Major in Astrophysics

Astrophysics Major Requirements

The Astrophysics Major, leading to a Bachelor of Science degree, provides a thorough introduction to the subject. It is suitable for those with an interest in astronomy who aspire to a career in astronomy research, science education, science journalism, technical development, and other professional areas. Prospective majors should This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the Department of Physics and Astronomy before choosing their courses.

In the astrophysics major, at least 15 credits of physics or astrophysics courses at the 300-level or higher that are applied towards the major must be completed at Rutgers New Brunswick.

Required courses and suggested curricula for honors students and other well-prepared students:

  • First year: 01:750:271-272, 275-276; 01:640:151-152.
  • Second year: 01:750:273, 381-382, 351; 01:750:341, 342; 01:640:251, 244.
  • Third year: 01:750:361, 385-386; 345, 346; and 01:640:423 or 421.
  • Fourth year: At least two courses out of 01:750:441, 442, 443, 444.

An alternate curriculum is available for students who did not begin with the Honors Physics sequence:

  • First year: 01:750:123-124; 01:640:151-152.
  • Second year: 01:750:227-228, 229-230, 381-382; 01:640:251, 244.
  • Third year: 01:750:361, 385-386, 351; 01:750:341, 342.
  • Fourth year: 01:640:423 or 421; 345, 346; and at least two courses out of 01:750:441, 442, 443, 444.

Note that effective Fall 2020, the astro labs 343, 344 have been replaced by 345, 346.

Students who took 01:750:203-204 (or 201-202) as their introductory physics sequence should consult a departmental adviser to plan an appropriate curriculum for the astrophysics major.

Course Descriptions

Descriptions of the ASTROPHYSICS courses required for the major are given below. For a description of the PHYSICS courses that are required for the Astrophysics Major, see

Some of the courses listed below have home pages on the Web. Links to these pages can be found at

01:750:341,342. PRINCIPLES OF ASTROPHYSICS (3,3)

Prerequisites: Two terms of introductory physics and two terms of calculus. 

Properties and processes of the solar system, the stars, and the galaxies; origin of the elements; evolution of the stars and the universe; neutron stars and black holes.



Lec. 1.5 hrs., lab. 1.5 hrs. Prerequisites: 01:750:341,342 or permission of instructor. Lab schedule will vary through the semester. 

Introduction to computational astrophysics, including key algorithms, their implementation in code, and their application to current research in astrophysics.  Extended projects feature analysis of real data and simulations.



Lec. 1.5 hrs., lab. 1.5 hrs. Prerequisites: 01:750:341,342 or permission of instructor. Introduction to the tools and techniques of observational astronomy across the electromagnetic spectrum, and to their application in the context of current research in astrophysics.  Extended projects offer each student an opportunity to work with astronomical data from at least two wavelength regimes (among radio, optical/infrared, and X-ray), and in the two core modes of astronomical observations (imaging and spectroscopy).



Prerequisites: 01:750:342 or (351 and 361). 

Observed properties of stars. Internal structure of stars, energy generation and transport, neutrinos, solar oscillations. Evolution of isolated and double stars, red giants, white dwarfs, variable stars, supernovae. Challenges presented by formation of stars, importance of magnetic fields. Pre-main sequence stellar evolution.



Prerequisites: 01:750:342 or (361 and 385-386). 

Radiation and scattering processes in plasma. Detection and X- and gamma-rays. Supernovae and remnants, pulsars. Gamma-ray bursts. Accretion disks and binary star outbursts. Quasars and active galactic nuclei. Cosmic rays.



Prerequisites: 01:750:342 or (351 and 361 and 381). 

Properties of galaxies: photometry, kinematics and masses. Disk galaxies: spiral patterns, bars and warps, gas content, star formation rates, chemical evolution. Elliptical galaxies: shapes. Structure of the Milky Way. Nature of dark matter.



Prerequisites: 01:750:341,342 or (351 and 361). 

Expansion of the universe, techniques for distance estimation. Large-scale structure of universe. Cosmological models: open, closed, flat and accelerating universes. Microwave background: observations, properties and origin. Problems of standard cosmology and preliminary concept of inflation.


01:750:497,498. HONORS IN ASTRONOMY (1-4,1-4)

Prerequisite: Invitation of chairperson. 

Supervised independent research or reading in astronomy, culminating in a seminar conducted by the student.