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Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Courses Requiring High School Math Through Geometry

Astronomy 101: The Solar System and the Search for a new Earth

  • Introduces astronomy with an emphasis on discoveries from space exploration.
  • Includes the history of astronomy, orbits, gravitation, optics and the properties of light and matter.
  • Investigates the properties, origin, and evolution of the major planets, asteroids, comets, Sun, and other parts of the solar system.
  • Explores the developing field of astrobiology (origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe), highlighting recent discoveries of planets outside our solar system and the search for life on Mars.
  • Includes planetarium visit and some evening observing with telescopes.

No credit for those who have completed or are enrolled in 115. (4 credits; NS, BS, QR/2*)

Astronomy 102: Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe

  • Discover the nature of stars, black holes, luminous nebulae, supernovae, galaxies, and what is in store for the universe.
  • Explore the roles of light, energy, and gravity in astronomy.
  • Three weekly lectures, a discussion period, a planetarium visit, and some evening observing with telescopes.

No credit for those who have completed or are enrolled in 201 or 220. (4 credits; NS, BS, QR/2)

Astronomy 104: Alien Skies: A Tour Through the Universe

  • “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.

(3 credits; NS, BS, QR/2)

Astronomy 105: The Cosmos Through the Constellation

  • 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 discusses constellation-linked mythology and celestial cartography.
  • Includes lectures and discussion sessions; discussions meet weekly in planetarium.

(3 credits; NS, BS, QR/2)

Astronomy 106: Aliens

  • Explore the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life.
  • Discuss environments in the galaxy potentially suitable for life, the development of life, its evolution, and the technical challenges of interstellar travel and communication.

(1 credit mini-course; NS, BS)

Astronomy 107: The Dark Side of the Universe

  • Explore the dark components of the universe - including Dark Energy, Dark Matter, and Black Holes.
  • Find out how scientists infer their existence and measure their properties from observations of the visible parts of our Universe.

(1 credit; NS, BS) No credit granted to those who have completed or are enrolled in ASTRO 102, 104, 142, or 201.

Astronomy 115: Introductory Astrobiology

  • Covers one of the most exciting areas of modern astronomy: understanding our origins and the search for life elsewhere.
  • Explores life's origin on Earth; which planets or moons in our solar system and galaxy might harbor life; and the possibility of future star travel.

No credit for those who have completed or are enrolled in 101. (3 credits; NS, BS, QR/2)

Astronomy 127: Naked Eye Astronomy

  • Examine common astronomical objects that can be observed by eye, such as the Sun, Moon, planets, stars, comets, and meteors.
  • Explore the motion of these objects and their influence on Earth.
  • Meets two hours/week for half the semester.

No credit for those who have completed or are enrolled in 105. (1 credit mini-course; NS, BS)

Astronomy 142: From the Big Bang to the Milky Way

  • Follows evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to the development of galaxies such as the Milky Way.
  • Examines make-up of the universe (regular matter, dark matter, and dark energy), and how the planets, stars, galaxies, and clusters formed.

No credit for those who have completed or are enrolled in Physics 112. (3 credits; NS, BS, QR/2)

Astronomy 182: Interdisciplinary Topics in Astronomy

  • Introduction to science fiction and how it has encouraged us to imagine possible futures toward which technological innovation might lead.
  • How science and science fiction help to shape our ideas about who we are, the function of our bodies, our relation to the nonhuman, our place to the universe and our engagements with the environment.
  • The extent to which works of science fiction are anchored in real science.
  • How scientists make imaginative leaps in their investigations that seem to mimic the imaginative leaps of science fiction.

(3 Credits; ID)

For Students with More Math and Science Background

Astronomy 183 / AOSS 101: Rocket Science

  • Introduction to space exploration and the science of space.
  • Includes history of space flight, rockets, orbits, the space environment, satellites, remote sensing, and the future human presence in space.

Requires algebra and trigonometry. (3 credits; NS, BS)

Astronomy 201: Introduction to Astrophysics

  • Discover the extraordinary nature of astronomy, including stars, black holes, galaxies, dark matter, and the nature of the universe.
  • Explore the astrophysics behind the most important and common astronomical phenomena.
  • Discuss stars and their lives, which can end violently through supernova explosions, leaving behind black holes or neutron stars.
  • Study the Milky Way and its content, other galaxies, and how unseen “dark” matter shapes our universe.
  • Consider the origin of the universe and the limitations of looking back in time.
  • Course includes a nighttime lab, which will provide practical experience in observational techniques, including the use of telescopes.

