Course Information


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

Courses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 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. Course 1 is a non-mathematical introduction to the Universe. Course 1,  and Course 6 on exploring our Solar System in the space age, satisfy the Scientific Inquiry (SI) gen ed.  Courses 2-5, 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) gen ed.  Course 8 explores the universe with astronomical data and satisfies the Statistical Reasoning (SR) gen ed.

Course 9 provides an introduction to research in astrophysics and physics by pairing undergraduates with graduate student mentors over Winter and Spring quarters to complete projects in small collaborative groups with scientists; this course satisfied the Collaborative Endeavor (PR-E) gen ed.

Courses 12, 13, 15, 16, and 18, emphasize basic physical laws and theories as applied to astronomy.  Taken together, these classes provide a survey of modern astronomy for students with some facility in mathematics. Taken separately, these courses provide an in-depth introduction to particular fields within astronomy. These courses are designed for students intending to major in a scientific subject, although qualified non-science majors may enroll. A good high school background in mathematics and physics is required. These courses satisfy the MF gen ed.

Prior or concurrent enrollment in a basic calculus course (Mathematics 11A or 19A) and a basic physics course (Physics 5A/L or 6A/L) is helpful but not required.

Finally, a more thorough quantitative treatment of selected topics in astronomy and astrophysics at the upper-division level is provided by courses 111, 112, 113, 117, and 118. Completion of coursework in calculus of several variables (Mathematics 22 or 23A-B) and Physics 5B/M or 6B/M and 5D is required for these advanced courses. Course 119 is an introduction to modern scientific computing with a focus on astrophysics problems.


For undergraduate students having a particular interest in the subject, a minor in astronomy and astrophysics is offered. Most students who minor in astronomy and astrophysics are majors in another science, though majors in other fields are also possible.


The UCSC major in astrophysics is administered by the Physics Department and combines a core physics major with advanced electives in astrophysics, an astrophysics laboratory course, and senior thesis work on a topic in astrophysics. It is a rigorous program designed to prepare students for a broad range of technical careers or for entry into graduate or professional programs. A full description of the major can be found in the physics section of this catalog.


Graduate instruction is built upon a two-year cycle of 11 one-quarter courses in astronomy and physics that are required of all students.