Astronomy Major

Graduates from this program have a range of career options which includes technical support personnel at international observatories and astronomy educators or outreach experts at science centres and planetaria. In addition the diverse background of skills in Physics and Astronomy acquired during the program can also be applied to a wide variety of careers outside astronomy.

The general faculty wide regulations for the Astronomy Major program are the same as described for the Physics Major program. One difference between the programs is that Astronomy Majors take the Honours Physics course PHYS 403 and 408, whereas Physics Majors do not require PHYS 403 or 408. This makes it somewhat easier to switch to an Honours program either in Physics or Astronomy. Astronomy majors who complete the Majors program and wish to pursue postgraduate studies in Astronomy or Physics may be required to complete a fifth year of undergraduate courses to satisfy the entrance requirements for MSc/Ph.D. programs. The Science I program as well as the regular first year science stream are excellent entry points for this program. A coop option is also available. Students intending to continue in any physics or astronomy specialization should be competent in MATH and PHYS. It is advisable that a student entering any specialization in physics or astronomy have a minimum average of 60% in first-year PHYS and 60% in first-year MATH.

Below is a short description of the Astronomy Major's program. Please be aware that the official program requirements are to be found in the UBC calendar. For more details consult the relevant calendar section. For information on first year registration please go to first year guide.

Year 1 - Terms 1 and 2 Description Credits
PHYS 106, 108, 119 (or 117,118,119 or Science I) + 129 is recommended1, 2, 3 Enriched Physics I, Enriched Physics II and Enriched Experimental Physics 7
CHEM 121 (111)3, 4 Structural Chemistry 4
MATH 100, 101 (or 102, 103 or 104, 105 or 120, 121)3 Differential and Integral Calculus 6
Communication Requirement5   6
Electives3, 6, 7   7
Total Credits Year 1   30

1Advanced Credit or Placement in Physics are both excellent preparation but they are NOT a substitute for these first year Physics courses, which are prerequisites for all second year Physics courses. Students with AP credits should contact the Department for advice.
2Students without Physics 12 must take PHYS 100 prior to PHYS 131, PHYS 106 or PHYS 117. Qualified students are encouraged to take PHYS 106/108/129. PHYS 102 is no longer offered: it has been replaced by PHYS 118 (3 credits) and 119 (1 credit); students should adjust elective credit accordingly. Students that took PHYS 131 (formerly PHYS 101) may enter the specialization but will need to take PHYS 106, 117, or 170 before the required PHYS 216. Students must complete PHYS 119 lab before they can take PHYS 129 Enriched lab. The PHYS 129 Enriched lab is recommended for all PHAS program specializations.
3If an alternate course has a different credit value one should adjust the number of electives credits to compensate. The number of electives in each year is chosen to balance the total number of credits (i.e., make the yearly total equal to 30). However, since the number of available elective credits may not be a multiple of three, students are permitted to move elective credits between years. First-year physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics can be replaced by SCIE 001.
4 Students who do not have B.C. High School Chemistry 12 (or its equivalent) must write the UBC Chemistry Basic Skills Test and may be required to take CHEM 100. Students interested in senior chemistry courses or who are planning to enter a career in teaching should take a second introductory chemistry course as an elective.
5A total of six credits of coursework is required to meet the Communication Requirement. ENGL 112 is recommended. For a full list of acceptable courses see Communication Requirement.
6Students without Biology 11 or 12 must take 3 credits of 100-level Biology.  BIOL 111 or 121 are recommended.
7 Elective credits together with required courses must fulfill the Faculty of Science’s:
a) Foundational Requirement;
b) Laboratory Science Requirement;
c) Science Breadth Requirement;
d) Science and Arts Requirements;
e) Upper-level Requirement;
f) General Degree Requirements.

Year 2 - Term 1 Description Credits
ASTR 200 Frontiers of Astrophysics 3
MATH 2003, 8 Calculus III 3
MATH 221 (or 223) Matrix Algebra 3
PHYS 200 Relativity and Quanta 4
PHYS 219 Intermediate Experimental Physics I 2
PHYS 2109 Introduction to Computational Physics 3
Year 2 - Term 2 Description Credits
ASTR 205 Stars and Stellar Populations 3
MATH 215 Elementary Diff. Eqns. I 3
MATH 3173, 8 Calculus IV 3
PHYS 229 Intermediate Experimental Physics II 1
Electives7   2
Total credits Year 2   30

8Qualified students may take MATH 217 and 2 credits of electives instead of MATH 200 and MATH 317, by requesting permission to register for more than 18 credits in the first term.
9Computing skills at the level of PHYS 210 are required in the specialization.  With written permission of the Undergraduate Advisor, students who already have several CPSC courses may be granted permission to replace PHYS 210 with PHYS 410.


Year 3 - Term 110 Description Credits
ASTR 300 Galaxies 3
PHYS 301 Electricity and Magnetism 3
MATH 316 (or PHYS 312) Elementary Differential Equations II 3
Electives7   6
Year 3 - Term 2 Description Credits
PHYS 203 Thermodynamics 4
PHYS 216 Intermediate Mechanics 3
PHYS 408 Optics 4
Electives7   4
Total Credits Year 3   30

10Consultation with the Astronomy departmental advisor is recommended before entering third and fourth year.

Year 4 - Terms 1 and 2 Description Credits
ASTR 406 or ASTR 407 High-Energy Astrophysics / Planetary Science 3
ASTR 404 Astronomical and Astrophysical Measurements 3
ASTR 405 Astronomical Lab 3
PHYS 304 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 3
PHYS 403 Statistical Mechanics 3
Electives7, 11   15
Total Credits Year 4   30
Total Credits to graduate13   120

11When choosing electices keep in mind the following graduation requirements: You need a total of 30 credits in the faculty of Science numbered 300 or above. You need a total of 48 credits in courses numbered 300 or above in any faculty. You need 12 credits (excludng ENGL credits used to satisfy the communication requirement) from the faculty of Arts.