Admissions

Astronomy

Will the universe expand forever? Is there life on other planets? How are stars formed? If these questions fascinate you, perhaps you should consider majoring in astronomy. Some areas of study in astronomy include the sun, the solar system, the stars, the Milky Way, the galaxies, and cosmology.

SDSU is the only institution in The California State University system that offers a complete academic program in astronomy. Students actively participate in all phases of observational astronomical research.

Joint faculty and student research activities are principally in the area of observational astrophysics. These include ongoing investigations of eclipsing binary stars, black hole binaries, cataclysmic variable stars, gamma-ray burst objects, and novae and supernovae in other galaxies. There are also active research programs on star clusters and stellar collisions within, and extrasolar planets. Much of this work is done at the Mount Laguna Observatory operated by SDSU.

Program Overview

Students who become astronomy majors at SDSU will begin their studies with preparatory course work in physics and astronomy. Required astronomy courses at the upper-division level include classes in advanced astronomy and astrophysics.

SDSU offers two degrees at the bachelor's level with specialization in Astronomy: the B.A. degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the B.S. degrees in Applied Arts and Sciences. These degree plans are similar in their emphasis on astronomy, physics and mathematics. The B.A. degree requires, in addition, competency in one foreign language, while the B.S. degree requires additional course work in astronomy and related disciplines.

Graduate Program - The graduate program, leading to a Master of Science degree, is designed to prepare students for further graduate work leading to the Ph.D. degree or for a professional career in industry or in teaching. The Master’s program in Astronomy is arguably the best in the country with a solid curriculum, active research programs that include students, and dedicated observing and computing facilities.

Special Features

The Mount Laguna Observatory is devoted to research in optical astronomy, the training of observational astronomers at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and to public education. Located 45 miles east of campus, the conditions of 6,100-foot elevation, clear weather, good seeing and dark sky combine to make the Observatory site one of the best in the U.S.

The Observatory has three modern research telescopes. The largest is a 40-inch reflector equipped with a state-of-the-art CCD detector system, automated photometer, and two types of spectrographs. The 24-inch research telescope is equipped with a photometer and CCD camera. The 40- and 24-inch telescopes operate under computer control; all telescopes collect data in electronic format. The 16-inch research telescope is currently being replaced with a new 40-inch ULTRA telescope built upon lightweight carbon composite materials in a joint project with the University of Kanas. ULTRA will employ a dedicated CCD camera, and will be operated remotely via the Internet. A dormitory, shop/service building, and Awona Harrington Visitor Center with a 21-inch telescope complete the observatory complex.

The Observatory is an active participant in the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN), which is a project funded by the National Science Foundation through UCSD. HPWREN allows SDSU astronomers to transmit very large amounts of data in the form of electronic images to the main campus at 45 Mps. This capability is now driving future telescope developments at the Observatory toward robotics and remote operations.

The department has excellent computer facilities on campus, which includes over 40 computers operating either on the Unix, Linux, or Windows operating systems. Students in the introductory Astronomy Laboratory have access to twelve dedicated PCs. There is also a dedicated image processing facility on campus for the analysis of Observatory and space astrophysics data. The on-campus observatory includes three 12- and ten 8-inch telescopes for student use, which includes auxiliary equipment such as a CCD camera and CCD spectrograph. Students, thus, receive excellent training with the most modern equipment.

Project ASTRO is a national program designed by the non-profit Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The first Southern California site is located here in San Diego. Because of its attractiveness to students, astronomy is an excellent vehicle to teach the process of science. Many teachers recognize their students’ interest in astronomy, and want to teach more of it, but they lack the adequate background and training in the subject. Project ASTRO was developed to address these needs by providing partnerships between teachers and astronomy students. This is an opportunity to raise the level of exposure for children in grades 4-9 to one of the most fascinating and accessible areas of science, astronomy. Under the direction of Dr. Ron Angione, SDSU Astronomy professor, and Dr. Philip Blanco, UCSD Astronomer, dedicated volunteers have been working closely with teachers to make this program a success here in San Diego County.

Career Opportunities

Graduates with a bachelor's degree may find positions in observatories, large astronomy departments, and industry. These jobs support continuing research and include telescope operators, instrument makers, opticians, electronics technicians, programmers, and laboratory technicians.

Employment opportunities for astronomers who have advanced degrees include positions in colleges and universities, in national observatories and government laboratories, in planetariums, and in industry and private companies.

To further explore career options in this field, visit the Career Services Web site for more information.

General Catalog

You can view more complete information regarding the Astronomy program in the General Catalog. All students are responsible for reading and knowing the information pertinent to their areas of study available in the General Catalog. It contains requirements for all academic majors, course descriptions, policies, and regulations governing progress at the university. Catalogs are distributed at all New Student Orientation programs. To order a Catalog, call (619) 594-7535.