Department of Astronomy

567 Sears Library Building
http://astronomy.case.edu/
Phone: 216.368.3278
Stacy S. McGaugh, Department Chair
dept@astroweb.case.edu

The Department of Astronomy offers two undergraduate degrees, a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts. The BS provides a rigorous sequence of subject-specific courses, while the BA degree provides somewhat more flexibility in the choice of courses. The department also offers a minor in astronomy.

The curriculum emphasizes a broad and substantial education in astronomy, physics, and mathematics. A faculty actively engaged in research provides first-rate instruction and opportunities for undergraduate involvement in research.

A bachelor’s degree in astronomy can prepare students for graduate study in astronomy (about 50% of our graduates take this path), but those who seek employment in other fields can fill the same jobs as physics and computer science majors.

The department offers a graduate program leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in astronomy. Current research provides opportunities in observational and theoretical studies of galaxy formation and evolution, galaxy cluster evolution, astronomical instrumentation, and cosmology.

Facilities

The Department of Astronomy oper­ates the Kitt Peak Station of the Warner and Swasey Observatory near Tucson, Ariz., home of the Burrell Schmidt telescope. This telescope is used for surveys and ultra-deep imaging with a large format CCD. Observatory operations are managed by Dr. Paul Harding and Charles Knox. Dr. Harding also leads departmental efforts in instrumentation for the Observatory.

On the Case Western Reserve campus, a 9.5-inch refractor permanently mounted on the roof of the A. W. Smith Building is available for use by students. The department also houses a research and instruction computer labo­ratory and has access to the university's high-performance computing cluster. 

Department Faculty

Stacy S. McGaugh, PhD
(University of Michigan)
Professor and Chair; director, Warner and Swasey Observatory
Galaxy formation and evolution; low surface brightness galaxies; cosmology; dark matter and gravity

R. Earle Luck, PhD
(University of Texas, Austin)
Worcester R. and Cornelia B. Warner Professor of Astronomy
Stellar and galactic chemical evolution; stellar spectrophotometry

J. Christopher Mihos, PhD
(University of Michigan)
Professor
Galaxy evolution; interacting and merging galaxies; galaxy clusters; computational and observational astronomy

Heather L. Morrison, PhD
(Australian National University)
Professor
Galaxy formation via observational studies of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies; dark matter

Idit Zehavi, PhD
(Racah Institute of Physics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Associate Professor
Cosmology and large-scale structure; structure formation; clustering of galaxies; cosmic flows


Adjunct Faculty

Jeffery R. Kriessler, PhD
(Michigan State University)
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Substructure in galaxy clusters


Secondary Faculty

John Ruhl, PhD
(Princeton University)
Connecticut Professor, Department of Physics
Experimental astrophysics and cosmology

Glenn D. Starkman, PhD
(Stanford University)
Distinguished University Professor, Department of Physics
Theoretical cosmology; particle physics; astrophysics

 

Bachelor of Science in Astronomy

The Bachelor of Science in astronomy requires 122 credit hours, including 20 hours in astronomy, 43 hours in physics, 14 hours in math, and 12 hours in technical electives.

Major courses
ASTR 221Stars and Planets3
ASTR 222Galaxies and Cosmology3
ASTR 306Astronomical Techniques3
ASTR 309Astrophysics Seminar I1
ASTR 310Astrophysics Seminar II1
ASTR 311Stellar Physics3
ASTR 323The Local Universe3
ASTR 328Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe3
Additional required courses
MATH 121Calculus for Science and Engineering I4
MATH 122Calculus for Science and Engineering II4
or MATH 124 Calculus II
MATH 223Calculus for Science and Engineering III3
or MATH 227 Calculus III
MATH 224Elementary Differential Equations3
or MATH 228 Differential Equations
PHYS 121General Physics I - Mechanics4
or PHYS 123 Physics and Frontiers I - Mechanics
PHYS 122General Physics II - Electricity and Magnetism4
or PHYS 124 Physics and Frontiers II - Electricity and Magnetism
PHYS 203Analog and Digital Electronics4
PHYS 204Advanced Instrumentation Laboratory4
PHYS 221Introduction to Modern Physics3
PHYS 250Computational Methods in Physics3
PHYS 310Classical Mechanics3
PHYS 313Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics3
PHYS 324Electricity and Magnetism I3
PHYS 325Electricity and Magnetism II3
PHYS 326Physical Optics3
PHYS 331Introduction to Quantum Mechanics I3
PHYS 332Introduction to Quantum Mechanics II3
Approved technical electives (these can be from the Departments of Astronomy; Chemistry; Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, and Statistics; Physics; or Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences. Check with advisor for complete list.)12
Dark Matter
Introduction to Linear Algebra for Applications
Planetary Materials
Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics
Methods of Mathematical Physics I
Methods of Mathematical Physics II
Total Units89

Six hours of mathematics and natural science (physics) are double counted towards the SAGES breadth requirements, and one required math course is double counted towards the SAGES Quantitative Reasoning requirement.

