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Courses in LSA Astronomy
The Astronomy curriculum is useful to students seeking a general knowledge of astronomy as part of a liberal arts education as well as to those preparing for a professional career in the field. The introductory sequences provide an understanding of the structure and evolution of the universe, introduce basic concepts of science, and acquaint students with scientific methods. These introductory courses (ASTRO 101 and 102; 104; 115; 130; 201) both stimulate and satisfy intellectual curiosity and lay the foundation for advanced work.

Introductory Courses and Courses for Non-Concentrators

Learn about the cosmos from planets and black holes through the expansion of the universe and dark energy. Most introductory courses fall into two broad areas.

One area involves planets, solar systems, and life:

  • ASTRO 101: Introductory Astronomy: The Solar System and the Search for Life Beyond Earth (4 credits); offered every academic term (includes astronomical observing)
  • ASTRO 106: Aliens (1 credit); minicourse
  • ASTRO 115: Introductory Astrobiology: The Search for Life in the Universe (3 credits); not offered every term (more focused than ASTRO 101)

The other broad area involves stars, galaxies, and the Universe, including black holes, dark matter, and dark energy:

  • ASTRO 102: Introductory Astronomy: Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe (4 credits) (includes astronomical observing)
  • ASTRO 104: Alien Skies: A Tour Through the Universe (3 credits); not offered every term (a unique and highly regarded approach)
  • ASTRO 105: The Cosmos Through the Constellations (3 credits); includes Planetarium and Greek mythology
  • ASTRO 127: Naked Eye Astronomy (1 credit); minicourse in Planetarium
  • ASTRO 142: From the Big Bang to the Milky Way (3 credits); offered most terms (more focused than ASTRO 102)
  • ASTRO 201: Introduction to Astrophysics (4 credits); offered Fall and Winter Terms (a small class that looks deeper into astronomical phenomena)
  • ASTRO 205: Exploring the X-ray Universe (3 credits)
  • ASTRO 220: New Discoveries in Astronomy (3 credits); topics course with visiting researchers

In the 4 credit courses, students will use the planetarium, observe the skies, and meet in small sections. We strongly recommend the 4 credit courses.

Astronomy (ASTRO)
ASTRO 101. Introductory Astronomy: The Solar System and the Search for a new Earth
A basic high school math and science background. (4). (NS). (BS). (QR/2). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in ASTRO 115. F, W.

This class explores how data form NASA probes and other telescopes are used to understand the formation of our solar system, explain the features of our planets and their moons, and search, planets outside our own Solar System.

ASTRO 102. Introductory Astronomy: Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe
A basic high school math and science background. (4). (NS). (BS). (QR/2). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those enrolled in or have completed ASTRO 104, ASTRO 142, or ASTRO 201. F, W.

Students discover the nature of stars, black holes, luminous nebulae, supernovae, galaxies, and what is ultimately in store for the universe in this concept-focused course. Explore the roles of light, energy, and gravity in astronomy. There are three weekly lectures, a discussion period, and observational activities.

ASTRO 104. Alien Skies: A Tour Through the Universe
(3). (NS). (BS). (QR/2). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those enrolled in or have completed ASTRO 102, 142, or 201.

"Travel" to different locations in the Universe to view it form different perspectives. The skies, sights, and properties of these destinations serve as springboards to understanding the nature of the Universe and its astounding diversity.

ASTRO 105. The Cosmos Through the Constellations
(3). (NS). (BS). (QR/2). May not be repeated for credit.

Tour the constellations visible this season, and explore topics in both basic and frontier astronomy by examining notable astronomical phenomena associated with these star patterns. This course also relates mythology linked to the origin of the constellations and discusses celestial cartography.

ASTRO 106. Aliens
(1). (NS). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in ASTRO 115.

This mini-course discusses the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life. It focuses on scientific hurdles that lie within our understanding about the number of potential environments suitable for life in the Galaxy, the development of life, its evolution, and the technical challenges of interstellar travel and communication.

