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Stanford University Astronomy

Universities / February 18, 2017

The University does not offer a separate undergraduate major in Astronomy. Students who intend to pursue graduate study in astronomy or space science are encouraged to major in physics, following the advanced sequence if possible, or in electrical engineering if the student has a strongly developed interest in radioscience. The course descriptions for these basic studies are listed under the appropriate department sections of this bulletin. Students desiring guidance in developing an astronomy-oriented course of study should contact the chair of the Astronomy Program Committee. The following courses are suitable for undergraduates and are recommended to students considering advanced study in astronomy or astrophysics:

Course List Units Introduction to Observational Astrophysics 4 Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics 3 Introduction to Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics 3 Planetary Systems: Dynamics and Origins 3-4 General Relativity 3

Stanford Student Observatory

The student observatory, located in the hills to the west of the campus, is equipped with a 24-inch and other small reflecting telescopes. It is used for instruction of the observation-oriented courses, Observational Astronomy Laboratory and Introduction to Observational Astrophysics.

The Department of Physics offers a minor in Physics with a concentration in Astronomy.

Minor in Physics with Concentration in Astronomy

Students wishing to pursue advanced work in astrophysical sciences should major in Physics and concentrate in astrophysics. However, students outside of Physics with a general interest in astronomy may organize their studies by completing one of the following Physics minor concentration programs.

Students who take the 20, 40, or 60 series at Stanford in support of their major may count those units towards the minor.

An undergraduate Physics minor with a concentration in Astronomy requires the following courses:


For students whose majors do not require the PHYSICS 40 or 60 series:


For students whose majors require the PHYSICS 40 or 60 series:

Students are also encouraged to take the electricity and magnetism/optics lab of the appropriate PHYSICS series, , or for 1 additional unit.

Graduate Programs in Astronomy

Graduate programs in astronomy and astrophysics and related topics are carried out primarily in the Department of Physics but also the departments of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering. Students should consult the course listings, degree requirements, and research programs of these departments for more detailed information.

Each year a number of "special topics" course are offered. Refer to courses in the PHYSICS 360 range for more details. Students interested in research programs in space physics involving spacecraft studies of the planets, their satellites, and their near-space environments should see the "Center for Space Science and Astrophysics" section of this bulletin.

Emeriti: (Professors) Von R. Eshleman, Peter A. Sturrock, G. Leonard Tyler, Robert V. Wagoner

Professors: Tom Abel (Physics, SLAC), Steve Allen (Physics, SLAC), Roger Blandford (Physics, SLAC), Pat Burchat (Physics), Blas Cabrera (Physics), Sarah Church (Physics), Kent Irwin (Physics, SLAC), Steven Kahn (Physics, SLAC), Bruce Macintosh (Physics), Peter Michelson (Physics), Vahé Petrosian (Physics, Applied Physics), Roger W. Romani (Physics)

Associate Professors: Chao-Lin Kuo (Physics, SLAC), Risa Wechsler (Physics, SLAC)

Professor (Research): Philip H. Scherrer (Physics)

Astronomy Cognate Courses

Elementary Lectures

The following courses provide a descriptive knowledge of astronomical objects and astrophysics., , and are for students not majoring in the sciences and are taught in different quarters by different instructors, and may be taken individually or in any order.

Course List Stars and Planets in a Habitable Universe 3 The Origin and Development of the Cosmos 3 Black Holes and Extreme Astrophysics 3


The following courses allow students to use the on-campus Stanford Student Observatory, and are intended to familiarize students with observational methods and analysis of astronomical data. is for general students, while involves more advanced observations and is intended for students with a college level background in physics.

Course List Observational Astronomy Laboratory 3

Advanced Undergraduate

The following courses are for students with a more advanced knowledge of basic physics and mathematics, and form the core courses for a concentration in astrophysics for Physics majors.

Course List