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Undergraduate: Astronomy/Planetary Sciences

  • Program Overview

    Department Information - Astronomy/Planetary Sciences (AST)

    Astronomy is the scientific discipline dedicated to the study of everything in the universe outside the Earth's atmosphere. The undergraduate major leading to the Bachelor of Science degree in astronomy/planetary sciences prepares a student for graduate and professional work. Grad­uates with a degree in astronomy teach in secondary schools, work in academic, government, and industrial laboratories, and teach and conduct research at colleges and universities.

    Course requirements for the B.S. program are listed below and are summarized in the accompanying chart. When the student declares the Astronomy major, the director of undergraduate studies assigns a faculty advisor to the student. This advisor assists the student in the selection of courses. Students should consult frequently with their faculty advisors regarding their progress and regarding appropriate science courses. Because the position of the scientist in society is responsible and complex, the student is cautioned to pay careful attention to general education in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

  • Degrees and Requirements

    Requirements for the Major in Astronomy/Planetary Sciences

    The major in Astronomy leads to the Bachelor of Science degree. Up to three astronomy or physics courses passed with a C- may be applied to the major; all other courses offered for the major must be passed with a letter grade of C or higher.

    Completion of the major requires 63 to 66 credits.

    A. Required Astronomy Courses:

    1. AST 203 Astronomy, and three of these four courses: AST 341 Stars and Radiation, AST 346 Galaxies, AST 347 Cosmology and AST 390 Special Topics in Astrophysics.
    2. At least six credits from additional AST courses numbered 205 or higher (except AST 248AST 301AST 389, and AST 475), including AST 390 and PHY 408. Up to three credits of AST 287AST 447, and AST 487may be used toward this requirement.

    B. Required Physics Courses:

    1. PHY 131/PHY 133, PHY 132/PHY 134 Classical Physics I, II and labs (See Note 1)
    2. PHY 251/PHY 252 Modern Physics with Laboratory
    3. PHY 277 Computation for Physics and Astronomy
    4. PHY 300 Waves and Optics
    5. PHY 306 Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory, and Statistical Mechanics

    C. Eight credits of astronomy-related courses that complement an astronomy major’s education are required. The intent is to add courses, especially in other quantitative sciences, which prepare the student for successful employment in research, education or industry. Any course beyond those required for the astronomy major that is required by the student’s minor, second major or master’s degree (for students in a combined degree program) is automatically included in the list of related courses. Additional related courses are listed under the related courses for the physics major (except the AST courses). Any course at the 300-level or above on this list may be used. In addition any physics course at the 300-level or above not required for the astronomy major may also be used.  

    D. Mathematics Requirements:

    1. MAT 131, MAT 132 Calculus I, II (See Note 2 below). If students do not place into MAT 125 or 131 on the basis of the math placement examination, MAT 123 (or MAT 119/MAT 123) is a required course for the major.
    2. One of the following: MAT 203 Calculus III with Applications or MAT 205 Calculus III or AMS 261 Applied Calculus III or MAT 307 Multivariable Calculus with Linear Algebra
    3. One of the following: MAT 303 Calculus IV with Applications or MAT 305 Calculus IV or AMS 361 Applied Calculus IV: Differential Equations or MAT 308 Differential Equations with Linear Algebra

    E. Upper-Division Writing Requirement:

    Students are certified as satisfying the upper-division writing requirement by registering for the 0-credit AST 459 and completing writing projects within their major.  All students majoring in Astronomy/ Planetary Sciences must submit two papers (term papers or independent research papers) to the Astronomy coordinator for Department evaluation by the end of the junior year. If this evaluation is satisfactory, the student will have fulfilled the upper- division writing requirement.  Papers should be written in the form of a journal article.  All papers must consist of an abstract, introduction, main content, and references.  References should be cited throughout the text.  Any figures should be numbered and have an appropriate caption. If you are using a lab report for the basis of this requirement, you should expand upon the introduction and describe the connection to topical scientific research.

    A typical length should be 10 pages (double spaced, 11-point font) plus references, preferably written in LaTeX.

    Students should consult with the department advisor to ensure that their plan for completing the Upper Division Writing Requirement is consistent with university graduation requirements for General Education.  Students completing the Stony Brook Curriculum (SBC) must complete a course that satisfies the "Write Effectively within One's Discipline" (WRTD) learning objective to graduate.  The Upper Division Writing Requirement is consistent in most cases with the SBC learning outcomes for WRTD.