ASTRO 107. The Dark Side of the Universe
(1). (NS). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in ASTRO 102, 104, 142, or 201.

We explore the dark components of the universe - those that we cannot directly see with our eyes - including Dark Energy, Dark Matter, and Black Holes. We find out how scientists infer their existence and measure their properties from observations of the visible parts of our Universe.

ASTRO 115. Introductory Astrobiology: The Search for Life in the Universe
Basic high school math and science background. (3). (NS). (BS). (QR/2). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in ASTRO 101.

This course covers one of the most exciting areas of modern astronomy: understanding our own origins and the search for life elsewhere. First, we survey our understanding of life's origin on the Earth. Second, we apply this knowledge by exploring our own solar system and asking what planets or moons could potentially harbor life. Third, we move beyond our star system to outline the search for other planets in the Galaxy, speculate on the existence of life in the Universe, and consider the possibility of start travel sometime in the future.

ASTRO 127. Naked Eye Astronomy
(1). (NS). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in ASTRO 105 or ASTRO 188.

Students learn about the nature of the most common astronomical objects that can be observed by eye, such as the Sun, Moon, planets, stars, comets, and meteors. The motion of these objects in the sky is studied along with their influence of the Earth.

ASTRO 142. From the Big Bang to the Milky Way
(3). (NS). (BS). (QR/2). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in: ASTRO 102, 104, or 201; or PHYSICS 112.

This introductory course follows the evolution of the Universe from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies such as the Milky Way with an emphasis in our current understanding of its formation, evolution, and make-up.

ASTRO 183 / SPACE 103. Introduction to Space Weather
(3). May not be repeated for credit.

"Space Weather" is an emerging discipline of space science that studies the conditions in space that impact society and Earth's technological systems. Space weather is a consequence of the behavior of the sun, the nature of Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere, and our location in the solar system.

ASTRO 201. Introduction to Astrophysics
Calculus and physics at the high school or university level is strongly recommended. (4). (NS). (BS). (QR/1). May not be repeated for credit.

Discover the extraordinary nature of astronomy, e.g. stars, black holes, galaxies, dark matter, and the universe. This course uncovers the astrophysics behind the most important and common astronomical phenomena in our universe. A major topic is stars and their lives, which can end violently through supernova explosions, leaving behind black holes or neutron stars. This is followed by the study of the Milky Way and its content, other galaxies, and how unseen "dark" matter shapes the universe we see today. We conclude with the origin of the universe and the limitations of looking back in time.

ASTRO 206. Black Holes: The Triumph of Gravity
Any one of : PHYSICS 135, 139, 140 or 160. (Prerequisites enforced at registration.) 3 credits of any Astronomy course, with the exception of ASTRO 183 and ASTRO 261. (3). (NS). (BS). (QR/1). May not be repeated for credit.

This class deals with the basic theoretical and observational properties of astrophysical black holes, from stellar-mass objects arising from the death of massive stars, to super-massive black holes lurking at the center of galaxies, including our own Milky Way. Covered topics include: black hole event horizons, accretion power, relativistic jets, black holes in X-ray binary systems, galactic super-massive black holes, Sgr A*, black hole feedback, evaporation and the Hawking effect.

ASTRO 220. New Discoveries in Astronomy
Any one of: PHYSICS 112, ASTRO 101, 102, 104, 105, 115, 142, or 201. (Prerequisites enforced at registration.) (3). (NS). (BS). (QR/2). May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits. Credit granted for a combined total of 6 credits in ASTRO 220 and ASTRO 420.

Discuss the latest discoveries in astronomy with leading scientists from around the nation. In this course, the Astronomy Department's weekly professional visitors will also make simplified in-class presentations on their research. Students will have the opportunity to discuss the techniques, significance, and scientific context with both the visitor and the instructor.

ASTRO 255 / EARTH 255. Earth and Space Sciences for Elementary School Educators
High school mathematics and physics recommended. (3). (NS). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in ASTRO 101 or 115, or EARTH 171(or GEOSCI 171) or AOSS 171 or BIOLOGY 110 or ENSCEN 171 or ENVIRON 110.

