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Degree, Minors and Certificates Offered

General Information

Undergraduate Programs

Requirements for Undergraduate Degrees from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences



College of Natural Sciences
2680 Woodlawn Drive
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7087
Fax: (808) 956-7107
Undergraduate Program:
Graduate Program:


*Graduate Faculty

R. McLaren, PhD (IFA Interim Director—infrared astronomy
*K. Meech, PhD (Graduate Chair)—planetary astronomy
*J. Barnes, PhD (Undergraduate Chair)— theoretical astronomy
*C. Baranec, PhD— exoplanets, adaptive optics
A. C. A. Boogert, PhD—astrochemistry
*F. Bresolin, PhD— stellar astronomy
*S. J. Bus, PhD—asteroids
*K. Chambers, PhD— extragalactic astronomy
*M. R. Chun, PhD (Associate Director, IFA Hilo)— adaptive optics
*M. S. Connelley, PhD—instrumentation, star formation
*A. S. Cowie, PhD— interstellar matter
*L. L. Cowie, PhD— extragalactic astronomy
*H. Ebeling, PhD—galaxy clusters
*R. R. Gal, PhD—extragalactic astronomy, outreach coordinator
*S. R. Habbal, PhD— solar and heliospheric physics
*N. Haghighipour, PhD—extrasolar planets
*D. N. B. Hall, PhD— infrared astronomy
*K. Hodapp, PhD— infrared astronomy
*E. M. Hu, PhD— extragalactic astronomy
*D. Huber, PhD—stellar astronomy
*R. Jedicke, PhD— asteroids
*J. R. Kuhn, PhD— solar astrophysics
*H. Lin, PhD— solar physics
*M. Liu, PhD— stellar astronomy
*E. Magnier, PhD—star formation, large-scale surveys
*R. H. Mendez, PhD— stellar astronomy
N. Raja, PhD—computer support
*J. Rayner, PhD—star formation, instrumentation
*B. Reipurth, PhD — star formation
*D. B. Sanders, PhD— infrared and millimeter astronomy
*N. Schorghofer, PhD—planetary science
B. Shappee, PhD—extragalactic astronomy
*I. Szapudi, PhD— cosmology
X. Sun, PhD—solar physics
*D. Tholen, PhD— planetary science
*J. Tonry, PhD— extragalactic astronomy
*R. B. Tully, PhD— galaxies and cosmology
J. van Saders, PhD—stellar and substellar astronomy
*R. Wainscoat, PhD— asteroids
*J. P. Williams, PhD— submillimeter astronomy

Emeritus Faculty

A. M. Boesgaard, PhD—stellar spectroscopy
C. Ftaclas, PhD—instrumentation
J. T. Jefferies, DSc—solar physics
R-P. Kudritzki, PhD—stellar astronomy
A. N. Stockton, PhD—extragalactic spectroscopy
A. T. Tokunaga, PhD— infrared astronomy
G. Wynn-Williams, PhD—infrared astronomy

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

G. Hasinger, PhD
A. Howard, PhD
J. Lu, PhD

Degrees Offered: BA (including minor) in astronomy, BS (including minor) in astrophysics, MS in astronomy, PhD in astronomy

The Academic Program

Astronomy (ASTR) is the branch of science that studies the structure and development of the physical universe beyond Earth. It includes the study of planets and other objects of the solar system; the sun and stars and their evolution; the interstellar medium; the nature and dynamics of star clusters, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies; and the study of the nature and history of the universe itself—of the physical cosmos taken in its largest extent in space and time. Astronomy provides humanity with a fundamental understanding of both the universe and our place in it.