Sample Plan of Study: Bachelor of Science in Astronomy

First YearUnits
FallSpring
Calculus for Science and Engineering I (MATH 121)4  
General Physics I - Mechanics (PHYS 121)a4  
PHED (2 half semester courses)0  
SAGES First Seminar4  
Social Science I3  
Calculus for Science and Engineering II (MATH 122)
or Calculus II (MATH 124)
  4
General Physics II - Electricity and Magnetism (PHYS 122)  4
PHED (2 half semester courses)  0
Elementary Computer Programming (ENGR 131)  3
Doing Astronomy (ASTR 151)*  1
Arts & Humanities I  3
Year Total: 15 15
 
Second YearUnits
FallSpring
Stars and Planets (ASTR 221)3  
Calculus for Science and Engineering III (MATH 223)
or Calculus III (MATH 227)
3  
Introduction to Modern Physics (PHYS 221)a3  
Analog and Digital Electronics (PHYS 203)4  
SAGES University Seminar3  
Galaxies and Cosmology (ASTR 222)  3
Elementary Differential Equations (MATH 224)
or Differential Equations (MATH 228)
  3
Advanced Instrumentation Laboratory (PHYS 204)  4
Computational Methods in Physics (PHYS 250)  3
Classical Mechanics (PHYS 310)  3
SAGES University Seminar  3
Year Total: 16 19
 
Third YearUnits
FallSpring
Stellar Physics (ASTR 311)b3  
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (PHYS 313)3  
Technical Elective3  
Arts & Humanities II3  
Social Science II3  
Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe (ASTR 328)b  3
Electricity and Magnetism I (PHYS 324)  3
Physical Optics (PHYS 326)  3
Quantitative Reasoning  3
Technical Elective  3
Year Total: 15 15
 
Fourth YearUnits
FallSpring
Astronomical Techniques (ASTR 306)b3  
Astrophysics Seminar I (ASTR 309)1  
Electricity and Magnetism II (PHYS 325)3  
Introduction to Quantum Mechanics I (PHYS 331)3  
Astronomy Capstone Project (ASTR 351)c1 - 3  
Technical Elective3  
The Local Universe (ASTR 323)3  
Astrophysics Seminar II (ASTR 310)  1
Introduction to Quantum Mechanics II (PHYS 332)  3
Astronomy Capstone Project (ASTR 351)c  1 - 3
Social Science II  3
Technical Electived  3
Global and Cultural Diversity  3
Year Total: 17-19 14-16
 
Total Units in Sequence:  126-130
a

Selected students may be invited to take PHYS 123 Physics and Frontiers I - Mechanics, PHYS 124 Physics and Frontiers II - Electricity and Magnetism, in place of PHYS 121 General Physics I - Mechanics, PHYS 122 General Physics II - Electricity and Magnetism.

b

ASTR 306 Astronomical Techniques, ASTR 311 Stellar Physics, ASTR 323 The Local Universe, and ASTR 328 Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe are taught every other year only.

c

A SAGES Capstone Experience is required of all students. The BS does not require the astronomy capstone but only that a capstone be taken. The number of hours shown assumes the astronomy capstone with 1 hour in the senior fall semester and 3 hours in the senior spring semester. If another capstone is taken, the number of hours may be different.

d

 ASTR 333 (offered every other year) is suggested but not required for the major.

*

Suggested, but not required for the major


Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy

The Bachelor of Arts in astronomy requires 120 credit hours, including 17 hours in astronomy, 29 hours in physics, 14 hours in math, 3 hours in computer programming, and 6 hours in technical electives. 

