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Undergraduate Courses

ASTR 1210: Introduction to the Sky and the Solar System (3 credits)

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ASTR 1210

No prerequisites - This course is an excellent first course in astronomy.

Primarily for non-science majors.

A study of the night sky primarily for non-science majors. Provides a brief history of astronomy through Newton. Topics include the properties of the sun, earth, moon, planets, asteroids, meteors and comets; origin and evolution of the solar system; life in the universe; and recent results from space missions and ground-based telescopes.

This course is offered every fall and spring semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


ASTR 1220: Introduction to the Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe (3 credits)

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ASTR 1220

No prerequisites - This course is an excellent first course in astronomy.

Primarily for non-science majors.

A study of stars, star formation, and evolution primarily for non-science majors. Topics include light, atoms, and modern observing technologies; origin of the chemical elements; supernovae, pulsars, neutron stars, and black holes; structure and evolution of our galaxy; nature of other galaxies; active galaxies and quasars; expanding universe, cosmology, the big bang, and the early universe.

This course is offered every fall and spring semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


ASTR 1230: Introduction to Astronomical Observation (3 credits)

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ASTR 1230

No prerequisites.

Primarily for non-science majors.

An independent laboratory class for non-science majors, meeting at night, in which students learn how to observe the night sky, use a telescope, and take digital images of the sky. Students work individually or in small groups on observational projects that focus on the study of constellations, planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies using binoculars, 8-inch telescopes, and imaging equipment at the department's student observatory.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


ASTR 1250: Alien Worlds (3 credits)

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ASTR 1250

No prerequisites - This course is an excellent first course in astronomy.

Primarily for non-science majors.

Alien worlds orbiting other stars were the subject of speculation going back to ancient times, and were first detected in the 1990s. Today, thousands of extrasolar planets are known and show a remarkable diversity compared to our own solar system. This introductory astronomy course for non-science majors discusses the known exoplanets: how they are discovered, their orbits, physical properties, formation, evolution and fate.

Disciplines: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Science and Society


ASTR 1260: Threats from Outer Space (3 credits)

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ASTR 1260

No prerequisites - This course is an excellent first course in astronomy.

Primarily for non-science majors.

This introductory astronomy course for non-science majors deals with harmful, or potentially harmful, astronomical phenomena such as asteroid/comet impacts, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, solar storms, cosmic rays, black holes, galaxy collisions, and the end of the universe. Physical principles will be used to evaluate the dangers involved.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Science and Society


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ASTR1270

ASTR 1270: Unsolved Mysteries in the Universe (3 credits)

No prerequisites - This course is an excellent first course in astronomy.

Primarily for non-science majors.

The universe is full of deep mysteries that astronomers are far from understanding. This course is designed to help students understand the limitations of our knowledge, and why finding solutions to these mysteries is so difficult. A number of though provoking topics will be covered, including: the beginning and end of the universe, black holes, extraterrestrial life, dark matter, and dark energy. 

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Science and Society


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ASTR 1280

ASTR 1280: The Origins of Almost Everything (3 credits)

No prerequisites - This course is an excellent first course in astronomy.

Primarily for non-science majors.

From ancient Babylon to modern cosmology, nearly every culture on Earth has stories and myths of creation. It is a universal human desire to understand where we came. In this introductory astronomy class for non-science majors, students will explore the origins of the Universe, structure and galaxies, stars, planets and life. The course will use the content to illustrate the nature of science and scientific inquiry.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Science and Society


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ASTR 1290

ASTR 1290: Black Holes (3 credits)

No prerequisites - This course is an excellent first course in astronomy.

Primarily for non-science majors.

Black holes are stellar remnants that are so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape their gravitational pull. Nevertheless, systems that are thought to contain black holes are among the brightest sources in the universe. In this introductory course, aimed primarily at non-science majors, students will learn the key concepts of the theory of relativity, explore the nature of black holes, and study their astrophysical importance. We will also discuss how astronomers' views of black holes evolved from broad skepticism to wide acceptance in the face of mounting observational evidence for their existence.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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ASTR 1610

ASTR 1610: Introduction to Astronomical Research for Potential Astronomy and Astronomy-Physics Majors (1 credit)

Co-requisite: One semester of calculus and one semester of physics.

Intended primarily for first- and second-year prospective and declared Astronomy-Physics and Astronomy Majors.