    1. The following physics courses are alternatives to PHY 131/PHY 133 + labs PHY 132/PHY 134 (collectively called the PHY 131-Sequence): PHY 125, 126, 127, with labs PHY 133 and 134 (collectively called the PHY 125-Sequence) or PHY 141/133 and 142/134 (Collectively called the PHY 141-Sequence).
    2. The following alternate beginning calculus sequences may be substituted for MAT 131, MAT 132 in major requirements or prerequisites: MAT 125  (or MAT 130/MAT 125), MAT 126, MAT 127 or MAT 141, MAT 142 or MAT 171. Equivalency for MAT courses achieved by earning the appropriate score on the Mathematics Placement Exam­ination will be accepted as fulfillment of the requirement without the necessity of substituting other credits. For detailed information about the various calculus sequences, see the alphabetical listing for Mathematics, especially "Begin­ning Mathematics Courses," and the course descriptions.

    Honors Program in Astronomy/Planetary Sciences

    Students in the Astronomy/Planetary Sciences major who have maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.30 through the junior year in courses required for the major may apply to the Department to become candidates for Departmental honors in astronomy/planetary sciences. 

    In addition to the academic program, the student must complete an honors thesis while enrolled in AST 447 or AST 487. The thesis is evaluated by a committee composed of the student's advisor and two other science faculty members including one from outside of the Department. If the honors program is completed with distinction and the student has maintained a minimum 3.30 grade point average in all coursework in natural sciences and mathematics, honors are conferred.

    Requirements for the Minor in Astronomy (AST)

    All courses offered for the minor must be passed with a letter grade of C or higher. Completion of the minor requires 23 to 24 credits.

    1. AST 203 Astronomy
    2. AST 205 Introduction to Planetary Sciences
    3. At least nine additional credits in AST courses at the 300 level or higher. No more than three of these credits may come from AST 301 or AST 389.
    4. PHY 131/PHY 133 Classical Physics I or PHY 141/133 Classical Physics I: Honors
    5. MAT 125 Calculus A (or MAT 130/MAT 125) or MAT 131 Calculus I or MAT 141 Honors Calculus I or MAT 171 Accelerated Single Variable Calculus or AMS 151 Applied Calculus I






  • Sequence

    Sample Course Sequence for the Major in Astronomy/Planetary Sciences

    A course planning guide for this major may be found  hereThe major course planning guides are not part of the official Undergraduate Bulletin, and are only updated periodically for use as an advising tool. The Undergraduate Bulletin supersedes any errors or omissions in the major course planning guides.


    FALL Credits
    First Year Seminar 101 1
    WRT 101 3
    AST 100 1
    PHY 131/PHY 133 or PHY 141/PHY 133 4
    MAT 131 or MAT 141 4
    SBC  3
    Total  16
    SPRING Credits
    First Year Seminar 102 1
    WRT 102 3
    PHY 132/PHY 134 or PHY 142/PHY 134 4
    MAT 132 or MAT 142 4
    SBC  3
    SBC  3
     Total  18

    FALL Credits
    PHY 251/PHY 252 4
    MAT 203 or MAT 307 or AMS 261   3-4
    AST 205  3
    PHY 277  3
    Upper-division SBC  3
     Total  16-17
    SPRING Credits
    PHY 306  3
    MAT 303 or MAT 308 or AMS 361   3-4 
    AST 200 1
    AST 203   4
    Upper-division SBC  3
     Total  14-15

    FALL Credits
    AST 341 or AST 443  3-4
    MAT elective  3
    PHY 301  3
    PHY 303  3
    SBC  3
     Total  15-16
    SPRING Credits
    AST 390 or AST 346  3 
    PHY 308  3
    PHY 300  3
    Upper-division elective  3
    SBC  3
     Total  15

    FALL Credits
    AST 443 or AST 347 3-4
    Upper-division SBC
    SBC 3
     Total 15-16
    SPRING Credits
    AST 346 or AST 390 3
    Upper-division SBC 3
    Upper-division Elective 3
    SBC  3 
    SBC  3
     Total 15 




  • Contact

    Astronomy/Planetary Sciences (AST)

    Major and Minor in Astronomy/Planetary Sciences

    Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Arts and Sciences

    Chair: Axel Drees

    Astronomy Director of Undergraduate Studies: Michael Zingale

    Assistant to the Chair: Nathan Leoce-Schappin

    Assistant to the Director: Diane Diaferia 

    Office: P-110 Graduate Physics

    Phone: (631) 632-8100


    Minors of particular interest to students majoring in Astronomy: Electrical Engineering (ESE), Mathematics (MAT), Optics (OPT)




  • Courses