Required 200 Level Courses
Stars and Planets
Galaxies and Cosmology
Required 300 Level Courses
Astrophysics Seminar I
Astrophysics Seminar II
Additional 300 Level Courses—3 of 4 Required
Astronomical Techniques
Stellar Physics
The Local Universe
Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe (Additional required courses)
Additional required courses
MATH 121Calculus for Science and Engineering I4
MATH 122Calculus for Science and Engineering II4
or MATH 124 Calculus II
MATH 223Calculus for Science and Engineering III3
or MATH 227 Calculus III
MATH 224Elementary Differential Equations3
or MATH 228 Differential Equations
PHYS 121General Physics I - Mechanics4
or PHYS 123 Physics and Frontiers I - Mechanics
PHYS 122General Physics II - Electricity and Magnetism4
or PHYS 124 Physics and Frontiers II - Electricity and Magnetism
PHYS 221Introduction to Modern Physics3
PHYS 250Computational Methods in Physics3
PHYS 310Classical Mechanics3
PHYS 313Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics3
PHYS 324Electricity and Magnetism I3
PHYS 326Physical Optics3
PHYS 331Introduction to Quantum Mechanics I3
ENGR 131Elementary Computer Programming3
Approved technical electives (consult advisor for other acceptable classes)12
Dark Matter
Advanced Instrumentation Laboratory
Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics
Electricity and Magnetism II
Introduction to Quantum Mechanics II
Total Units58

Six hours of mathematics and natural science (physics) are double counted towards the SAGES breadth requirements, and one required math course is double counted towards the SAGES Quantitative Reasoning requirement.

Sample Plan of Study: Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy

First YearUnits
FallSpring
Calculus for Science and Engineering I (MATH 121)4  
General Physics I - Mechanics (PHYS 121)4  
SAGES First Seminar4  
PHED (2 half semester courses)0  
Social Science I3  
Calculus for Science and Engineering II (MATH 122)
or Calculus II (MATH 124)
  4
General Physics II - Electricity and Magnetism (PHYS 122)  4
Elementary Computer Programming (ENGR 131)  3
PHED (2 half semester courses)  0
Doing Astronomy (ASTR 151)*  1
Social Science II  3
Year Total: 15 15
 
Second YearUnits
FallSpring
Stars and Planets (ASTR 221)3  
Calculus for Science and Engineering III (MATH 223)
or Calculus III (MATH 227)
3  
Introduction to Modern Physics (PHYS 221)3  
SAGES University Seminar3  
Galaxies and Cosmology (ASTR 222)  3
Elementary Differential Equations (MATH 224)
or Differential Equations (MATH 228)
  3
Computational Methods in Physics (PHYS 250)  3
Classical Mechanics (PHYS 310)  3
SAGES University Seminar  3
Year Total: 12 15
 
Third YearUnits
FallSpring
Stellar Physics (ASTR 311)a3  
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (PHYS 313)3  
Arts & Humanities I3  
Arts & Humanities II3  
Technical Elective3  
Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe (ASTR 328)a  3
Electricity and Magnetism I (PHYS 324)  3
Physical Optics (PHYS 326)  3
Quantitative Reasoning  3
Technical Elective  3
Year Total: 15 15
 
Fourth YearUnits
FallSpring
Astronomical Techniques (ASTR 306)a3  
Astrophysics Seminar I (ASTR 309)1  
Introduction to Quantum Mechanics I (PHYS 331)3  
Astronomy Capstone Project (ASTR 351)b1 - 3  
Global and Cultural Diversity3  
Astrophysics Seminar II (ASTR 310)  1
Astronomy Capstone Project (ASTR 351)  1 - 3
Year Total: 11-13 2-4
 
Total Units in Sequence:  100-104
a

300-level astronomy courses: three of the following four are required: ASTR 306, ASTR 311, ASTR 323, ASTR 328.

b

A SAGES Capstone Experience is required of all students. The BA in astronomy does not require the astronomy capstone but only that a capstone be taken. The number of hours shown assumes the astronomy capstone with 1 hour in the senior fall semester and 3 hours in the senior spring semester. If another capstone is taken, the number of hours may be different.

*

Suggested, but not required for the major.


Minor in Astronomy

The requirements for the minor in astronomy are as follows:

One of the following:4
Introductory Physics I
General Physics I - Mechanics
Physics and Frontiers I - Mechanics
One of the following:4
Introductory Physics II
General Physics II - Electricity and Magnetism
Physics and Frontiers II - Electricity and Magnetism
Both classes:6
Stars and Planets
Galaxies and Cosmology
One of the following:3
Astronomical Techniques
Stellar Physics
The Local Universe
Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe
Total Units17

Graduate Program

The PhD degree in astronomy is granted to those students who have shown an extensive knowledge of advanced astronomy and the ability to do original research. The student is required to pass a general qualifying examination in astronomy, usually taken at the end of the second year. The student must then prepare a dissertation based on the results of independent research. A PhD candidate must also satisfy the general requirements of the School of Graduate Studies.

Full-time graduate students who maintain satisfactory academic performance while pursuing the PhD degree in astronomy normally receive a stipend for teaching and/or research, which includes full tuition and a monthly amount sufficient to cover living expenses.

