Astronomy and Astrophysics


Faculty List

Department Chair 
R.G. Abraham, PhD, Professor, FRSC

Associate Chair, Graduate Studies 
J. Bovy, PhD, CRC

Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies 
C.D. Matzner, PhD

Professors 
R.G. Abraham, PhD, FRSC
B. Gaensler, PhD, FAA, CRC
C.D. Matzner, PhD 
D.-S. Moon, PhD 
C.B. Netterfield, PhD (Cross Appointment, Physics)
M.H. van Kerkwijk, PhD 
Y. Wu, PhD

Associate Professors 
J. Bovy, PhD, CRC 
R. Hložek, DPhil (Cross Appointment, Dunlap Institute) 
S. Sivanandam, PhD (Cross Appointment, Director, Dunlap Institute) 
K. Vanderlinde, PhD (Cross Appointment, Dunlap Institute)

Assistant Professors 
M. Drout, PhD, CRC  
G. Eadie, PhD (Cross Appointment, Statistical Sciences)
A.D. Hincks, PhD (Cross Appointment, SMC)
T. Li, PhD 
J. Mena-Parra, PhD (Cross Appointment, Dunlap Institute) 
L. Rousseau-Nepton, PhD (Cross Appointment, Dunlap Institute)
J. Speagle, PhD (Cross Appointment, Statistical Sciences)

Associate Professor, Teaching Stream 
M. Reid, PhD

Cross Appointed Faculty
P. Artymowicz, PhD (UTSC)
J.R. Bond, PhD, FRSC, FRS (Physics)
M. Bryan, PhD (UTM)
M. Diamond, BSc, MSc, PhD (Physics)
R. Essick, PhD (CITA)
M. Fishbach, PhD (CITA)
L. Hirsch, PhD (UTM)
J. P. Lowman, PhD (UTSC)
P.G. Martin, PhD, FRSC (Interim Director, CITA)
K. Menou, DEA, PhD (UTSC)
N.W. Murray, PhD, CRC (CITA)
U-L. Pen, PhD (CITA)
H. Rein, PhD (UTSC)
B. Ripperda, PhD (CITA)
A.C. Thompson, PhD (CITA)
D. Valencia, PhD (UTSC)

Status Only Faculty 
S. Tremaine, PhD (CITA)

Professors Emeriti  
R.G. Carlberg, PhD, FRSC 
C.M. Clement, PhD 
M.J. Clement, PhD 
J.B. Lester, PhD
C.C. Dyer, PhD 
S.W. Mochnacki, PhD 
J.R. Percy, PhD 
S.M. Rucinski, PhD 
E. R. Seaquist, PhD 
H.K.C. Yee, PhD, FRSC 

Introduction 

Astronomy explores the universe beyond the earth and attempts to understand the physical processes that describe its contents. Essentially all civilizations have developed astronomy to some degree, with records extending back to the Babylonians. The modern development of astronomy began with Galileo turning a telescope to the sky and the heliocentric model of the solar system. Astronomy and astrophysics have undergone a revolution in the past fifty years as telescopes ranging from the radio to the gamma ray have discovered the relict radiation from the Big Bang, stars and galaxies that were forming not long after, ultradense neutron stars and black holes, as well as planets around other stars. Astronomy as a discipline is a distinctive integration of many of the sciences. At the introductory level it is used to provide a non-technical overview of the scientific approach to questions and our current understanding. At the more advanced level a quantitative physical understanding of astrophysical systems is developed. A graduate in astronomy has a wide grounding in modern physical science which is important for a wide range of roles in society.

Several courses are offered to suit persons of diverse backgrounds and depths of interest. Two beginning courses (AST101H1AST201H1) require no special knowledge of mathematics or other sciences and are best suited to students taking non-science programs. These courses develop an understanding of the universe in a qualitative way and in terms of natural laws familiar to us on Earth. AST121H1 is an introductory astronomy course for all science students. AST301H1 is a practical observational astronomy course intended for students from any background, including non-science majors. The department offers a range of cross-disciplinary courses, including AST310H1, JCA302H1, and AST251H1 all of which are open to science majors and non-science majors.

The remaining courses are designed for physical sciences and astronomy program students. For all Astronomy & Astrophysics programs, the first astronomy courses normally start in the second year, as they require the mathematical and physical grounding provided in the first year. In third year, after further physics and mathematics, follow more advanced theoretical study as well as a lab course that includes the use of the campus telescopes. For the major program, this is complemented by electives in more advanced mathematics, physics or numerical methods, as well as an introduction to astrophysical research. For the Astronomy & Physics specialist program, intensive training in all aspects of physics is added, allowing supervised, forefront research in fourth year, and preparing for a career in (astro)physical research via graduate studies or otherwise.

