Department of Astronomy


567 Sears Library Building
http://astronomy.case.edu
Phone: 216-368-3728; Fax: 216-368-5406
J. Christopher Mihos, Chair
E-mail: mihos@case.edu

 

The Department of Astronomy offers two undergraduate degrees, a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts. The primary difference between them is that the B.A. degree allows somewhat more flexibility in choice of courses. The curriculum emphasizes a broad and substantial background in physics and mathematics along with introductory exposure to astronomy. A faculty actively engaged in research provides first-rate instruction and opportunities for undergraduate involvement in research. The department offers minor programs in astronomy for both the B.A. and the B.S.


A bachelor’s degree in astronomy can prepare students for graduate study in astronomy (about 50% of our graduates take this path), but those who seek employment in other fields can fill the same jobs as physics and computer science majors.


The department offers a graduate program leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in astronomy. Current research provides opportunities in observational and theoretical studies of galaxy formation and evolution, galaxy cluster evolution, astronomical instrumentation, and cosmology.


Department Faculty


J. Christopher Mihos, Ph.D.
(University of Michigan)

Professor and Chair; Director of the Warner and Swasey Observatory
Deep imaging of clusters and groups of galaxies; evolution of interacting and merging galaxies; formation and structure of diffuse intracluster starlight


R. Earle Luck, Ph.D.
(University of Texas, Austin)

Worcester R. and Cornelia B. Warner Professor of Astronomy
Stellar and galactic chemical evolution; stellar spectrophotometry


Heather L. Morrison, Ph.D.
(Australian National University)

Professor
Galaxy formation via observational studies of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies; dark matter


Idit Zehavi, Ph.D.
(Racah Institute of Physics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Assistant Professor
Cosmology and the large-scale structure of the universe; galaxy biasing; galaxy formation and evolution; structure formation; clustering of galaxies; cosmic flows.


Secondary Faculty


John Ruhl, Ph.D.
(Princeton University)

Professor of Physics
Experimental astrophysics and cosmology


Glenn D. Starkman, Ph.D.
(Stanford University)

Professor of Physics
Theoretical cosmology; particle physics; astrophysics


Adjunct Faculty


Jeffery R. Kriessler, Ph.D.
(Michigan State University)

Adjunct Assistant Professor
Substructure in galaxy clusters


Undergraduate Programs


Majors


Bachelor of Science


The Bachelor of Science degree in astronomy requires 122 credit hours, including 20 hours in astronomy, 43 hours in physics, 14 hours in math, and 12 hours in technical electives.


Technical electives are additional courses in astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, physics, or geological sciences that satisfy interests of the student and fall within the science/mathematics objectives of the major. For the B.S. degree, the approved technical electives include GEOL 345 (Planetary Materials), MATH 201 (Introduction to Linear Algebra), MATH 345 (Introduction to Applied Mathematics), PHYS 316 (Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics), PHYS 349 (Methods of Mathematical Physics I), and PHYS 350 (Methods of Mathematical Physics II). For a complete list, please consult a department advisor.


Six hours of Mathematics and Natural Science (Physics) are double counted towards SAGES breadth requirement, and one required math course is double counted towards the SAGES Quantitative Reasoning requirement.


The following is a recommended course sequence for the B.S. in astronomy:
(Class-Lab-Credit Hours)


First Year
Fall
MATH 121 Calculus for Science & Engineering I or MATH 123 Calculus I (4-0-4)


PHYS 121 General Physics I – Mechanicsa (4-0-4)

 

PHED 101 Physical Education Activities (0-3-0)


SAGES First Seminar (4-0-4)


Social Science I (3-0-3)


Total 15-3-15


Spring
MATH 122 Calculus for Science & Engineering II or MATH 124 Calculus II (4-0-4)

PHYS 122 General Physics II: Electricity & Magnetisma (4-0-4)

 

PHED 102 Physical Education Activities (0-3-0)


ENGR 131 Elementary Computer Programming (3-0-3)


ASTR 151 Doing Astronomy* (1-0-1)


Arts & Humanities I (3-0-3)