The mountains of Hawai‘i are sources of wonder and inspiration. Astronomers worldwide recognize that summit access is an extraordinary privilege, to be shared with others who approach these mountains with respect and reverence. The observatories on Maunakea and Haleakala, collaboratively established by 11 nations, are dedicated to the discovery and international dissemination of astronomical knowledge, and the academic programs offered by the Institute for Astronomy exist to insure that students at UH Manoa have full and equal access to this knowledge. These programs stand on a foundation of basic research in cosmology, galaxies and large-scale structure, stellar formation and evolution, interstellar material, our own and other planetary systems, astrobiology, solar astronomy, and technologies for adaptive optics, infrared detectors, and submillimeter astronomy. In support of its mission of education and research, the Institute for Astronomy operates dedicated facilities on Maunakea and Haleakala and has guaranteed access to all major telescopes on these mountains.

Undergraduate Study

The undergraduate astronomy and astrophysics curricula provide students with a strong background in the application of fundamental physics to astronomical phenomena, as well as practice designing and carrying out projects in observational astronomy. This serves to train students in the core practices of science, applicable to careers in research and in astronomy-related fields. The BA in Astronomy provides a flexible program for students interested in astronomy who also have a wider range of career goals. The BS in Astrophysics is a rigorous program for students who plan to pursue graduate studies in astronomy, astrophysics, or physics and are aiming at a long-term research career.


Academic advising is mandatory for all undergraduate astronomy and astrophysics majors. Contact for assignment to an advisor. Note that in order to complete the program in 4 years, astronomy and astrophysics students must begin the study of calculus in either the first or the second semester of the freshman year.

BA Degree in Astronomy

Requirements (C [not C-] grade minimum)

Students must complete 48 credit hours in ASTR, PHYS, and related courses, including:

  • ASTR 210, 300/300L, 301, 320, 399 (2 credits), 494
  • PHYS 151/151L, 152/152L, 485 (170/170L, 272/272L, 274/274L may be substituted for 151/151L, 152/152L; if so 274 also satisfies one of the non ASTR electives below.)
  • Three courses, including at least 3 credits at 300-level or higher, and 3 credits at 400-level, from ASTR 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 280, 281, 380, 399, 426, 430, 494 (110-150 only count if taken before 210; 399 may be taken for a maximum of 5 credits; 399 or 494 credits taken to fulfill core requirements cannot also be counted towards elective requirements
  • Four courses, including at least 3 upper-division credits, from CHEM 272, ECON 321, EE 160, GG 101 (or 170), any GG course at 200-level or higher worth at least 3 credits, ICS 111, ICS 211, MATH 243, 244, PHYS 274, any MATH or PHYS course at 300-level or higher worth at least 3 credits
  • CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L or 171/171L or 181A/181L
  • MATH 241, 242 (251A, 252A may be substituted for 241, 242. 215, 216 may be substituted for 241, 242 with consent from advisor.)
  • Recommended languages: German, French, or Japanese.

Upon approval of an astronomy program advisor and chair, the elective requirements may be modified to accommodate a special emphasis or interdisciplinary program that is appropriate for a major in astronomy.

For a Bachelor Degree Program Sheet, go to For an easy-to-read summary of the requirements, see

BS Degree in Astrophysics

Requirements (C [not C-] grade minimum)

Students must complete 62 credit hours in ASTR and PHYS courses, including:

  • ASTR 241, 242, 300/300L, 301, 399 (4 credits), 423, 494 (2 credits, 1 per semester)
  • PHYS 170/170L, 272/272L, 274/274L, 310, 311, 350, 450, 480, 485
  • Two courses from ASTR 320, 423, 426, 430
  • Two courses from PHYS 400, 460, 481, 490
  • CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L or 171/171L or 181/181L
  • MATH 241, 242, 243, 244, 311 or 307 (251A, 252A, 253A may be substituted for 241, 242, 243, 244. 215, 216 may be substituted for 241, 242 with consent from advisor.)

Recommended languages: German, French, or Japanese.

Upon approval of an astrophysics program advisor, the elective requirements may be modified to accommodate a special emphasis or interdisciplinary program that is appropriate for a major in astrophysics.