The Department works closely with two related academic units, the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics. With a national mandate, CITA fosters research in theoretical aspects of the discipline, including the exploitation of high-performance computers in house and in SciNet. Complementary to this, a focus of the Dunlap Institute is on the design and development of astronomical instrumentation. Undergraduate students will find diverse research opportunities through the Department and these two cognate units.

Undergraduate Enquiries: ungrad.sec@astro.utoronto.ca (416-946-5243)

Website: http://www.astro.utoronto.ca

Astronomy and Astrophysics Programs

Astronomy & Physics Specialist (Science Program) - ASSPE0271

Enrolment Requirements:

This is an open enrolment program. A student who has completed 4.0 credits may enrol in the program.

Completion Requirements:

The Astronomy & Physics Specialist program combines rigorous training in the full spectrum of core physics subfields with their application in astronomy. Lecture courses are complemented by practical courses, and the program culminates in a supervised research project, where all the skills learned are used, and which is intended to be published.

(14.0 credits, including at least 4.0 credits at the 300+ level, and at least 1.0 credit at the 400-level)

First Year:
MAT137Y1/​ MAT157Y1, MAT223H1/​ MAT240H1; PHY131H1/​ PHY151H1, PHY132H1/​ PHY152H1; 0.5 credit from CSC108H1/​ CSC110Y1/​ CSC148H1 or another course that gives a foundation in computer programming approved by the Undergraduate Chair.
( MAT137Y1, MAT223H1, PHY151H1, PHY152H1 recommended)

Second Year:
AST221H1, AST222H1; MAT237Y1/​ MAT257Y1/​ MAT235Y1, MAT244H1/​ MAT267H1; PHY250H1, PHY252H1, PHY256H1
( MAT237Y1, MAT244H1 recommended)

Third Year:
1. AST320H1, AST325H1/​ AST326Y1; PHY224H1, PHY254H1, PHY354H1, PHY356H1
2. 0.5 credit from APM346H1, MAT224H1, MAT327H1, MAT334H1, MAT363H1, STA257H1

Fourth Year:
1. AST425Y1/​ ( AST424H1, extra 0.5 credit from lines 2 or 3; see note 3); PHY350H1
2. 0.5 credit from PHY324H1, PHY357H1, PHY358H1, PHY385H1, PHY407H1, PHY408H1, PHY483H1, JPE395H1
3. 1.0 credit from AST430H1, PHY450H1, PHY454H1, PHY456H1, PHY460H1, PHY483H1, PHY484H1, PHY495H1
4. AST310H1/​ ENV222H1/​ ENV333H1/​ ESS205H1/​ HPS200H1/​ JPH441H1/​ PHL273H1/​ VIC172Y1, or another course with a significant emphasis on Social and Ethical Responsibility approved by the Undergraduate Chair.

Notes:
1. Second-year students who wish to keep open the option of pursuing a physics specialist degree should consider taking PHY254H1 in 2nd year.
2. Third-year students are invited and fourth-year students are expected to attend the weekly departmental colloquia.
3. Fourth-year students are encouraged to enrol in the independent research course AST425Y1, but this is guaranteed for students with at least a B average in the program courses and requires identifying a supervisor. Others who wish to take AST425Y1 should consult the course coordinator or the undergraduate chair.

Astronomy & Astrophysics Major (Science Program) - ASMAJ1423

The Astronomy Major provides deep knowledge in astronomy & physics, and enables students to pursue quantitative, problem-solving careers in a variety of fields.

Enrolment Requirements:

This is an open enrolment program. A student who has completed 4.0 credits may enrol in the program.

Completion Requirements:

This program is appropriate for students interested in a more flexible and diverse undergraduate program. It may be tailored to be a natural counterpart to a second major in Mathematics, Physics, Statistics, or Computer Science; students should consult the undergraduate chairs of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the respective departments for advice on course selection.