Courses

ASTR 151. Doing Astronomy. 1 Unit.

This course is intended to introduce students to how astronomy is done. The course will focus on the astronomical research process, the scientific community, and on career paths in astronomy. Course activities will include readings and class discussions focusing on various topics in modern astronomy, including ongoing research activity in the department. This course is largely intended for first- and second-year students considering majoring or minoring in astronomy, or pursuing a career in astronomy. Prereq: First- or second-year academic standing.

ASTR 201. The Sun and its Planets. 3 Units.

An overview of the solar system; the planets and other objects that orbit about the Sun and the Sun itself as the dominant mass and the most important source of energy in the solar system. Concepts and the development of our knowledge will be emphasized. Not available for credit to astronomy majors.

ASTR 202. Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe. 3 Units.

Stellar structure, energy sources, and evolution, including red giants, white dwarfs, supernovae, pulsars, and black holes. Stellar populations in the Milky Way and external galaxies. The universe and its evolution. Not available for credit to astronomy majors.

ASTR 204. Einstein's Universe. 3 Units.

This course is intended to introduce the non-scientist to the concepts of modern cosmology--the structure and evolution of the universe. No mathematical background beyond simple algebra is needed.

ASTR 206. Life in the Universe. 3 Units.

This course is intended to introduce the non-scientist to the field of astrobiology - the interdisciplinary study of, and the search for, extraterrestrial life and the conditions for extraterrestrial life in the Universe. We will explore questions such as: How did life begin on Earth? What conditions are necessary for life to survive? What conditions are required for the long-term habitability of the Earth? Can life exist elsewhere in our Galaxy? Students may receive credit for ASTR 206 or USNA 217 (Astrobiology), but not for both.

ASTR 221. Stars and Planets. 3 Units.

Stellar structure and energy production. Formation and evolution of stars. Supernovae, neutron stars, and black holes. Star clusters. Planetary systems and the detection of extrasolar planets. The application of physical laws to the study of the universe. Prereq: MATH 122 or MATH 126.

ASTR 222. Galaxies and Cosmology. 3 Units.

The Milky Way Galaxy. Structure, dynamics, and evolution of galaxies. Galaxy clusters and large scale structure of the Universe. Physical cosmology and the Big Bang. Evolution of the Universe. Prereq: ASTR 221.

ASTR 306. Astronomical Techniques. 3 Units.

This course covers the techniques astronomers use to conduct research, including observations using ground-and space-based telescopes, computer simulations and other numerical methods, and statistical data mining of large on-line astronomical datasets. Offered as ASTR 306 and ASTR 406. Counts as SAGES Departmental Seminar. Prereq: ASTR 222.

ASTR 309. Astrophysics Seminar I. 1 Unit.

Selected topics in astronomy not covered ordinarily in courses. Presentation of talks by the students.

ASTR 310. Astrophysics Seminar II. 1 Unit.

Selected topics in astronomy not covered ordinarily in courses. Presentation of talks by students.

ASTR 311. Stellar Physics. 3 Units.

Radiative transfer, atomic and molecular opacities, and the observable properties of stars. Stellar interiors, nuclear processes, and energy generation. The evolution of stars of varying mass and production of the elements within supernovae explosions. Offered as ASTR 311 and ASTR 411. Prereq: ASTR 222.

ASTR 323. The Local Universe. 3 Units.

The Milky Way Galaxy. Galaxy populations. Quantitative structure and dynamics of galaxies. The interstellar media of galaxies. Dark matter and stellar populations. The Local Group and Virgo cluster. Offered as ASTR 323 and ASTR 423. Prereq: ASTR 222.

ASTR 328. Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe. 3 Units.

Distances to galaxies. The content of the distant universe. Large scale structure and galaxy clusters. Physical cosmology. Structure and galaxy formation and evolution. Testing cosmological models. Offered as ASTR 328, PHYS 328, ASTR 428, and PHYS 428. Prereq: ASTR 222.

ASTR 333. Dark Matter. 3 Units.