For a Bachelor Degree Program Sheet, go to For an easy-to-read summary of the requirements, see

Minor in Astronomy

The minor in astronomy prepares students with the essential core of theoretical and observational courses of the BA Astronomy degree. This minor can provide an exciting and useful complement to a wide range of bachelor ’s degree programs, including biological sciences, computer science, and other professional degrees that already require introductory physics and calculus.

Students must complete the following courses with grades of C (not C-) or better:

  • ASTR 210
  • ASTR 300, 300L, and 301
  • At least 3 credit hours of additional non-introductory ASTR course(s) at the 200-level or above

Minor in Astrophysics

The minor in astrophysics prepares students with the essential core of theoretical and observational courses of the BS Astrophysics degree. This minor can provide a fulfilling and career-broadening complement to most bachelor’s degree programs in the physical sciences, earth sciences, and engineering that already require calculus-based physics.

Students must complete the following courses with grades of C (not C-) or better:

  • ASTR 241 and 242
  • ASTR 300, 300L, and 301
  • At least 3 credit hours of additional ASTR course(s) at the 300-level or above

Graduate Study

The astronomy graduate program is designed for students who want to obtain a doctorate in astronomy and go on to careers in academia or research institutions. A masters in astronomy is also available. For students entering with a bachelor’s degree, the first two years of study cover the same material required for a MS degree, so most students aiming for the PhD receive a MS degree along the way.

Applicants to the Astronomy Graduate Program typically have a bachelor’s degree in physics, astronomy, or a related field. A strong background in physics is essential for successful astronomy students. We require the GRE General Test, and the subject test in physics.

Applicants who already hold a masters degree from another institution are also eligible for admission and may enter our PhD program on an accelerated track. In addition, these students have the option to be based at any of the Institute for Astronomy branches (Manoa, Maui, or Hilo) immediately upon entering the program. Placement at the IfA-Maui or IfA-Hilo facilities is contingent upon funding for an assistantship and applicants are encouraged to contact potential research advisors during the admissions process.

In selecting applications for entry to the astronomy program, we pay attention to high academic achievement, especially in physics, and to the letters of recommendation. Research experience in any scientific field at the undergraduate level is extremely valuable as preparation for graduate study in astronomy.

Master’s Degree

The program offers both the Plan A (thesis) and Plan B (non-thesis) MS degrees, but almost all students opt for the Plan B program as it dovetails better with the requirements of qualification for PhD candidacy. The only real advantage of the Plan A master’s is that it can be completed within four semesters; it is therefore of interest to those students who want to get a terminal master’s degree in the minimum time.


All MS students must take 30 credits of graduate level astronomy courses unless substitution is approved by the graduate chair. They must include ASTR 633 (Astrophysical Techniques) and at least three credits of ASTR 700-level seminars. Plan A students must complete a thesis in accordance with UH Manoa regulations, while Plan B students must pass the final examination (which is also the PhD qualifying examination) and satisfactorily complete at least one directed research project as judged by the qualifying exam committee.

Doctoral Degree

Besides the course work required for the MS degree, PhD students are expected to undertake two directed research projects during their first two years, and present the results to the faculty both as a written report and an oral presentation. Students must pass the Qualifying Exam Assessment (which also serves as the Plan B MS degree final exam) by the end of their 5th semester in the astronomy graduate program.


Students entering the program with a master’s degree in a related field may advance to PhD candidacy after completing one year of course work with a minimum of 6 credits per semester (3 credits of astronomy graduate-level course work and at least three credits of ASTR 700-level seminars), successful completion of one ASTR 699 research project, and passing the Qualifying Exam Assessment.

All students must pass the comprehensive exam, which takes the form of an in-depth review of the dissertation proposal, and achieve PhD candidacy by the end of their 6th semester in the astronomy graduate program. Finally, students must research, write, and defend a dissertation on a subject approved by their committee.

ASTR Courses