(8.0 credits, including at least 2.0 credits at the 300+ level, and a 0.5 credit at the 400-level)

First Year:

1. ( MAT135H1, MAT136H1)/ MAT137Y1/​​ MAT157Y1 ( MAT137Y1 recommended)

2. PHY131H1/​ PHY151H1, PHY132H1/​ PHY152H1 ( PHY151H1, PHY152H1 recommended)

3. 0.5 credit from CSC108H1/​​ CSC110Y1/​​ CSC148H1 or another course that gives a foundation in computer programming approved by the Undergraduate Chair. ( CSC108H1 recommended for non-Computer Science majors)

Second Year:

1. AST221H1, AST222H1

2. MAT235Y1/​​ MAT237Y1/​ MAT257Y1 ( MAT237Y1 recommended)
3. PHY252H1

Third Year:

1. AST320H1, AST325H1/​​ AST326Y1 ( AST325H1 recommended)


Third or fourth year:
1. AST424H1 (can be substituted with AST430H1/​ AST431H1/​ AST431Y1 with permission of the undergraduate chair)
2. 0.5 credit from AST310H1/​​ ENV222H1/​​ ENV333H1/​​ ESS205H1/​​ HPS200H1/​​ JPH441H1/​​ PHL273H1/​​ VIC172Y1, or another course with a significant emphasis on Social and Ethical Responsibility approved by the Undergraduate Chair.
3. 0.5 credit from CSC336H1, CSC385H1, CSC456H1; STA302H1, STA313H1; PHY350H1, PHY354H1, PHY356H1, PHY357H1, PHY358H1, PHY385H1, PHY407H1, PHY408H1, PHY450H1, JPE395H1; JCA302H1, AST310H1, AST398H0, AST398Y0, AST399Y1, AST430H1, AST431H1, AST431Y1; or any CTA course at the 300+ level.

Notes:
1. The Astronomy & Astrophysics Major program is not designed primarily for students intending to pursue graduate studies in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Such students should consider the Astronomy & Physics Specialist program, or consult the Undergraduate Chair about their course selections.
2. Students interested in pursuing a research project in fourth year ( AST425Y1) should consult the undergraduate chair.

3. Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, UTM, and UTSC equivalents to courses can be substituted on a case-by-case basis with the approval of the course coordinator or the undergraduate chair.

4. Third-year students are invited and fourth-year students are expected to attend the weekly departmental colloquia.

Astronomy & Astrophysics Minor (Science Program) - ASMIN1423

Enrolment Requirements:

This is an open enrolment program. A student who has completed 4.0 credits may enrol in the program.

Completion Requirements:

A program designed for students looking to add breadth to a program in another, perhaps unrelated discipline.

(4 full courses or their equivalent)

1. AST221H1, AST222H1, AST320H1, AST325H1/​ AST326Y1
2. ( PHY131H1, PHY132H1)//( PHY151H1, PHY152H1)
3. PHY252H1 and one of PHY224H1, PHY250H1, PHY254H1, PHY256H1

Notes:
1. PHY131H1, PHY132H1 and PHY151H1, PHY152H1 require ( MAT135H1, MAT136H1)/ MAT137Y1/​ MAT157Y1 and PHY252H1 requires MAT235Y1/​ MAT237Y1/​ MAT257Y1.
2. Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering equivalents to the physics courses can be substituted. Please consult the Undergraduate Chair.


Astronomy and Astrophysics Courses

AST101H1 - The Sun and Its Neighbours

Hours: 24L/12T

Our place in the Universe. Phenomena we see in the sky. What we know about the Sun, the planets and comets, and the formation of the solar system – and how we know it. What makes planets suitable for life. Finding out about the nearest stars and their planets. This course is intended for students with no science or engineering background.

Exclusion: AST121H1, AST101H5, ASTA01H3, ASTC25H3, CIV100H1, CIV101H1, CIV102H1. Also excluded are AST221H1, ASTC25H3 if taken previously or concurrently.
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST121H1 - Origin and Evolution of the Universe

Hours: 24L/12T

The origin of the Universe and all that it contains, from the chemical elements, stars and galaxies, and life. The course is intended for students who are enrolling in science and engineering courses.

Prerequisite: SPH4U Physics; MCB4U Calculus
Exclusion: AST101H1, AST201H1, AST210H1. Also excluded are AST221H1, AST222H1 if taken previously or concurrently.
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST198H1 - Great Astronomical Issues

Hours: 24S

There are some fundamental questions which humankind has asked itself over the centuries. Many of these involve astronomical origins, events, and objects. Astronomers now have the tools with which to attempt to answer some of the most fundamental questions, such as "Where did it all begin, where are we in space and time, are we alone, and who and what are we?" This seminar will explore some of these great issues. The selection of topics will be made initially by the instructor, but will be modified by the seminar participants at the first class meeting. Topics could include: stellar evolution and the future of the Sun, origin of the elements, origin and future of the Universe, origin of the Earth, origin of life, and extinction of the dinosaurs, global warming, the scientific method, astronomy and the public. Participants will be expected to join actively in lively discussions and to prepare and lead some of the seminars. Restricted to first-year students. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