Total 15-3-15


*Suggested but not required for the major


Sophomore Year
Fall
ASTR 221 Stars and Planets (3-0-3)


MATH 223 Calculus for Science & Engineering III or MATH 227 Calculus II (3-0-3)


PHYS 221 General Physics III: Modern Physicsa (3-0-3)


PHYS 203 Laboratory Physics (2-4-4)


SAGES University Seminar (3-0-3)


Total 14-4-19


Spring
ASTR 222 Galaxies and Cosmology (3-0-3)


MATH 224 Elementary Differential Equations or MATH 228 Differential Equations (3-0-3)


PHYS 204 Advanced Instrumentation Lab (1-4-4)


PHYS 250 Mathematical Physics & Computing (3-0-3)


PHYS 310 Classical Mechanics (3-0-3)

 

SAGES University Seminar (3-0-3)

 

Total 16-4-19


Junior Year
Fall
ASTR 311 Stellar Physicsb (3-0-3)


PHYS 313 Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics (3-0-3)


Technical Elective (3-0-3)


Arts & Humanities II (3-0-3)


Social Science I (3-0-3)


Total 15-0-15


Spring
ASTR 328 Cosmology and the Structure of the Universeb (3-0-3)


PHYS 324 Electricity & Magnetism I (3-0-3)


PHYS 326 Physical Optics (3-0-3)


Quantitative Reasoning (3-0-3)


Technical Elective (3-0-3)


Total 15-0-15


Senior Year
Fall
ASTR 306 Astronomical Techniques (SAGES)b (3-0-3)


ASTR 309 Senior Seminar I (1-0-1)


PHYS 325 Electricity & Magnetism II (3-0-3)


PHYS 331 Quantum Mechanics I (3-0-3)


ASTR 351 SAGES Astronomy Capstonec (1-0-1)


Technical Elective (3-0-3)


Global and Cultural Diversity (3-0-3)


Total 17-0-17


Spring
ASTR 310 Senior Seminar II (1-0-1)


ASTR 323 The Local Universeb (3-0-3)


PHYS 332 Quantum Mechanics II (3-0-3)


ASTR 351 SAGES Astronomy Capstonec (3-0-3)


Social Science II (3-0-3)


Technical Elective (3-0-3)


Total 16-0-16

Bachelor of Arts


The Bachelor of Arts in astronomy requires 120 credit hours, including 17 hours in astronomy, 29 hours in physics, 14 hours in math, and 6 hours in technical electives.


The approved technical electives for the B.A. in astronomy include CHEM 107 (Properties and Structure of Matter I), CHEM 108 (Properties and Structure of Matter II), PHYS 204 (Advanced Instrumentation Lab), PHYS 316 (Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics), PHYS 325 (Electricity and Magnetism II), and PHYS 332 (Quantum Mechanics II). For a complete list, please consult a departmental advisor.


Six hours of Mathematics and Natural Science (Physics) are double counted towards SAGES breadth requirement, and one required math course is double counted towards SAGES Quantitative Reasoning requirement.

( Credit Hours)


First Year
Fall
MATH 121 Calculus for Science & Engineering I or MATH 123 Calculus I (4)

PHYS 121 General Physics I: Mechanics (4)


PHED 101 Physical Education Activities (0)


SAGES First Seminar (4)


Social Science I (3)


Total: 15

 

Spring
MATH 122 Calculus for Science & Engineering II or MATH 124 Calculus II (4)

PHYS 122 General Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism (4)


PHED 102 Physical Education Activities (0)


ENGR 131 Elementary Computer Programming (3)


ASTR 151 Doing Astronomy* (1)


Social Science I (3)


Total 15


*Suggested but not required for the major


Sophomore Year

Fall
ASTR 221 Stars and Planets (3)


MATH 223 Calculus for Science & Engineering III or MATH 227 Calculus III (3)

PHYS 221 General Physics III: Modern Physics (3)

 

SAGES University Seminar (3)


Total: 15


Spring
ASTR 222 Galaxies and Cosmology (3)


MATH 224 Elementary Differential Equations or MATH 228 Differential Equations (3)


