BA in Astronomy & Physics

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 within them, the supermassive black holes at the centers of large galaxies, and how the universe got to be the way it is. Astronomy & Physics (A&P) majors gain a broad knowledge of the principles of astronomy and physics, including planets in the solar system, stars and star formation, the nature of the interstellar medium, galaxies and cosmology, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and mathematical methods of physics. A&P students learn to communicate astronomical information effectively to a variety of audiences using a variety of media and methods. They learn to think critically and evaluate, interpret, and solve problems related to astronomy, physics, and general scientific topics. The A&P BA is a pathway to research-oriented careers. It prepares students for either immediate workforce entry or further, graduate-level study in astronomy and related sciences. Students who wish to pursue advanced degrees in astronomy or astrophysics are advised to choose this major.

Learning Outcomes

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


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Astronomy & Physics 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, cocurricular experiences.

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

A total of 19 courses are required for the major, 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 251 Principles of Physics 1 (or CAS PY 211 General Physics)
  • CAS PY 252 Principles of Physics 2 (or CAS PY 212 General Physics)

Required Courses (15)

  • CAS AS 311 Planetary Physics
  • CAS AS 312 Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics
  • CAS AS 441 Observational Astronomy or CAS PY 581 Advanced Laboratory
  • 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)
  • CAS PY 355 Methods of Theoretical Physics
  • CAS PY 405 Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I
  • CAS PY 406 Electromagnetic Fields and Waves II
  • CAS PY 408 Intermediate Mechanics
  • CAS PY 410 Statistical Thermodynamics
  • CAS PY 451 Quantum Physics 1

and at least two courses from the following list:

  • CAS AS 413 Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology
  • CAS AS 414 Solar and Space Physics
  • CAS PY 452 Quantum Physics 2

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

Recommended Courses

Any from the above list of courses, if not taken as a required course, in addition to CAS MA 226, MA 242, PY 371, GE 302, GE 310, CS 111, and CS 112.

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 (or signed) 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 Graduate Literature Seminar (I or II), or the Graduate Research Seminar (I or II). The Astronomy faculty committee will consider the quality of the written thesis, the quality of the presentation, the result of the oral (or signed) 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.