Exclusion: AST199H1
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST199H1 - Astronomy at the Frontier

Hours: 24S

This seminar series aims at building up general scientific literacy, by discussing selected topics in current astronomy, cosmology, and space science. We will delve into the physical foundation behind the questions being asked and how the answers are being sought. Students will have an opportunity early in the course to select topics of particular interest to them and this will govern the choice of readings as well. Topics could include: formation of stars; lives and deaths of stars; stellar corpses: white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; planets around other stars; recent results from Hubble and other telescopes; architecture of the solar system; exploration in the solar system; the invisible universe: dark energy and dark matter; first light; formation of galaxies; the age and future of the universe. Participants should be comfortable with basic mathematics and quantitative reasoning. Students will be expected to do independent research for essays, presentations, etc. Restricted to first-year students. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

Exclusion: AST198H1
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST201H1 - Stars and Galaxies

Hours: 24L/12T

What we know about the properties and life cycles of stars, of galaxies, and of the Universe itself – and how we know it. How astronomers develop methods for understanding phenomena that span such vast ranges in distance and time. This course is intended for students with no science or engineering background.

Exclusion: AST121H1, AST210H1, AST201H5, ASTA02H3, CIV100H1, CIV101H1, CIV102H1. Also excluded are AST221H1, AST222H1, ASTB23H3 if taken previously or concurrently.
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST210H1 - Great Moments in Astronomy

Hours: 24L

From the Copernican Revolution to twentieth century astrophysics. Emphasis is placed on the process of discovery which has led to major advances in knowledge about the Universe. The course includes an outline of some of the most significant puzzles of our day and an examination of the potential for new revolutions in our knowledge. This course is best suited to science students.

Exclusion: AST101H1, AST121H1, AST201H1
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST221H1 - Stars and Planets

Hours: 36L

The (astro)physics of stars and planets, their observed variety, their structure, formation and evolution. Introduction to telescopes and instrumentation.

Prerequisite: PHY132H1/ PHY152H1; MAT136H1/ MAT137Y1/ MAT157Y1
Exclusion: AST221H5, ASTB23H3, ASTC25H3
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST222H1 - Galaxies and Cosmology

Hours: 36L

The (astro)physics of stellar systems, galaxies, and the Universe, their structure, formation, and evolution.

Prerequisite: AST221H1/ AST221H5
Exclusion: AST222H5, ASTB23H3, ASTC25H3
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST251H1 - Life on Other Worlds

Hours: 24L/12T

Scholarly discussion of the probability that there are planets with life elsewhere in the universe, from the perspective of current ideas concerning the origin and evolution of the universe, the solar system and life. Search techniques and possibilities for interstellar travel and space colonies are discussed.

Exclusion: AST221H1, AST222H1, AST222H5, ASTB23H3, ASTC25H3
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST299Y1 - Research Opportunity Program

Credit course for supervised participation in faculty research project. Details at https://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/current/academics/research-opportunities/research-opportunities-program . Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

AST301H1 - Observational Astronomy

Hours: 36P

A hands-on introduction to telescopes and observational astronomy for students with little experience in the physical sciences. Through laboratory exercises and observations of the sky, students will learn the techniques that have enabled the major discoveries of modern astronomy, from the expansion of the universe to the existence of Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. Hands-on activities will teach how telescopes work and how we can measure the distances, motion, and chemical composition of celestial objects. Basic arithmetic is used, but no advanced mathematics. This course is intended for students without a formal science background to gain experience with hands-on observational astronomy.

Prerequisite: AST101H1/ AST201H1/ AST251H1
Exclusion: AST221H1, AST222H1, AST325H1, AST326Y1, AST110H5, AST221H5, AST222H5, ASTB23H3, ASTC25H3
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

JCA302H1 - The Bible and the Big Bang

Hours: 24L/12T

The origin of the Universe is addressed both by current physical cosmology and by religious interpretations of the Bible. This course explores how these approaches to the cosmos’s origins differ and how they might be mutually informative. Core concepts in each domain will be examined and definitions carefully distinguished (e.g., ‘nothing’, ‘cause’, ‘matter’): topics will include the question of temporal beginnings (scientific theories of spontaneous creation or an eternal universe vis-à-vis the doctrine of creation from nothing) and the problem of cosmic fine tuning (the multiverse vis-à-vis the idea of divine intervention).

