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Astronomy

Administrative Information

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Mary E. Putman, 1318 Pupin; 854-6831; mputman@astro.columbia.edu

Departmental Office: 1328 Pupin; 854-3278

Professors
James Applegate
Arlin Crotts
Zoltan Haiman
Jules P. Halpern
David J. Helfand
Kathryn Johnston
Laura Kay (Barnard)
Jeremiah P. Ostriker
Frederik B. S. Paerels (chair)
Joseph Patterson
Edward A. Spiegel (emeritus)
Jacqueline van Gorkom

Associate Professors
Greg Bryan
Kristen Menou
Mary E. Putman
David Schiminovich

Assistant Professors
Marcel Agueros

Adjunct Professors
Michael Shara (Hayden Planetarium)

Adjunct Associate Professor
Mordecai-Mark MacLow (Hayden Planetarium)
Benjamin Oppenheimer (Hayden Planetarium)
Caleb Scharf

On Leave
Prof. Helfand, Menou (2013-2014)
Prof. Agueros, Schiminovich (Fall 2013)
Prof. Johnston, Ostriker (Spring 2014)

 

 

Astronomy is, at once, the oldest science and one of the most vibrant fields of modern research. Its goal is to construct testable, quantitative, coherent models of the universe (the UNIty of the diVERSE) and its contents-galaxies, stars, and planets. The department offers two majors, both of which require a solid grounding in the mathematics and physics necessary for the pursuit of the discipline.

The astrophysics major is designed as preparation for graduate study and consists of a standard physics major sequence; a yearlong introduction to astrophysics (typically taken in the sophomore year, but open to first-years with adequate preparation in calculus and physics); and two required courses covering advanced topics in astronomy. Research, in the form of summer internships and/or term-time independent projects, which can lead to a senior thesis, is strongly encouraged. For a research thesis, students should enroll in the parallel, two-semester sequence ASTR C3997-C3998, preferably in their senior year. Students begin the research project in the fall and completes the written thesis in the spring. ASTR C3997 and ASTR C3998 cannot be repeated for credit.

The astronomy major provides a basis for further study in the field, but is also designed to be compatible with liberal arts students who pursue other careers and those wishing to combine astronomy with related sciences other than physics, such as chemistry or geology. It requires only two physics courses beyond the introductory sequence and can be completed easily if begun in the sophomore year.

The department offers numerous introductory astronomy courses at the 1000-level courses that do not have prerequisites. The calculus-based ASTR C2001-C2002 Introduction to astrophysics I and II sequence is recommended for astronomy majors and concentrators and is required for astrophysics majors. ASTR C3601 General relativity, black holes, and cosmology, ASTR C3602 Physical cosmology, and ASTR C3646 Observational astronomy are usually offered in alternate years. Other 3000-level courses are taught in various semesters. ASTR C3996 Current research in astrophysics is a one-point course offered in the fall, designed to introduce majors to research methods and topics. It requires students to attend the department colloquia and a seminar designed to help students understand the colloquium topic. The 3000-level courses need not be taken in any particular order.