BA in Astronomy

Astronomy encompasses the most interesting physical phenomena in the universe, from the atmospheres of planets, to the discovery and characterization of planets orbiting other stars, the nature of galaxies and the stars in them, the supermassive black holes that reside at the centers of all large galaxies, and how the universe got to be the way it is. Astronomy majors gain exposure to the principles of astronomy, physics, and mathematics. They learn to communicate astronomical information effectively to a variety of audiences using the spoken and written word. They learn to think critically and evaluate, interpret, and solve problems related to astronomy, physics, and general scientific topics. The BA in Astronomy prepares students for entry into the competitive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workplace. Students develop the technical skills and problem-solving experience that gives them the tools to work in the modern, high-tech world.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the principles of astronomy.
  2. Communicate astronomical information effectively, both in writing and verbally, and to a variety of audiences.
  3. Think critically and evaluate, interpret, and solve problems related to astronomical topics as well as other technical and general scientific topics.

Requirements

All students entering as freshmen in Fall 2018 and after will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, a general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements are flexible and can be satisfied in many different ways, through coursework in and beyond the major and, in some cases, through co-curricular activities. Students majoring in Astronomy will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Scientific Inquiry and Quantitative Reasoning, as well as some of the requirements in Communication and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, co-curricular experiences.

Astronomy majors will also satisfy College of Arts & Sciences requirements, described here.

Principal (Required) Courses

A total of 15 courses are required, all completed with a grade of C or higher. Unless otherwise noted, all courses are 4 credit hours.

Prerequisites (4)

  • CAS AS 202 Principles of Astronomy I
  • CAS AS 203 Principles of Astronomy II
  • CAS PY 211 General Physics (or PY 251 Principles of Physics 1)
  • CAS PY 212 General Physics (or PY 252 Principles of Physics 2)

Principal (Required) Courses (11)

  • CAS AS 311 Planetary Physics
  • CAS AS 312 Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics
  • CAS AS 441 Observational Astronomy
  • CAS MA 123 Calculus I
  • CAS MA 124 Calculus II
  • CAS MA 225 Multivariate Calculus
  • CAS PY 313 Waves and Modern Physics (or PY 351 Modern Physics I)
    and at least four courses from the following list:

    • CAS AS 413 Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology
    • CAS AS 414 Solar and Space Physics
    • CAS AS 491 Directed Studies in Astronomy (or AS 492, but not both)
    • CAS PY 355 Methods of Theoretical Physics, PY 405 Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I, PY 408 Intermediate Mechanics, PY 410 Statistical Thermodynamics, or PY 451 Quantum Physics 1

Students who enter the program with a strong background in calculus may substitute CAS MA 127 or MA 129 for the combination of MA 123 and MA 124, in consultation with their academic advisor.

Recommended Courses

Any from the above required list if not taken as a principal course, in addition to CAS MA 226, MA 242, PY 406, PY 452, GE 310, CS 111, and CS 112. Students who plan to enter graduate school to study astronomy should take several of the recommended and alternate principal courses, in consultation with an Astronomy academic advisor.

Honors in the Major

Honors in Astronomy is an opportunity for senior undergraduates in the Department of Astronomy to conduct in-depth research in the field and to be more fully involved in the intellectual life of the department. To graduate with Honors in Astronomy, a student must author a well-written thesis, give a public presentation based on the thesis, and take an oral examination about the thesis with a committee of the Astronomy faculty. In addition, the student must, for at least one semester, regularly attend and participate in one of the following: the Space Physics Seminar Series, the Astrophysics Seminar Series, the Space Physics Journal Club, or the Astrophysics Journal Club. The Astronomy faculty committee will consider the quality of the written thesis, the quality of the presentation, the result of the oral examination, and the participation of the student in the Seminar or Journal Club series to determine whether the student will be awarded Honors in Astronomy. A grade of B+ or better in both semesters of CAS AS 401/402 (“Honors Work in Astronomy”) is also required to receive Honors in Astronomy.