PHYS 250 Mathematical Physics & Computing (3)


PHYS 310 Classical Mechanics (3)


SAGES University Seminar (3)


Total: 18

 

Junior Year
Fall
ASTR 311 Stellar Physicsa (3)


PHYS 313 Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics (3)


Arts & Humanities I (3)


Arts & Humanities II (3)


Technical Elective (3)


Total: 15

 

Spring
ASTR 328 Cosmology and the Structure of the Universea (3)


PHYS 324 Electricity & Magnetism I (3)


PHYS 326 Contemporary Physical Optics (3)


Quantitative Reasoning (3)


Technical Elective (3)


Total: 15

 

Senior Year
Fall
ASTR 306 SAGES Departmental Seminara (3)


ASTR 309 Seminar I (1)


PHYS 331 Quantum Mechanics I (3)


ASTR 351 SAGES Astronomy Capstoneb (1)


Global and Cultural Diversity (3)


Total: 11

 

Spring
ASTR 310 Senior Seminar II (1)


ASTR 351 SAGES Astronomy Capstoneb (3)


Total: 4

Minor


For all students except physics majors, the requirements for the minor in astronomy are as follows:

Because university rules do not allow hours within the major department to count towards a minor, physics majors wishing to pursue a minor in astronomy must complete a different set of course requirements:

Graduate Program


The Ph.D. degree in astronomy is granted to those students who have shown an extensive knowledge of advanced astronomy and the ability to do original research. The student is required to pass a general qualifying examination in astronomy, usually taken at the end of the student’s second year. The student must then prepare a dissertation based on the results of independent research. A Ph.D. candidate must also satisfy the general requirements of the School of Graduate Studies.


Full-time graduate students who maintain satisfactory academic performance while pursuing the Ph.D. degree in astronomy normally receive a stipend for teaching and/or research, which includes full tuition and a monthly amount sufficient to cover living expenses.


Facilities


The Department of Astronomy operates the Kitt Peak Station of the Warner and Swasey Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, home of the Burrell Schmidt telescope. This telescope is used for surveys and ultra-deep imaging with a large format CCD. The department is also a member of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which operates a 2.5m telescope with multi-object spectrographs and wide field imager at Apache Point, New Mexico. The third incarnation of this survey includes a Baryon Oscillation survey of the large-scale structure of the universe and a spectroscopic survey of the Milky Way galaxy. A 9.5-inch refractor permanently mounted on the roof of the A. W. Smith Building is available for use by students. The department also houses a research and instruction computer laboratory, including the Astronomy high-performance computing cluster.


Course Descriptions


ASTR 151. Doing Astronomy (1)
This course is intended to introduce students to how astronomy is done. The course will focus on the astronomical research process, the scientific community, and on career paths in astronomy. Course activities will include readings and class discussions focusing on various topics in modern astronomy, including ongoing research activity in the department.


ASTR 201. The Sun and its Planets (3)
An overview of the solar system; the planets and other objects that orbit about the Sun and the Sun itself as the dominant mass and the most important source of energy in the solar system. Concepts and the development of our knowledge will be emphasized. Not available for credit to astronomy majors.


ASTR 202. Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe (3)
Stellar structure, energy sources, and evolution, including red giants, white dwarfs, supernovae, pulsars, and black holes. Stellar populations in the Milky Way and external galaxies. The universe and its evolution. Not available for credit to astronomy majors.


ASTR 203. Archaeoastronomy: Calendars, Barrows, and Megaliths (3)
To acquaint the student with the regular cycles of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars. To show how ancient civilizations (and some not so ancient) have used those cycles to formulate calendars which are evidenced primarily by artifacts and ruins scattered over the entire Earth.


ASTR 204. Einstein’s Universe (3)
This course is intended to introduce the non-scientist to the concepts of modern cosmology--the structure and evolution of the universe. No mathematical background beyond simple algebra is needed.


ASTR 221. Stars and Planets (3)
Stellar structure and energy production. Formation and evolution of stars. Supernovae, neutron stars, and black holes. Star clusters. Planetary systems and the detection of extrasolar planets. The application of physical laws to the study of the universe.
Prereq: MATH 122 or MATH 126.


