Major Requirements for Astronomy

Students who wish to major in Astronomy are required to complete the following coursework: (Astronomy Major Checklist).

Required Courses in Mathematics and Physics

  • Mathematics 111: Introduction to the Calculus
  • Mathematics 121: Intermediate Calculus
  • Physics 123: The Newtonian Synthesis: Dynamics of Particles and Systems, Waves (or Physics 116)
  • Physics 124: The Maxwellian Synthesis: Dynamics of Charges and Fields, Optics (or Physics 117)
  • Physics 225: Modern Physics

Required Astronomy Courses

  • Astronomy 200: Introduction to Data Science 
  • Astronomy 235 (FC28): Introductory Astrophysics (Formerly ASTR 228)
  • Astronomy 352 (FC52): Advanced Astrophysics
  • Astronomy/Physics 255: Physics & Astronomy in Sociocultural Context, or CHEM 250 Being Human in STEM* 

Elective Courses 

  • At least one additional elective course in Astronomy to satisfy a depth requirement in the major.
  • At least one additional elective, which must be at the 300 level of higher, e.g., a 300-level Astronomy course, one selected from the handbook's list, or one approved by the department. 

Students who have placed out of calculus or introductory physics are excused from taking those courses. Astronomy majors may place out of up to two courses without having to replace those courses. Students placing out of more than two courses must replace all but two of those courses with additional Astronomy courses numbered 200 or higher, approved Physics courses numbered 200 or higher, or other courses approved by the Department to complete the major. 

The Comprehensive Evaluation for the Astronomy major will consist of an oral presentation of a published scientific paper (selected in consultation with Amherst faculty), and will take place in the second semester of a student’s senior year. 

All students majoring in Astronomy must also attend at least nine public astronomy lectures during the senior year. Students double-majoring in Astronomy and Physics need to attend a total of at least 14 talks. (Colloquium schedule for our department and the Five College Astronomy Department)

Students may count at most one course with a grade of P for fulfilling a major requirement. Any non-elective course required for the Physics major may also be used to satisfy the requirements of another major. (See Departmental Policies.)

* This requirement is waved for members of the class of 2025 and earlier. Students waived from this requirement must take three elective courses. 

Approved Electives 

Astronomy is a data-driven, interdisciplinary science. Any of the following courses may be used to fulfill the elective requirements.

  • Astronomy 220 (FC20): [Topical Courses, e.g., Black Holes, Astrobiology, etc.]
  • Astronomy 223 (FC23): Planetary Science
  • Astronomy 224 (FC24): Stellar Astronomy
  • Astronomy 225 (FC25): Galaxies and Dark Matter
  • Astronomy 226 (FC26): Cosmology
  • Astronomy 301 (FC) : Writing about Astronomy
  • Astronomy 330:  (FC30): [Topical Courses, e.g. Exoplanet Atmospheres, High Energy Astrophysics]
  • Astronomy 335 (FC35) : Astrophysics II: Stellar and Planetary Structure
  • Astronomy 337 (FC37): Observational Techniques I
  • Astronomy 339 (FC39) : Astronomy in a Global Context
  • Astronomy 341 (FC41): Observational Techniques II
  • Astronomy 444 (FC44): Radiative Processes
  • Astronomy 445 (FC45): Astrophysical Dynamics
  • Physics 226: Signals and Noise Laboratory
  • Physics 227: Methods of Theoretical Physics
  • Physics 230: Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics
  • Physics 343: Dynamics
  • Physics 347: Electromagnetic Theory I
  • Physics 348: Quantum Mechanics I
  • Physics 490: [Special Topics]
  • Chemistry 351: Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy
  • Chemistry 361: Physical Chemistry
  • Geology 331: Paleoclimatology
  • Geology 341: Environmental and Solid Earth Geophysics
  • Geology 431: Geochemistry
  • Geology 450: Seminar in Biogeochemistry
  • Mathematics 230: Intermediate Statistics
  • Mathematics 260: Differential Equations
  • Mathematics 272: Linear Algebra with Applications
  • Mathematics 284: Numerical Analysis
  • Mathematics 320: Wavelet and Fourier Analysis
  • Mathematics 335: Time Series Analysis and Applications
  • Math/Stats 360: Probability
  • Mathematics 365: Stochastic Processes
  • Math/Stats 370: Theoretical Statistics
  • Statistics 220: Bayesian Modeling and Inference
  • Statistics 225: Nonparametric Statisitcs
  • Statistics 230: Intermediate Statistics
  • Statistics 240: Multivariate Data Analysis
  • Statistics 495: Advanced Data Analysis
  • Computer Science 201: Data Structures and Algorithms I
  • Computer Science 247: Machine Learning
  • Computer Science 301: Data Structures and Algorithms II

To gain approval for an alternate elective, students must file a petition for the Department to consider. To submit a petition, email the Chair of the Department with relevant information about the course to be considered, for example, a syllabus from a recent semester of the course or a link to the course description.

Declaring your major

Majors are officially declared in Workday. See the advising information page for a how-to guide. You may use the Workday comment box to request a particular faculty member as your major advisor, though advisor assignments involve many considerations such as whether that advisor is going on leaves soon and their current number of advisees. Feel free to contact the department chair with any questions.