This course covers introductory Earth and Space Sciences for undergraduate students specializing in Elementary Education. It covers the discovery of the place of the Earth in the universe and its origin; discusses plate tectonics, volcanoes, and earthquakes; and addresses the major components of the climate system (atmosphere, oceans, and cryosphere).

ASTRO 261 / NAVSCI 301. Navigation
(3). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. F.

The purpose of this course is to educate students in all aspects of marine navigation, from getting a vessel underway from port through open ocean navigation using both celestial and electronic means. The content of the course is divided into three major areas. The first section focuses on piloting, emphasizing the safe navigation of vessels in coastal waters. This section provides an introduction to navigational instruments and aids to navigation. The second section concerns celestial navigation, the ability to determine position through observation of celestial bodies. Students learn how to determine position based on the use of the sextant and various almanacs and mathematical tables. The third section of the course considers electronic navigation.

ASTRO 300 / HISTORY 300. The Beginning and The End: A History of Cosmology
(3). (ID). May not be repeated for credit.

This course discusses the development of modern cosmology, both observational and theoretical, since the late eighteenth century.

ASTRO 301 / HISTORY 301. Discovery of the Universe
(3). (ID). May not be repeated for credit.

This course surveys the ways and means by which men and women have learned about the nature of the stellar and galactic systems from the early modern period to the growth of radio astronomy. Course materials come from writings by scientists as well as modern studies of the history of the physical sciences and the growth of "big" science. This course covers developments in astronomical research in Europe (mostly in theory) and the Americas (mostly in observation).

ASTRO 305. Astronomy in the Community
Consent of instructor required. At least 3 credits in Astronomy. (1 - 3). (BS). (EXPERIENTIAL). May be repeated for a maximum of 9 credits.

In this experiential course, students gain experience in education and public outreach by participating in and organizing activities such as astronomy open houses, telescope viewings, planetarium shows, Astronomy tutoring, and peer coaching. By working with the Astronomy faculty and staff on these activities, students expand their own understanding of astronomy and develop skills in communicating scientific principles and discoveries to the general public.

ASTRO 361. Astronomical Techniques
ASTRO 201 or permission of instructor. (4). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. F.

Topics include astronomical instrumentation, techniques for obtaining observational data, and the reduction and analysis of observations. Emphasis is placed on obtaining and analyzing data in such fields as astronomy, interferometry and spectroscopy.

ASTRO 389. Individual Studies in Astronomy
Consent of instructor required. (1 - 3). (INDEPENDENT). May be repeated for credit.

ASTRO 399. Introduction to Research
Consent of instructor required. (1 - 3). (BS). (INDEPENDENT). May be repeated for credit. Continuing Course. Y grade can be reported at end of the first-term to indicate work in progress. At the end of the second term, the final grade is posted for both term's elections.

ASTRO 401. Exoplanets
MATH 215, 255 or 285, and prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 340 or PHYSICS 360, or graduate standing. (Prerequisites enforced at registration.) MATH 216, 256 or 286 and ASTRO 201. (3). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. W.

"Exoplanets" are planets found outside of our Solar System, orbiting stars other than the Sun. This course gives an overview of exoplanet science: the physics underlying topics within planet discovery and characterization; major and recent scientific results; and how these findings put our Solar System in context with and inform astrobiology.

ASTRO 402. Stellar Astrophysics
MATH 215, 255 or 285, and prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 340 or PHYSICS 360, or graduate standing. (Prerequisites enforced at registration.) MATH 216, 256 or 286 and ASTRO 201. (3). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. F.

Examines the appearance, structure, and evolution of stars. Covers the physical processes that cause stars to have their observed structures; energy generation through nucleosynthesis; the physical laws that lead to the structure of stars; the transfer of radiation through the outer parts of the star; how spectroscopic information informs us as to the composition and motion of stars; and the late stages of stellar evolution and death.

