Programs by Campus


College of Arts and Sciences

Departmental E-mail: astdept [at] indiana [dot] edu

Departmental URL: 

(Please note that when conferring University Graduate School degrees, minors, certificates, and sub-plans, The University Graduate School’s staff use those requirements contained only in The University Graduate School Bulletin.)



Degrees Offered

Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. The department also participates in the Ph.D. program in astrophysics.

Research Facilities

Members of the Department of Astronomy use the WIYN (Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-National Optical Astronomy Observa­tories) 3.5m and 0.9m telescopes at Kitt Peak National Obser­vatory near Tucson, Arizona, to carry out research in optical astronomy. The advanced-technology 3.5m telescope delivers superb image quality over a wide field and is also optimized for multiobject spectroscopy, including a high-spectral-resolution mode and high-spatial-resolution imaging. Indiana University holds a 17 percent share of the WIYN facility. The High-Energy Astrophysics Group carries out research with underground, spacecraft, and balloon-borne detectors that are developed within the depart­ment. Several instrument development labs and machine shops support the optical and high-energy research programs.

Research in the Department of Astronomy is supported by ex­cellent computational facilities. Students, faculty, and research staff have fast desktop machines with 1-Gbps network con­nectivity within the department and to the outside world. The department maintains several multi-Terabyte file servers and a number of high-performance computer platforms for simula­tions and data analysis. Indiana University operates BigRed, one of the fastest university-owned supercomputers in the world, as well as SMP clusters called Quarry and Libra. These com­putational research capabilities are supported by two massive data processing and storage systems: the Data Capacitor, which is a fast file system that can manipulate up to 0.5 Petabytes of data simultaneously, and the Massive Data Storage Service, which can permanently archive more than 4 Petabytes of data.

Special Departmental Requirements

(See also general University Graduate School requirements.)

Admission Requirements

Good preparation for graduate work in astronomy or astro­physics requires the same training in physics and mathematics needed for a bachelor’s degree in physics, plus a familiarity with the subject matter of introductory astronomy or astrophysics courses, such as A221-A222 or A451-452. An undergraduate major in astronomy, astrophysics, physics, or mathematics that has provided such a background is usually required for admis­sion. Any necessary undergraduate courses to strengthen students’ backgrounds will not receive graduate credit.

All graduate applicants must submit Graduate Record Examina­tion scores on both the General Test and the Subject Test in physics. Scores should be sent directly to the department, not to the University Graduate School.

Master of Arts Degree

Course Requirements

A minimum of 30 credit hours, including any three astronomy graduate core courses (see below).


A thesis may be required, at the discretion of the department. Students for whom the thesis requirement is waived must still complete a project that demonstrates research proficiency.

Final Examination

An oral examination must be passed covering general astrono­my at the A451-452 level, the core courses applied toward the degree, and the thesis research.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Course Requirements

A total of 90 credit hours. Students are required to take six of the following core courses: A505, A520, A 530, A540, A550, A570, A575, and A580. Normally, these courses are offered at the rate of three courses per year, and they may be taken in any sequence. The remainder of the graduate program consists of elective courses, seminars on advanced topics, research, and dissertation.


Grades below B (3.0) in core courses may be counted toward degree requirements only at the discretion of the department.

Qualifying Examination

In order to be advanced to candidacy, a student must pass a written examination covering the core course material plus general astronomy at the A451-452 level. The examination may be taken no more than twice. The examination is usually offered once a year in late May/early June. In its current form, it consists of one five-hour exam covering the material in the core courses and general astronomy knowledge at the undergradu­ate level.

Candidacy Seminar

The candidacy seminar is an oral presentation to the research committee, usually consisting of a thesis proposal and/or a summary of past research activity. It must be completed within a year of passing the written qualifying examination (typically by the start of the fourth year of residence).

Final Examination

Oral defense of the dissertation.

Ph.D. Minor in Astronomy

Students from other departments who wish to minor in astron­omy must complete at least 9 credit hours of graduate courses in astronomy at the 500 level with an average GPA of B (3.0) or higher. The student should discuss proposed course work for the minor with an advisor from the Department of Astronomy, usually the Director of Graduate Studies. One astronomy course at the 400 level (listed below) may be substituted for one of the 500 level courses upon approval by the student’s astronomy advisor.

Other Minors

Doctoral candidates in astronomy may also minor in physics or scientific computing. Other minors may be permitted at the discretion of the department.

Academic Bulletins

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