ASTR 222. Galaxies and Cosmology (3)
The Milky Way Galaxy. Structure, dynamics, and evolution of galaxies. Galaxy clusters and large scale structure of the Universe. Physical cosmology and the Big Bang. Evolution of the Universe.
Prereq: ASTR 221.


ASTR 306. Astronomical Techniques (3)
This course covers the techniques astronomers use to conduct research, including observations using ground-and space-based telescopes, computer simulations and other numerical methods, and statistical data mining of large on-line astronomical datasets.
Prereq: ASTR 222.


SAGES Dept Seminar

ASTR 309. Astrophysics Seminar I (3)
Selected topics in astronomy not covered ordinarily in courses. Presentation of talks by the students.
ASTR 310. Astrophysics Seminar II
Selected topics in astronomy not covered ordinarily in courses. Presentation of talks by students.


ASTR 311. Stellar Physics (3)
Radiative transfer, atomic and molecular opacities, and the observable properties of stars. Stellar interiors, nuclear processes, and energy generation. The evolution of stars of varying mass and production of the elements within supernovae explosions.
Offered as ASTR 311 and ASTR 411.
Prereq: ASTR 222.


ASTR 323. The Local Universe (3)
The Milky Way Galaxy. Galaxy populations. Quantitative structure and dynamics of galaxies. The interstellar media of galaxies. Dark matter and stellar populations. The Local Group and Virgo cluster.
Offered as ASTR 323 and ASTR 423.
Prereq: ASTR 222.


ASTR 328. Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe (3)
Distances to galaxies. The content of the distant universe. Large scale structure and galaxy clusters. Physical cosmology. Structure and galaxy formation and evolution. Testing cosmological models.
Offered as ASTR 328, PHYS 328, ASTR 428, and PHYS 428.
Prereq: ASTR 222.


ASTR 351. Astronomy Capstone Project (1–3)
A two semester course (1 hour in the Fall Semester and either 2 or 3 hours in the Spring Semester) for students desiring a Capstone Experience in astronomy. Students pursue a project based on experimental, theoretical or teaching research under the supervision of an astronomy faculty member. A departmental capstone project committee must approve all project proposals (by the end of the Fall Semester) and this same committee will receive regular oral and written progress reports. Final results are presented at the end of the semester as a paper in a style suitable for publication in a professional journal as well as an oral report in a public symposium.
Prereq: ASTR 222.


SAGES Senior Cap
ASTR 369. Undergraduate Research (1–3)

Supervised research on topics of interest. Can be used as a thesis course if desired. Students may register more than once for a maximum of 9 credits overall (1-3 credits each semester).


ASTR 396. Special Topics in Astronomy (1–3)
Open to astronomy majors only.


ASTR 411. Stellar Physics (3)
Radiative transfer, atomic and molecular opacities, and the observable properties of stars. Stellar interiors, nuclear processes, and energy generation. The evolution of stars of varying mass and production of the elements within supernovae explosions.
Offered as ASTR 311 and ASTR 411.


ASTR 423. The Local Universe (3)
The Milky Way Galaxy. Galaxy populations. Quantitative structure and dynamics of galaxies. The interstellar media of galaxies. Dark matter and stellar populations. The Local Group and Virgo cluster.
Offered as ASTR 323 and ASTR 423.


ASTR 428. Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe (3)
Distances to galaxies. The content of the distant universe. Large scale structure and galaxy clusters. Physical cosmology. Structure and galaxy formation and evolution. Testing cosmological models.
Offered as ASTR 328, PHYS 328, ASTR 428, and PHYS 428.


ASTR 497. Special Topics in Astronomy (1–3)


ASTR 601. Research (1–18)

Original research under the guidance of the staff.


ASTR 651. Thesis M.S. (1–18)
(Credit as arranged.)


ASTR 701. Dissertation Ph.D. (1–18)
(Credit as arranged.)
Prereq: Predoctoral research consent or advanced to Ph.D. candidacy milestone