Astronomy faculty members will describe various research projects. The goal is to acquaint students with both the subject matter and the required physical, mathematical, and computational background of contemporary astronomy research. Potential long-term undergraduate research projects will be emphasized. 

This course is offered every spring semester.


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ASTR 2110

ASTR 2110: Introduction to Astrophysics I (3 credits)

Primarily for science majors. Pre/corequisites: MATH 1210 or MATH 1310 and PHYS 1420 or 1425 or 1710, or permission of instructor.

A thorough discussion of the basic concepts and methods of solar system, stellar, galactic, and extragalactic astronomy with emphasis on physical interpretation. Recent research developments such as black holes, pulsars, quasars, and new solar system observations from the space program.

This course is offered every fall semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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ASTR 2120

ASTR 2120: Introduction to Astrophysics II (3 credits)

Pre/corequisites: MATH 1210 or MATH 1310 and PHYS 1420 or 1425 or 1710, or permission of instructor.

Primarily for science majors.

A thorough discussion of the basic concepts and methods of solar system, stellar, galactic, and extragalactic astronomy with emphasis on physical interpretation. Recent research developments such as black holes, pulsars, quasars, and new solar system observations from the space program.

This course is offered every spring semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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ASTR 3130

ASTR 3130: Observational Astronomy (4 credits)

Prerequisites: Must have completed PHYS 1655 and either the ASTR 2110 and ASTR 2120 sequence or the ASTR 1210 and ASTR 1220 sequence.

Primarily for science majors.

A lecture and laboratory course that deals with basic observational techniques in astronomy.  The laboratory section generally meets at night.  Students use observational facilities at the McCormick and Fan Mountain Observatories.  Additional work outside posted laboratory hours will be required to take advantage of clear skies.

This course is offered every spring semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


ASTR 3150: The Interstellar Medium: From Hydrogen to Humans (3 credits)

Prerequisites: Students must have completed Math 1220 or MATH 1320 or APMA 1110

Intended for both science and non-science majors.

This course provides an overview of the origins of the elements through cosmic history. The course is taught chronologically, starting from the Big Bang and leading up to life as we know it. The course will cover a wide variety of topics, such as the formation of the first stars, galaxies, and the lifecycle of the interstellar medium. We will also study how material is re-incorporated into modern day stars, planets, and eventually life.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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ASTR 3410

ASTR 3410: Archaeo-Astronomy (3 credits)

Pre/co-requisite: A 1000- or 2000-level Astronomy course or permission of instructor.

Intended for both science and non-science majors.

A discussion of prescientific astronomy, including Mayan, Babylonian, and ancient Chinese astronomy and the significance of relics such as Stonehenge. The usefulness of ancient records in the study of current astrophysical problems, such as supernova outbursts, is also discussed. The course uses current literature from several disciplines including astronomy, archaeology, and anthropology.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Cultures and Societies of the World


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ASTR 3420

ASTR 3420: Life Beyond the Earth (3 credits)

Pre/corequisite: A 1000- or 2000-level Astronomy course or permission of instructor.

Intended for both science and non-science majors.

The possibility of the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life; methods and desirability of interstellar communication; prospects for humanity’s colonization of space, interaction of space colonies and the search for other civilizations.

This course is offered every spring semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Living Systems


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ASTR 3450

ASTR 3450: Mission to Mars (3 credits)

No prerequisites.

Intended for both science and non-science majors.

The next great adventure in space flight will be a human mission to Mars. In this course, we will explore how such a mission might take place. Topics will include the basics of spaceflight, spacecraft and rocket design, the history of human space exploration, its legacy and impact on the modern world, the current state of spaceflight, and new technologies that are being developed to make the mission possible.

This course is offered every spring semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Science and Society


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ASTR 3460

ASTR 3460: Development of Modern Astronomy (3 credits)

Open to non-science students; pre/corequisite: A 1000- or 2000-level Astronomy course or permission of instructor.

The 20th Century saw a revolution in our study of the origin and evolution of the universe. It was a dynamic period with the opening of the electromagnetic spectrum and the transition to "Big Science." This course is a survey of the development of modern astrophysics, with an emphasis on the second half of the 20th Century.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Historical Perspectives


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ASTR 3470

ASTR 3470: Science and Controversy in Astronomy (3 credits)

Open to non-science students; pre/corequisite: ASTR 1210 or ASTR 1220 or permission of instructor.