Prerequisites: high-school calculus and physics or Math 115 plus prior or current enrollment in Physics 140. (4 credits; NS, BS, QR/1)

Astronomy 204 / Earth 204 / AOSS 204: The Planets – Their Geology and Climates

  • Examines the structure, composition, and evolutionary history of the surfaces and atmospheres of the planets and their satellites.
  • Special emphasis on comparative aspects of geology and climatology.

Prerequisites: high-school math through plane geometry and trigonometry. Those with credit for Earth 113 may only elect Astro 204 for 2 credits. (3 credits; NS)

Astronomy 205: Exploring the X-Ray Universe

  • Since the 1970s X-ray telescopes have revealed a high-energy universe including solar flares, black holes and supernovae, and active galaxies and clusters.
  • Introduces the history, observational techniques, and underlying physics of X-ray emission and propagation.
  • Explores the stellar, galactic, and cosmic sites probed by this radiation.

Prerequisites: Math 115 plus any 100-level Astro or 200-level Physics course. (3 credits; NS, BS, QR/1)

Astronomy 206: Black Holes: The Triumph of Gravity

  •  Black holes are among the most fascinating concepts in Astronomy. The relation between time and space gets warped near these objects, generating some of the strangest phenomena in the universe.
  • This course addresses the most basic questions about the nature of black holes, their formation, observational appearance and ultimate fate.

Prerequisites: PHYSICS 140/141 OR PHYSICS 160/161. (3 credits; NS, BS, QR/1)

Astronomy 210: The Universe Through the Eyes of Magellan

  • U-M is a major partner in the Magellan Observatory, which consists of two 6.5-meter diameter telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory in Northern Chile.
  • Provides a detailed look at this unique and powerful tool for studying the universe and the science being carried out here by U-M researchers.

Prerequisites: Astro 101, 102, 201, or any 300- or 400- level Astro course. (3 credits; NS, QR/2)

Astronomy 220: New Discoveries in Astronomy

  • Presents the latest discoveries in astronomy by leading scientists from around the country.
  • Weekly guest speakers discuss their research in an accessible way. Students have the opportunity to probe the techniques, significance, and scientific context of the research with both the visitor and instructor.

Prerequisites: Any 100-level Astro class or instructor’s permission. May take 220 followed by 420 for up to six credits; no credit for students who have previously completed Astro 420. (3 credits; NS, BS, QR/2)

Astronomy 261 / NAVSCI 301: Navigation

  • Explores marine navigation from launching a vessel through open-ocean navigation using celestial and electronic means.
  • First section focuses on piloting, emphasizing the safe navigation of vessels in coastal waters, including navigational instruments and aids.
  • Second section addresses celestial navigation, the ability to determine position by observing celestial bodies. Students learn to determine position using a sextant, almanacs, and mathematical tables.
  • Third section considers electronic navigation.

(3 credits; BS)

Astronomy 300/HIST 300: The Beginning and The End-A History of Cosmology

  • Addresses the development of modern cosmology, both observational and theoretical, since the late eighteenth century.

(3 credits; ID)

Astronomy 301 / HIST 301: Discovery of the Universe

  • Covers the growth of our knowledge of the history, present structure, and future of the universe as astronomers, physicists, and mathematicians have uncovered it in the last four or five generations.

(3 credits; ID)

Astronomy 305: Astronomy in the Community

  • Experiential course in which students gain experience in education and public outreach by organizing and participating in activities such as astronomy open houses, telescope viewing, planetarium shows, tutoring, and peer coaching.
  • Students work with faculty and staff, while expanding their own understanding of astronomy and learning to communicate scientific principles and discoveries to the public.

Prerequisites: 3 credits of Astro and instructor’s permission. May be repeated for credit. (1-3 credits)

Astronomy 361: Astronomical Techniques

  • Topics include astronomical instrumentation, techniques for obtaining observational data, and data reduction and analysis.
  • Emphasis on astrometry, radio astronomy, interferometry and spectroscopy.
  • Two lectures and two hours of lab or observing weekly.

Prerequisites: Astro 201 or instructor’s permission. (4 credits; BS)

Astronomy 389: Independent Studies in Astronomy

  • Individual reading and study in astronomy under instructor’s guidance.

Requires instructor’s permission. May be repeated for credit. (1-3 credits)

Astronomy 399: Introduction to Astronomical Research

  • One-on-one seminar. Student works with a faculty member on an ongoing research project and gains direct experience in astrophysical research.
  • Project depth and breath rests largely with the student; previous project papers have been published in professional astrophysical journals.

