (3 units)
- AST 496C which meets the capstone requirement (3 units)
- MAT 136, MAT 137, MAT 238, MAT 239 (15 units)
- PHY 161 or PHY 171* (4-5 units)
- (PHY 262 and PHY 262L), or PHY 172* (4-5 units)
- PHY 263, PHY 321, PHY 361 (9 units)
- *PHY 171 and PHY 172 are recommended in consultation with your advisor.
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.)
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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