A critical evaluation of controversial topics in science and pseudo-science from the astronomer’s perspective. The methods of science and the nature of scientific evidence with their implications for unresolved astrophysical problems; extraterrestrial life; UFO’s; alien abductions; X-files; astrology, etc.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe & Science and Society


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ASTR 3480

ASTR 3480: Introduction to Cosmology (3 credits)

No prerequisites.

Intended for both science and non-science majors, including astronomy majors.

Intended for STEM majors and non-STEM majors who are comfortable with some non-calculus math. Cosmology explores the origin and evolution of the Universe, including cosmic expansion, mapping the Universe, dark matter and dark energy, the birth and evolution of galaxies, the early universe, and the Big Bang. This course strikes a balance between richly illustrated descriptions and a simplified quantitative exploration of the above topics.

This course is offered every fall semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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ASTR 3880

ASTR 3880: Planetary Astronomy (3 credits)

Prerequisite: Introductory course in geosciences or astronomy.

Primarily for science majors.

The goal of this course is to understand the origins and evolution of bodies in the solar system. The observations of atmospheres and surfaces of planetary bodies by ground-based and orbiting telescopes and by spacecraft will be described. The principal topics will be the interpretation of remote sensing data for atmospheres and surfaces of planetary bodies, the chemistry and dynamics of planetary atmospheres, the interactions of these atmospheres with the surfaces and with the local plasma, and the role of meteorite and comet impacts on surfaces of planetary bodies. Cross-listed as EVSC 4890 Planetary Geology.

This course is offered in the spring of even-numbered years.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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4140

ASTR 4140: Research Methods in Astrophysics (3 credits)

Prerequisites: Must have completed ASTR 2110, ASTR 2120 and PHYS 2660.

Primarily for science majors.

Primarily for astronomy/astrophysics majors. Students will be exposed to a research methods-intensive set of mini projects,with emphasis on current active areas of astrophysics research. The goal is to prepare students for research in astrophysics. Topics will include databases and database manipulation, astronomical surveys, statistics, space observatories and observation planning, intro to numerical simulations, and proposal writing.

This course is offered every spring semester.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


ASTR 4460: Physics of Compact Stars (3 credits)

Prerequisite: Students must have completed MATH 3250 and MATH 4220 and PHYS 3210 and PHYS 3650 and PHYS 3340 AND Co-requisite: Students must have completed or be enrolled in PHYS 3310.

Primarily for science majors.

The compact stars - white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes - are the end state of stellar evolution. The conditions in and around these objects are extreme as compared to terrestrial standards, and they are responsible for some of the most powerful and dynamic phenomena in the universe. This course introduces the physics of strong gravity and dense matter required to understand compact stars and their observational manifestations.

This course is offered in the fall semester of odd-numbered years.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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ASTR 4470: Computational Astronomy (3 credits)

Prerequisite: Students must have completed MATH 3250 and either PHYS 2660 or PHYS 1655 AND Co-requisite: Students must have completed or be enrolled in MATH 4220.

Primarily for science majors.

Computational methods are widely applied in all areas of astrophysical research, including data analysis, instrumentation, and theory. This course covers advanced computing skills that optimize the scientific return from using increasingly complex code bases and sophisticated code development tools. Using Python, we introduce widely applicable numerical methods while training the students in the use of commonly used code development concepts.

This course is offered in the spring semester of even-numbered years.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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ASTR 4810

ASTR 4810: Astrophysics (3 credits)

Prerequisites: ASTR 2110, 2120 (recommended); MATH 5210, 5220; PHYS 3210, 3310 (concurrent), 3430 (concurrent), 3650; or instructor permission.

Basic concepts in mechanics, statistical physics, atomic and nuclear structure, and radiative transfer are developed and applied to selected fundamental problems in the areas of stellar structure, stellar atmospheres, the interstellar medium and extragalactic astrophysics. 

This course is offered in the fall semester of even-numbered years.

Discipline: Chemical, Mathematical, and Physical Universe


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ASTR 4993

ASTR 4993: Tutorial (3 credits)

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

A study of a topic of special interest to the student under individual supervision by a faculty member. May be repeated once for credit.


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ASTR 4998

ASTR 4998: Senior Thesis (3 credits)

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

May be repeated once for credit.