B.S. in Astronomy


Program Description

B.S. in Astronomy

Astronomers seek answers to some of the biggest and oldest questions in science: How did the Universe begin? How will it end? What is in the Universe? How do stars, planets, galaxies and black holes form? How do they end? Addressing these questions incorporates physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, computer science, optics and instrumentation, and even history and philosophy are companion fields. The U.H. Hilo academic astronomy program leverages the astronomy infrastructure of Mauna Kea and the University Park of Science and Technology to provide students with knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics, and training in modern methods of observational astronomy.

The B.S. degree program provides the skills necessary for students seeking careers in astronomy, as professional research astronomers, observatory technical staff members, or work in related fields that include planetary geosciences, teaching, and outreach.


The U.H. Hilo astronomy program aims to (a) develop the scientific knowledge and analytic skills of students, whether they be majors or not, through a focus on the field of astronomy; and (b) instill an appreciation of science, particularly astronomy, in students. The program provides the students with transferable skills so they can excel in a wide range of STEM-related fields. Through the study of astronomy, graduates will also learn to appreciate and understand science more broadly, enabling them to be more informed citizens. The B.S. degree program, taking advantage of our access to Mauna Kea Observatories, provides the training needed for students seeking careers in astronomy--as professional astronomers, observatory technical staff, and educators. Our program supports the liberal arts mission of the University by providing general education courses in a field of major importance to the State of Hawaiʻi.

Program Learning Outcomes

The B.S. program in astronomy is designed to develop student mastery of:

  • Major fields of modern astronomy: stars, planets, interstellar/intergalactic gas, galaxies, and cosmology;
  • Basics of mechanics, optics, electromagnetism, atomic structure, and modern physics; and
  • Practical applications such as instrumentation, computation, modern observational techniques, and data analysis.

Goals for Student Learning in the Major

Graduates are also expected to:

  • understand the relations between astronomy and other areas of science;
  • solve problems with scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills;
  • communicate complex ideas effectively, both verbally and in writing; and
  • appreciate the impact of astronomy in the state of Hawaiʻi.

We also try to provide every opportunity for the students to conduct original research with faculty or Mauna Kea Observatories staff.

Special Aspects of the Astronomy Program

The Department is housed in the new Sciences and Technology Building, which provides modern offices, classrooms, introductory and advanced undergraduate labs, and faculty research facilities that offer students an ideal working environment.

The Department owns an observatory site on Mauna Kea among some of the largest and most powerful instruments in the world. A planned new telescope will provide students with the opportunity to pursue research-grade projects under the supervision of Department faculty, who have active research projects in several areas of astronomy. In addition, the Observatory Internship program, coordinated with institutions based in the University Park of Science and Technology, offers students a unique opportunity to gain practical or research experience at astronomical observatories atop Mauna Kea prior to obtaining their degree.

The Space Grant Fellowship Program offers competitive fellowships to students of exceptional promise, usually during their senior year. The fellowships provide a full tuition waiver and a small stipend. Space Grant Fellows conduct a proposed research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor and participate in University-wide Space Grant College symposia. Funding for travel to meetings is available from this program.

Affiliated faculty from the University Technology Park and other facilities offer a rich array of supplemental Special Topics courses which expand opportunities for students.

B.S. in Astronomy Requirements

Group 1. General Education Basic, Area, and Integrative Requirements in effect Fall 2011

Students may choose to graduate under the General Education Basic, Area, and Integrative requirements and graduation requirements in force at the time they entered the U.H. System, when they entered U.H. Hilo, or when they graduate, provided there is no break in enrollment.

Students should meet with their academic advisor to ensure that they enroll in courses that will enable them to meet these requirements as well as requirements for the major and for graduation. Some courses may meet both General Education requirements and major requirements.

The new GE basic, core, and integrative requirements and lists of certified courses are posted on the General Education website.

Group 2. Major Requirements

1.Required courses in Astronomy and Physics (48 credits)

  • ASTR 110L General Astronomy Lab (1)
  • ASTR 180 Principles Of Astronomy I (3)
  • ASTR 181 Principles Of Astronomy II (3)
  • ASTR 250-250L Observational Astronomy (3), Observational Astronomy Lab (1)
  • ASTR/PHYS 260-260L Computational Physics & Astronomy (3), Computational Physics & Astronomy Lab (1)
  • ASTR 350 Stellar Astrophysics (3)
  • ASTR 351 Galactic & Extragal Astrophys (3)
  • ASTR 495A-495B Seminar (1), Seminar (1)
  • PHYS 170-170L General Physics I: Mechanics (4), General Physics I Lab (1)
  • PHYS 171-171L General Physics II: Elec & Magnetism (4), General Physics II Lab (1)
  • PHYS 270 General Physics III: Intro Modern Phy (3)
  • PHYS 331 Optics (3)
  • PHYS 341 Thermodynamics (3)
  • And 6 credits in additional PHYS or ASTR at the 300- or 400-level, not including ASTR 400 Observatory Internship (1–6)

2.Required courses in related fields (24 credits)

  • CS 150 Intro To Computer Science I (3)
  • CHEM 161-161L General Chemistry I (3), General Chemistry I Lab (1)
  • MATH 205-206 Calculus I (4), Calculus II (4)
  • MATH 231-232 Calculus III (3), Calculus IV (3)
  • MATH 300 Ordinary Diff Equations (3)

Total Semester Hours Required for the B.S. in Astronomy

120 credits required.


  1. Students must earn at least a 2.0 GPA in courses required for the major.
  2. To earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Astronomy, students must fulfill the requirements for the major and meet all of the University’s other baccalaureate degree requirements.
  3. A 2.0 or better in every required course above in ASTR, PHYS and MATH is required.
  4. A minimum of 30 credits is required at the 300- or 400-level.
  5. Students wishing to make timely progress toward graduation are urged to pay careful attention to all degree requirements.
  6. In addition, when planning a schedule of courses, it is imperative to be aware of course prerequisites and the frequency with which courses are offered. This information is available in the course listings.
  7. To ensure progress toward degree completion, students are urged to meet with an advisor each semester before registering.
Last updated Oct 2019

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About the School

The University of Hawai?i at Hilo is a state university with a private college atmosphere. We offer small class sizes, a low faculty-to-student ratio and opportunities for research and hands-on learni ... Read More

The University of Hawai?i at Hilo is a state university with a private college atmosphere. We offer small class sizes, a low faculty-to-student ratio and opportunities for research and hands-on learning. Read less