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UT Austin
Grad Catalog 03-05


Graduate Study

Admission and


of Study

Members of
Graduate Studies




College of Natural Sciences


Degrees Offered
Master of Arts
Doctor of Philosophy

Facilities for Graduate Work

Facilities for research in astronomy are located on the campus in Austin, at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas, and at the California Institute of Technology Submillimeter Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Equipment in Austin includes a 16-inch reflector and several smaller telescopes. In addition to the facilities of Information Technology Services, a dedicated Sun Enterprise 3501 server, one hundred Sun workstations, and numerous desktop computers serve the Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory for data reduction and analysis, image processing, and other computer needs. The department operates an electronics shop, engineering and instrumentation laboratories, and a well-stocked research library. The Kuehne Physics-Mathematics-Astronomy Library is located in Robert Lee Moore Hall.

Facilities for research at McDonald Observatory include the 2.7-m reflector, which has Cassegrain and coude foci and a variety of auxiliary instruments, including Cassegrain and coude spectrometers equipped with digital detectors. The telescope is supplemented by a versatile computer system. The 2.1-m Struve reflector is used at the Cassegrain focus, or with a large spectrograph at the coude focus. Cassegrain instrumentation includes a low-resolution spectrograph with linear detectors, direct and intensified cameras, two-channel high-speed photometers, a polarimeter, and a Fabry-Perot interferometer.

The Hobby-Eberly telescope is a composite mirror instrument with an effective aperture of about 8.5 m, intended primarily for spectroscopic work. A low-resolution spectrograph and a high-resolution spectrograph have been commissioned and have begun providing useful data. A medium-resolution spectrograph will become available in 2003. Two smaller reflectors, 0.9 m and 0.8 m, are used primarily for photoelectric photometry and CCD surveys. An excellent library is maintained for research and instruction, and other facilities include darkrooms, instrument and machine shops, and transient quarters.

The 10-m submillimeter-wavelength radio telescope built by the California Institute of Technology on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, is also used by faculty members and students in astronomy; three weeks a year are dedicated to University of Texas at Austin research. This research involves primarily the study of radiation from interstellar molecules and dust; it also includes the development of novel instrumentation.

Areas of Study

Graduate instruction and research are conducted in observational astronomy and astrophysics. Observational opportunities are available in conventional photometry, polarimetry, fast photometry of stellar oscillations, spectroscopy and spectrophotometry of planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and quasars, galactic and extragalactic research, planetary and cometary studies, infrared and millimeter astronomy, radio astronomy and instrumentation, and space astronomy. There are instruction and research opportunities in theoretical astrophysics, including the origin of the elements, celestial mechanics, cosmology, stellar structure and evolution, stellar atmospheres, and interstellar material. There are opportunities for cooperative interdepartmental research with groups in the Department of Physics and the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.

Graduate Studies Committee

The following faculty members served on the Graduate Studies Committee in the spring semester 2002-2003.

Frank N. Bash
Harriet L. Dinerstein
Neal J. Evans II
Karl Gebhardt
Paul M. Harvey
Daniel T. Jaffe
William H. Jefferys III
John Kormendy
Pawan Kumar
John H. Lacy
     David L. Lambert
Edward L. Robinson
John M. Scalo
Paul R. Shapiro
Gregory Alan Shields
Christopher A. Sneden
Steven Weinberg
J. Craig Wheeler
Derek Wills
Donald E. Winget

Admission Requirements

Prerequisites for graduate work in astronomy are at least fifteen to eighteen semester hours of upper-division coursework in astronomy and physics, including courses in mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical physics, and quantum mechanics; and a satisfactory score on the Graduate Record Examinations Physics Test. The Physics Test must be taken in addition to the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations, which is required for admission to the Graduate School. An applicant who does not present a satisfactory score on the Physics Test may, on recommendation of the Graduate Studies Committee, be granted a conditional admission to the program requiring removal of deficiencies in physics. A detailed evaluation is made of each new student's physics and astronomy background to identify any deficiencies that should be removed.

Degree Requirements

Master of Arts

Students must complete six of the following introductory courses: Astronomy 380E, 381C, 382C, 383C, 383D, 386C, 392D, 392J, 393F, 396C. Students must also complete Astronomy 185C and two elective courses; the electives may include additional courses from the required group. At least thirty-three semester hours, including Astronomy 398R, or thirty hours, including Astronomy 698, are required.

Students begin research during their first year. Research is done under the supervision of an adviser and committee and normally takes a year and a half. Upon completing an acceptable research project, with thesis or report, the student is awarded a degree. An alternative program prepares the student to teach college-level astronomy. It includes teaching experience and preparation of a report and normally takes two full years to complete.

Doctor of Philosophy

Students must earn a grade of at least B in Astronomy 185C and in six of the following required courses: Astronomy 380E, 381C, 382C, 383C, 383D, 386C, 392D, 392J, 393F, 396C. They must also complete two elective courses; the electives may include additional courses from the required group.

Students begin research during their first year. Research is done under the supervision of an adviser and committee and normally takes four to five years. In the spring of their second year, students must present their research to date and pass an oral qualifying examination. They must apply for admission to candidacy by the end of the summer of the second year. Two presentations on research must be given in colloquia or seminars. Finally, the student must complete the dissertation and pass an oral examination on the dissertation.

For More Information

Campus address: Robert Lee Moore Hall (RLM) 15.202AA, phone (512) 471-3350, fax (512) 471-6016; campus mail code: C1400

Mailing address: The University of Texas at Austin, Graduate Program, Department of Astronomy, 1 University Station C1400, Austin TX 78712-0259




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Astronomy Courses: AST



Graduate Catalog
Chapter 1 - Graduate Study
Chapter 2 - Admission and Registration
Chapter 3 - Degree Requirements
Chapter 4 - Fields of Study
Chapter 5 - Members of Graduate Studies Committees
Appendix - Course Abbreviations

Related Information
Course Schedules
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Office of Admissions

Office of the Registrar
University of Texas at Austin

12 August 2003. Office of the Registrar

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