Astronomy and Astrophysics

Astronomy Department Office
269 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building
(831) 459-3081

Programs Offered

Astronomy and Astrophysics Ph.D.

Astrophysics Minor

Other Programs of Interest

Physics (Astrophysics) B.S.

Astronomy and astrophysics has the universe as its domain. Galaxies, stars, planets, and an ever-increasing variety of phenomena observed from ground- and space-based observatories are among the objects of study. Areas of special interest at UCSC include cosmology, the formation and evolution of planets, stars, and galaxies, high-energy astrophysics, active galaxies, supernovae and nucleosynthesis, black holes, exoplanets, interstellar medium, intergalactic medium, solar system dynamics, Research areas include observations across a broad range of wavelengths, with a focus on the visible and infrared, the creation of new instruments and telescope technology including adaptive optics, and theory and simulation, using state-of-the-art computing resources. Astronomers use concepts from and contribute to the development of many other scientific disciplines, including optics, mechanics, relativity, atomic and nuclear physics, applied mathematics, chemistry, geology, and meteorology. The interdisciplinary nature of astronomy, including its historical and philosophical elements, makes its study valuable to those planning careers in a variety of fields.

The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics offers an undergraduate curriculum focused on a diverse set of general education classes, intended for the broad undergraduate community. The department also offers an astrophysics minor as well as additional upper-division classes focusing on computational methods and in astrophysics.

The graduate program is intended for those with a deep interest in the subject. Students are trained in the latest techniques in computation, data analysis, and instrumentation, which have wide utility in academia and industry. The interests of the faculty embrace a wide range of theoretical, observational, and instrumentation aspects of astronomy. Current research and course offerings include our stellar structure and evolution, solar system and other planetary systems, stellar spectroscopy, the interstellar medium, galactic structure, cosmology, general relativity, gravitational radiation, the origin of the elements, optical and infrared astronomy, high-energy astrophysics, and advanced astronomical instrumentation.

Graduate students have access to state-of-the-art instrument development and data reduction technology, the UCO/Lick Observatory computer network, and an on-campus supercomputer dedicated to astrophysical computation. Graduate students may conduct supervised research using selected telescopic facilities of the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, 55 miles from Santa Cruz. The 10-meter Keck Telescope in Hawaii, the world’s largest, is administered from the UCSC campus and is used for frontier research by UC astronomers.

Undergraduate Program

Courses for non-majors

Instruction in astronomy for undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz is designed to meet the needs of several groups of students.

ASTR 1, ASTR 2, ASTR 3, ASTR 4, ASTR 5, ASTR 6, ASTR 7, and ASTR 8 provide a general survey of the universe as now understood from historical and modern observations, and are offered for those not specializing in a scientific discipline. ASTR 1 is a non-mathematical introduction to the universe. ASTR 1 and ASTR 6 on exploring our solar system in the space age, satisfy the scientific inquiry (SI) general education (GE) requirement. ASTR 2 through ASTR 5 and ASTR 7 provide an introduction, with the use of basic mathematics, to a diverse array of modern astronomy, covering planets, stars, the formation of the universe, and black holes, and satisfy the mathematical and formal reasons (MF) general education requirement. ASTR 8 explores the universe with astronomical data and satisfies the statistical reasoning (SR) GE.