Requires instructor’s permission. 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 terms. (1-3 credits)

Astronomy 401: Exoplanets

  • Discover "Exoplanets": Planets found outside of our Solar System, orbiting stars other than the Sun.
  • Explore 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.

Prerequisites: MATH 216, 256 or 286, and prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 340 or PHYSICS 360, or graduate standing. (3 credits; BS)

Astronomy 402: Stellar Astrophysics

  • 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.

Prerequisites: Math 216 plus prior or current enrollment in Physics 340, or instructor’s permission. (3 credits)

Astronomy 403: Astrophysics of the Interstellar Medium

  • Explores the interstellar medium (the gas between stars) — a wide variety of material that interacts closely, and often violently, with individual stars and the host galaxy.
  • Examines underlying atomic and molecular physics, including how gas is ionized by hot stars and supernova remnants.
  • Includes analysis of the cold atomic and molecular gas in the galaxy — how it often lies in spiral arms and why giant molecular clouds are the most active sites of star formation.
  • Highlights recent discoveries.

Prerequisites: Math 216 plus prior or current enrollment in Physics 340 and 390, or instructor’s permission. (3 credits)

Astronomy 404: Galaxies and the Universe

  • Examines the properties of galaxies, large-scale structure in the universe, and cosmological models.
  • Considers orbit theory, spiral arms, the missing mass in galaxies, galaxy evolution, and the starburst phenomenon.
  • Examines the clustering of galaxies, the hot intra-cluster medium, and the dynamical evolution of clusters.
  • Addresses leading astronomy topics, such as expansion of the universe, the cosmic microwave background, Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and the origin and growth of structure in the universe.

Prerequisites: Math 216 plus prior or current enrollment in Physics 340 and 390; or instructor’s permission. (3 credits)

Astronomy 405: High-Energy Astrophysics

  • 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.

Prerequisites: Math 216 plus prior or current enrollment in Physics340 and 390; or instructor’s permission. (3 credits)

Astronomy 406: Computational Astrophysics

Computational Astrophysics develops practical working knowledge of the numerical methods most widely used in current research. For each method we briefly discuss the underlying theory and then put it into practice by coding and using numerical routines for specific research applications. All coding is done in python, using interactive IPython notebooks. We first cover most common scientific methods, such as interpolation, integration, differentiation, and statistical description of data. We then study in depth data modeling and parameter fitting, using both maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. For a particularly common task of linear regression, we compare these direct methods with Markov Chain Monte Carlo sampling. We apply various machine learning methods to analyze and classify complex datasets. We also consider illustrative examples of solving systems of ordinary and partial differential equations. The course concludes with student projects, where these methods are used for real-life research applications. 

Prerequisites: Math 216 plus prior or current enrollment in Physics 240, and some knowledge of programming; or instructor’s permission. (3 credits)

Astronomy 420: New Discoveries in Astronomy for Advanced Students

  • Advanced version of Astro 220.
  • Presents the latest discoveries in astronomy by leading scientists from around the country.
  • Weekly guest speakers discuss their research in an accessible way. Students have the opportunity to probe both the visitor and instructor.
  • Includes both preparatory and follow-up discussion so students gain a complete understanding of each presentation’s motivation, methodology, and significance in the context of the professional scientific literature.

Prerequisites: Astro 201 plus Physics 140 or equivalent. May take 220 followed by 420 for up to six credits. (3 credits)

Astronomy 429: Senior Seminar

  • Student-faculty discussion of select problems in two or three active areas of astronomy.
  • Department’s senior writing course/satisfies this requirement. Attendance at weekly department colloquia required.

Open only to senior Astronomy majors. Prerequisites: Astro 402 and 404, or department permission. (3 credits)

Astronomy 461: Ground-Based Observatories

  • Immersion course that takes place in residence at Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona.
  • Discusses the scientific, technical, and political aspects of ground-based research observatories.
  • Students study a variety of instrumentation and telescope properties, and use MDM telescopes to carry out science projects.
  • Course examines observatories in the context of their natural and sociopolitical environment, and their relationship to local communities.

Please apply with the Department to enroll. Astro 461 is offered in the Spring of odd-numbered years (2017). Prerequisite: Astro 201; Advisory Prerequisite: Astro 361. (3 credits)

*Fulfills the following requirements: NS = Natural Sciences;
BS = Bachelor of Science; QR/1 or 2 = Quantitative Reasoning 1 or 2; ID = Interdisciplinary

For more information, see the LSA course catalog. You can check for open sections using wolverineaccess.