Undergraduate Astronomy at Cornell
Cornell's astronomy faculty, research staff and graduate students are active in diverse areas of modern astronomy ranging from theoretical astrophysics and general relativity to radio and radar astronomy, infrared astronomy and the exploration of the solar system. Cornell operates two local optical observatories, and with the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the 200 inch optical telescope at Mt. Palomar in California. A new telescope - CCAT - will l be a 25 m telescope for submillimeter astronomy located at 5600 m altitude on Cerro Chajnantor in northern Chile.
The department offers a number of courses to satisfy a general interest in astronomy. These courses have few or no prerequisites and are not intended for the training of professional astronomers. Among the introductory courses, several choices are available, depending on background and on the requirements to be fulfilled. The 1100-level courses are designed primarily for non-science majors. The alternative introductory sequence Astronomy 2211-2212 is geared toward sophomore physical science and engineering majors and requires co-registration in beginning calculus. Astronomy 2201 and 2202 are intended for students with an interest in astronomy but no scientific background; they are topical rather than survey-oriented. Astronomy 3332 is designed for physical science and engineering majors as an introduction to astrophysics. Other courses at the 2200 and 3300 levels may appeal to students of various backgrounds and interests, as indicated in the individual course descriptions. Click here to see the complete course descriptions.
Courses numbered above 4400 are intended for students who have had two to three years of college physics and at least two years of college mathematics. Astronomy 4940, Independent Study, permits students to engage in individual research projects under the guidance of a faculty member.
Interested students are encouraged to become members of the undergraduate Cornell Astronomy Club. The club has access to the Fuertes Observatory on campus and conducts regular observing and astrophotography sessions. All students are invited to visit the Space Sciences Building, see the exhibits on display there, and consult a faculty member about career plans or choice of courses.
The Distribution Requirement
All courses in astronomy, except Astro 1109, may be used to fulfill the science distribution requirement in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The purpose of the major in astronomy is to provide in-depth knowledge and education about the nature of the universe. Similar to other disciplines in the sciences, astronomy relies heavily on preparation in physics and mathematics. Consequently, many courses in these fields are included as prerequisites. In preparation for the major, a student would normally elect the introductory physics sequence Physics 1112-2213-2214 or 1116-2217-2218 and the complementary pathway in mathematics; Mathematics 1110-1220-2210-2220 or 1910-1920-2930-2940 (or equivalent). Students anticipating to undertake graduate study in astronomy are urged to elect the honors physics sequence Physics 1116-2217-2218-3318-3327 if possible.
Astronomy 2233 "Topics in Astronomy and Astrophysics" will provide an introduction to current research in astronomy and astrophysics for prospective majors, but is not required of students who elect to major in astronomy after the sophomore year. Students are also urged to acquire computer literacy and to elect Astronomy 3334 "Modern Astrophysical Techniques". Acceptance to the major will first be considered after completion of three semesters of introductory physics and mathematics and in general will require a GPA of 3.20 in physics and mathematics courses.
The Major requirements stress the importance of building a strong preparation in physical science. The following upper level courses are normally required: Physics 3314 or 3318, 3316, 3323 or 3327, 3341 and 4443, A& EP 3210-3220 (or equivalent, e.g. Mathematics 4200 and 4220), Astronomy 4410, 4431 and 4432.
Students interested in planetary studies may substitute one or more appropriate advanced courses upon consent of the major advisor or may pursue an independent major under the program in the Science of Earth Systems. In addition, majors are also encouraged to supplement the above courses with any Astronomy, Physics or other appropriate courses at or above the 300 level. Advanced seniors can enroll in Astronomy graduate courses with the consent of the instructor. Students are also encouraged to work with faculty members on independent study projects under the course Astronomy 4940 or to apply to a variety of programs at Cornell, Arecibo and elsewhere that offer undergraduates summer employment as research assistants. Nearly all undergraduate majors and concentrators become involved in research projects in the upperclass years.
Students whose interest in astronomy is sparked somewhat late in their undergraduate career are encouraged to discuss possible paths with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Astronomy.
Honors: A student may be granted honors in astronomy upon the recommendation of the Astronomy Advisers Committee of the astronomy faculty.
Double majors: A double major in astronomy and another subject is possible in many circumstances. However, the set of courses used to fulfill the requirements for each major must be completely independent.
Concentration: The concentration in astronomy for other majors normally requires 12 credits, at least 8 of which must be at the 3300 level or above. Astronomy 2233 is recommended for sophomores planning to concentrate in astronomy.
Typical Undergraduate Courses for the Astronomy
Math 1110 or 1910* : Calculus I
Math 1120 or 1920* : Calculus II
Math 2210 or 2940* : Linear Algebra and Calculus III
Math 2220 or 2930* : Calculus IV
A& EP 3210 or Math 4200: Applied Math I
A& EP 3220 or Math 4220: Applied Math II
Phys 1112 or 1116#: Mechanics and Heat
Phys 2213 or 2217#: Electricity and Magnetism
Phys 2214 or 2218#: Optics, Waves and Particles
Phys 3316: Modern Phys I
Phys 3314 or P3318#: Classical Mechanics
Phys 3323 or P3327#: Intermediate/Advanced E&M
Phys 3341: Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics
Phys 4443: Quantum Mechanics
Astro 2233: Topics in Astrophysics
Astro 3310: Planetary Imaging Processing
Astro 3334: Modern Astrophysical Techniques
Astro 4410: Experimental Astronomy
Astro 4431: Intro. Astrophysics & Space Sciences I
Astro 4432: Intro. Astrophysics & Space Sciences II
Astro 4434: Evolution of the Planets
Astro 4940: Independent Study in Astronomy
Phys 3317: Modern Physics II
Phys 3360: Electronic Circuits
Phys 4444: Nuclear and High Energy Particle Physics
Phys 4454: Intro Solid--State Physics
Phys 4480: Computational Physics
EAS 3010: Evolution of the Earth System
EAS 3050: Climate Dynamics
EAS 3420: Atmospheric Dynamics
* engineering math sequence
# honors sequence. Students are encouraged to elect these courses.
+ Courses of particular interest to some students.
Graduate courses are also open to qualified undergraduates.
To contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Gordon Stacey, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org