This course will systematically explore the evidence for dark matter in the universe. Necessary physical theory and astronomical concepts will be developed as appropriate. Topics to be covered include gravitational dynamics, gravitational lensing, and hydrostatic equilibrium as probes of the gravitational potentials of extragalactic systems. Examples include the rotation curves of spiral galaxies, the Oort discrepancy in the local Galactic disk, the dynamics of pressure supported dwarf and giant elliptical galaxies, and the Local Group timing problem. In clusters of galaxies, the mass discrepancy is illustrated separately by measured velocity dispersions, the hydrostatic equilibrium of the hot intracluster medium, and both strong and weak gravitational lensing. On cosmic scales, the course will address evidence from the gravitating and baryonic mass content of the universe, the growth of large scale structure from the initially smooth cosmic microwave background, and the existence of large voids and large scale bulk flows. The course will describe the various dark matter halo models commonly employed and introduce the techniques of mass modeling. We will examine hypotheses for the nature of dark matter, both baryonic and non-baryonic, and discuss strategies for experimental detection of plausible dark matter candidates. Theories that seek to explain the observed mass discrepancies by means of modifying the Law of Gravity rather than invoking dark matter will be explored. Offered as ASTR 333 and ASTR 433. Prereq: PHYS 310 or requisites not met permission.

ASTR 351. Astronomy Capstone Project. 1 - 3 Units.

A two semester course (1 hour in the Fall Semester and either 2 or 3 hours in the Spring Semester) for students desiring a Capstone Experience in astronomy. Students pursue a project based on experimental, theoretical or teaching research under the supervision of an astronomy faculty member. A departmental Capstone Project Committee must approve all project proposals (by the end of the Fall Semester) and this same committee will receive regular oral and written progress reports. Final results are presented at the end of the semester as a paper in a style suitable for publication in a professional journal as well as an oral report in a public symposium. Counts as SAGES Senior Capstone. Prereq: ASTR 222.

ASTR 369. Undergraduate Research. 1 - 3 Units.

Supervised research on topics of interest. Can be used as a thesis course if desired. Students may register more than once for a maximum of 9 credits overall (1-3 credits each semester).

ASTR 396. Special Topics in Astronomy. 1 - 3 Units.

Open to astronomy majors only.

ASTR 406. Astronomical Techniques. 3 Units.

This course covers the techniques astronomers use to conduct research, including observations using ground-and space-based telescopes, computer simulations and other numerical methods, and statistical data mining of large on-line astronomical datasets. Offered as ASTR 306 and ASTR 406. Counts as SAGES Departmental Seminar.

ASTR 411. Stellar Physics. 3 Units.

Radiative transfer, atomic and molecular opacities, and the observable properties of stars. Stellar interiors, nuclear processes, and energy generation. The evolution of stars of varying mass and production of the elements within supernovae explosions. Offered as ASTR 311 and ASTR 411.

ASTR 423. The Local Universe. 3 Units.

The Milky Way Galaxy. Galaxy populations. Quantitative structure and dynamics of galaxies. The interstellar media of galaxies. Dark matter and stellar populations. The Local Group and Virgo cluster. Offered as ASTR 323 and ASTR 423.

ASTR 428. Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe. 3 Units.

Distances to galaxies. The content of the distant universe. Large scale structure and galaxy clusters. Physical cosmology. Structure and galaxy formation and evolution. Testing cosmological models. Offered as ASTR 328, PHYS 328, ASTR 428, and PHYS 428.

ASTR 433. Dark Matter. 3 Units.

This course will systematically explore the evidence for dark matter in the universe. Necessary physical theory and astronomical concepts will be developed as appropriate. Topics to be covered include gravitational dynamics, gravitational lensing, and hydrostatic equilibrium as probes of the gravitational potentials of extragalactic systems. Examples include the rotation curves of spiral galaxies, the Oort discrepancy in the local Galactic disk, the dynamics of pressure supported dwarf and giant elliptical galaxies, and the Local Group timing problem. In clusters of galaxies, the mass discrepancy is illustrated separately by measured velocity dispersions, the hydrostatic equilibrium of the hot intracluster medium, and both strong and weak gravitational lensing. On cosmic scales, the course will address evidence from the gravitating and baryonic mass content of the universe, the growth of large scale structure from the initially smooth cosmic microwave background, and the existence of large voids and large scale bulk flows. The course will describe the various dark matter halo models commonly employed and introduce the techniques of mass modeling. We will examine hypotheses for the nature of dark matter, both baryonic and non-baryonic, and discuss strategies for experimental detection of plausible dark matter candidates. Theories that seek to explain the observed mass discrepancies by means of modifying the Law of Gravity rather than invoking dark matter will be explored. Offered as ASTR 333 and ASTR 433.

ASTR 497. Special Topics in Astronomy. 1 - 3 Units.


ASTR 601. Research. 1 - 18 Units.

Original research under the guidance of the staff.

ASTR 651. Thesis M.S.. 1 - 18 Units.

(Credit as arranged.)

ASTR 701. Dissertation Ph.D.. 1 - 9 Units.

(Credit as arranged.) Prereq: Predoctoral research consent or advanced to Ph.D. candidacy milestone.