Astronomy, Bachelor of Science

Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science

College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

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.

  • 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 diversity, liberal studies, 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.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

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.

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
Research Optional
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.
Physics Content
Students will have an understanding of the laws of physics in the areas of:

  • classical mechanics
  • electricity and magnetism
  • special relativity
  • waves
  • optics
  • atomic physics
  • nuclear physics
  • thermodynamics
Astronomy Content
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
Laboratory Skills
Students will:
  • 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
Computational Skills
Students will:
  • 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
Problem Solving Skills
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
Communication Skills
Students will be able to:
  • clearly communicate and defend their work in verbal, written, and visual formats to scientific and non-scientific audiences

Major Requirements
General Electives
  • 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 of the academic areas, using these courses to pursue your specific interests and goals. You may also use prerequisites or transfer credits as electives if they weren't used to meet major, minor, or liberal studies requirements.

    We encourage you to consult with your advisor to select the courses that will be most advantageous to you.

Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.