ASTRO 404. Galaxies and the Universe
MATH 215, 255 or 285, and prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 340 or PHYSICS 360, or graduate standing. (Prerequisites enforced at registration.) MATH 216, 256 or 286 and ASTRO 102, 142 or 201. (3). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. W.

Examines the properties of galaxies, large-scale structure in the universe, and cosmological models. The basic aspects of galaxies are explained, orbital theory, spiral arms, the missing mass in galaxies, galaxy evolution, and the starburst phenomenon. The clustering of galaxies, the hot intracluster medium and the dynamical evolution of clusters. Expansion of the universe, the cosmic microwave background, the inflationary universe, Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and the origin and growth of structure in the universe.

ASTRO 405. High Energy Astrophysics
MATH 216, 256 or 286, ASTRO 201, PHYSICS 340 or 360, and prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 390. (3). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. W.

Examines the underlying astrophysics of violent astronomical phenomena that produce energetic particles under exotic circumstances. Covers high-energy radiation processes and basic fluid mechanics. The physics are applied to accretion onto black holes and other compact objects and the astronomical phenomena that result. Includes study of supernovae, the origin of X-ray and Gamma-ray background radiation fields, Gamma-ray bursts, and cosmic rays.

ASTRO 406. Computational Astrophysics
Prior or concurrent enrollment in MATH 216, 256 or 286, prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 235, 240 or 260, and some knowledge of programming. (3). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. F.

Computational Astrophysics develops a practical working knowledge of the most widely used numerical methods in astrophysics. The theory underlying the methods is one important aspect of the course, but theory is put into practice by development and use of numerical routines (some already written) in the computer environment. With an emphasis on astrophysical issues, we first cover some of the most common scientific numerical methods, such as interpolation, curve fitting, root finding, quadrature, numerical integration of differential equations, and matrix solutions to sets of linear equations. Fourier methods are widely used throughout astrophysics, and both the basic theory and the most useful applications are presented. The last major topic is the numerical statistical analysis, with particular emphasis on the peculiarities and pitfalls associated with real astronomical data.

ASTRO 420. New Discoveries in Astronomy for Advanced Students
ASTRO 201, and one of: PHYSICS 140, 160, or 123. (Prerequisites enforced at registration.) (3). (BS). May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits. Credit granted for a combined total of 6 credits in ASTRO 220 and ASTRO 420.

Discuss the latest discoveries in Astronomy with leading scientists from around the nation. In this course, the Astronomy Department's weekly professional visitors make simplified in-class presentations on their research. Students will have the opportunity to discuss the techniques, significance, and scientific context with both the visitor and the faculty instructor. There will be both preparatory and follow-up discussion before and after the visit for students to gain a complete understanding of the context, motivation, methodology, and scientific discoveries associated with each project presented. Students will discuss the presentations in the advanced context of the professional scientific literature.

ASTRO 429. Scientific Writing and Communication in Astronomy
ASTRO 201 or graduate standing. (Prerequisites enforced at registration.) (3). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. W.

The purpose of the course is to train students for some of the communication tasks required of practicing researchers. Students are taught approaches for writing abstracts, papers, proposals, meeting posters, policy documents, as well as oral presentation techniques. This procedure includes analyzing the audience and purpose for the writing, selecting and organizing material, constructing an argument, and preparing and editing the text itself. There is a strong emphasis on practice in both writing and oral communications.

ASTRO 461. Ground-Based Observatories
Consent of department required. ASTRO 201 and ASTRO 361. (3 in the half-term). (BS). May not be repeated for credit. Sp. (Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona).

In this immersion course held in residence at Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona, we discuss the scientific, technical, and political aspects of ground-based research observatories. The course features the MDM Observatory, of which UM is a consortium member. We also take advantage of the many other, nearby astronomical facilities, both on- and off-site, to study the variety of instrumentation and telescope properties. Students use MDM telescopes to carry out small science projects. We also examine observatories in the context of their natural and sociopolitical environment, and their relationship to local communities, with emphasis on education and public outreach.

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