Requirements for the Major in Astronomy/Planetary Sciences

The major in Astronomy leads to the Bachelor of Science degree. Up to three astronomy or physics courses passed with a C- may be applied to the major; all other courses offered for the major must be passed with a letter grade of C or higher.

Completion of the major requires 63 to 66 credits.

A. Required Astronomy Courses:

  1. AST 203 Astronomy, AST 341 Stars and Radiation, AST 346 Galaxies, AST 347 Cosmology
  2. At least six credits from additional AST courses numbered 203 or higher (except AST  248, PHY 277, AST 301, AST 304, AST 389, and AST 475). Up to three credits of AST 287, AST 447, and AST 487 may be used toward this requirement.

B. Required Physics Courses:

  1. PHY 131/PHY 133, PHY 132/PHY 134 Classical Physics I, II and labs (See Note 1)
  2. PHY 251/PHY 252 Modern Physics with Laboratory
  3. PHY 277 Computation for Physics and Astronomy
  4. PHY 300 Waves and Optics
  5. PHY 306 Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory, and Statistical Mechanics
  6. At least 8 credits from a list of advanced physics-related courses (the current list can be found in the Physics and Astronomy Office).

C. Mathematics Requirements:

  1. MAT 131, MAT 132 Calculus I, II (See Note 2 below). If students do not place into MAT 125 or 131 on the basis of the math placement examination, MAT 123 is a required course for the major.
  2. One of the following: MAT 203 Calculus III with Applications MAT 205 Calculus III AMS 261 Applied Calculus III
  3. One of the following: MAT 303 Calculus IV with Applications MAT 305 Calculus IV AMS 361 Applied Calculus IV: Differential Equations

D. Upper-Division Writing Requirement:

All students majoring in Astronomy/ Planetary Sciences must submit two papers (term papers or independent research papers) to the Astronomy coordinator for Department evaluation by the end of the junior year. If this evaluation is satisfactory, the student will have fulfilled the upper- division writing requirement.

Students should consult with the department advisor to ensure that their plan for completing the Upper Division Writing Requirement is consistent with university graduation requirements for General Education.  Students completing the Stony Brook Curriculum (SBC) must complete a course that satisfies the "Write Effectively within One's Discipline" (WRTD) learning objective to graduate.  The Upper Division Writing Requirement is consistent in most cases with the SBC learning outcomes for WRTD.


1. The following physics courses are alternatives to PHY 131/PHY 133 + labs PHY 132/PHY 134 (collectively called the PHY 131-Sequence): PHY 125, 126, 127, with labs PHY 133 and 134 (collectively called the PHY 125-Sequence) or PHY 141/133 and 142/134 (Collectively called the PHY 141-Sequence).
2. The following alternate beginning calculus sequences may be substituted for MAT 131, MAT 132 in major requirements or prerequisites: MAT 125, MAT 126, MAT 127 or MAT 141, MAT 142 or MAT 171. Equivalency for MAT courses achieved by earning the appropriate score on the Mathematics Placement Exam­ination will be accepted as fulfillment of the requirement without the necessity of substituting other credits. For detailed information about the various calculus sequences, see the alphabetical listing for Mathematics, especially "Begin­ning Mathematics Courses," and the course descriptions.

Honors Program in Astronomy/Planetary Sciences

Students in the Astronomy/Planetary Sciences major who have maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.30 through the junior year in courses required for the major may apply to the Department to become candidates for Departmental honors in astronomy/planetary sciences. Candidates for honors in astronomy/planetary sciences must include a sequence of mathematics, physics, or engineering courses approved by the student's advisor following petition by the student.

In addition to the academic program, the student must complete an honors thesis while enrolled in AST 447 or AST 487. The thesis is evaluated by a committee composed of the student's advisor and two other science faculty members including one from outside of the Department. If the honors program is completed with distinction and the student has maintained a minimum 3.30 grade point average in all coursework in natural sciences and mathematics, honors are conferred.

Requirements for the Minor in Astronomy (AST)

All courses offered for the minor must be passed with a letter grade of C or higher. Completion of the minor requires 23 to 24 credits.

  1. AST 203 Astronomy
  2. AST 205 Introduction to Planetary Sciences
  3. Three additional AST courses at the 300 level or higher. No more than one of these may come from AST 301, AST 304, or AST 389.
  4. PHY 131/PHY 133 Classical Physics I or PHY 141/133 Classical Physics I: Honors
  5. MAT 125 Calculus A or MAT 131 Calculus I or MAT 141 Honors Calculus I or MAT 171 Accelerated Single Variable Calculus or AMS 151 Applied Calculus I