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Undergraduate Students

Astronomy and
Astrophysics Major

The Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO) major in Penn State's Eberly College of Science involves the scientific study of the universe. During your first two years as an ASTRO major, you will obtain a strong foundation in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and chemistry. In the later years, you receive a selection of advanced courses on topics such as astrophysics, observational methods, galaxies and cosmology, high-energy astrophysics, and computational methods. At the start of the third year, you choose one of two options depending on whether you wish to emphasize physics or computer science to complement your advanced Astronomy & Astrophysics courses:

Formal entry into the ASTRO major at the start of the third year requires:

  • A GPA of at least 2.00 in all courses.
  • A grade of C or better in: ASTRO 291, CHEM 110, MATH 140, MATH 141, PHYS 211, and PHYS 212.

In order to graduate, students must:

  • Complete all course requirements for the major.
  • Maintain a cumulative grave point average of 2.00 or better.
  • Achieve a grade of C or better in: ASTRO 291, ASTRO 292, CHEM 110, MATH 140, MATH 141, PHYS 211, PHYS 212, and 12 credits of 400-level ASTRO courses.
  • Complete all other University requirements.

Suggested academic plans for both the Graduate Study option and the Computer Science option.


Program Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of requirements for the Astronomy and Astrophysics major, students will be able to:

  1. Accurately apply mathematical tools to real physical problems.
  2. Use sophisticated and varying techniques in problem solving.
  3. Explain the physical meaning of mathematical expressions and operations used in quantitative problem solving.
  4. Clearly communicate both technical and descriptive content while following the conventions of scientific writing.
  5. Distinguish between scientific theories and other kinds of (non-scientific) explanations.
  6. Collect and analyze real astronomical data.
  7. Give clear oral presentations of technical material.
  8. Write original computer code to accomplish a computational task, such as analyzing data, displaying astronomical images, or performing calculations.