Prerequisite: Completion of 4.0 credits
Recommended Preparation: AST101H1/ AST201H1/ AST121H1/ AST221H1/ AST222H1, SMC232H1/ CHC232H1
Breadth Requirements: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

AST310H1 - Indigenous Worldviews & Astronomy

Hours: 24L

An in-depth exploration of astronomy, the Solar System, and the night sky through the lens of Indigenous knowledges, primarily that of Indigenous peoples from Turtle Island. Indigenous peoples have lived on Turtle Island since time immemorial and have a sophisticated relationship with the night sky that is influenced by their worldviews and their relationships with the land. In this course, students will learn about Indigenous perspectives for understanding nature and astronomy and learn to understand astronomy through these perspectives. Students will also learn about the intersection of western astronomy and ongoing colonization to understand the responsibilities of western astronomers for respecting treaties and Indigenous rights as well as presenting an Indigenous lens regarding space exploration.

Prerequisite: Any AST 100-level or AST 200-level course
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST320H1 - Introduction to Astrophysics

Hours: 24L/12T

The formation, equilibrium and evolution of structure on all astronomical scales from the largest to the smallest: universe, clusters of galaxies, galaxies, clusters of stars, gas clouds and stars.

Prerequisite: PHY252H1/ PHY294H1/ PHY242H5/ PHYB52H3; AST221H1, AST222H1 (or equivalent AST readings; consult the instructor)
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST325H1 - Introduction to Practical Astronomy

Hours: 39P

Through experiment and observation, develop the core skills to collect, reduce, and interpret astronomical data. Develop understanding and usage of telescopes, instruments, and detectors; reduction and analysis methods; simulations and model fitting; data and error analysis.

Prerequisite: AST221H1, AST222H1 (or equivalent readings, consult the instructor)
Exclusion: AST326Y1
Recommended Preparation: Basic programming/scripting, numerical techniques (e.g., through CSC108H1/ CSC148H1).
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST326Y1 - Practical Astronomy

Hours: 78P

Through experiment and observation, develop the core skills to collect, reduce, and interpret astronomical data. Develop understanding and usage of telescopes, instruments, and detectors; reduction and analysis methods; simulations and model fitting; data and error analysis. This course is an expanded version of AST325H1 that gives a wider exposure to practical astronomy.

Prerequisite: AST221H1, AST222H1 (or equivalent readings; consult the instructor)
Exclusion: AST325H1
Recommended Preparation: Basic programming/scripting, numerical techniques (e.g., through CSC108H1/ CSC148H1)
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST398H0 - Research Excursions

An instructor-supervised group project in an off-campus setting. Details at https://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/current/academics/research-opportunities/research-excursions-program. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

AST398Y0 - Research Excursions

An instructor-supervised group project in an off-campus setting. Details at https://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/current/academics/research-opportunities/research-excursions-program. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

AST399Y1 - Research Opportunity Program

Credit course for supervised participation in faculty research project. Details at https://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/current/academics/research-opportunities/research-opportunities-program. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

AST424H1 - Introduction to Astrophysical Research

Hours: 24L

A literature study that develops methods and skills applicable to research in the physical sciences, with an emphasis on communication, including writing proposals and reports, and delivering presentations. This course is intended for students in the final year of the Astronomy & Astrophysics Major. Students are required to attend the weekly departmental colloquia and G2000 talks. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

Prerequisite: AST320H1
Exclusion: AST425Y1
Recommended Preparation: AST325H1/ AST326Y1

AST425Y1 - Research Topic in Astronomy

A research project done in consultation with an individual staff member in the Department leading to a detailed written report and oral presentation. This course is intended for students in the final year of the Astronomy and Physics specialist program. Students must enrol with the Undergraduate Secretary of the Department. Enrolment is guaranteed only for specialist students with at least a B+ average in program courses and requires identifying a supervisor. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

Prerequisite: AST320H1, two of AST325H1/ AST326Y1, PHY324H1, PHY350H1, PHY354H1, PHY356H1, PHY357H1, PHY358H1, PHY407H1/ PHY408H1, PHY450H1, JPE395H1
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST430H1 - Supervised Study in Astronomy & Astrophysics

An individual study program chosen by the student with the advice of, and under the direction of, a staff member. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

Prerequisite: Minimum GPA of 3.5 in Astronomy program courses and the permission of the Undergraduate Chair and the prospective adviser
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST431H1 - Supervised Study in Astronomy & Astrophysics

An individual study program chosen by the student with the advice of, and under the direction of, a staff member. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

Prerequisite: Minimum GPA of 3.5 in Astronomy program courses and the permission of the Undergraduate Chair and the prospective adviser
Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

AST431Y1 - Supervised Study in Astronomy & Astrophysics

An individual study program chosen by the student with the advice of, and under the direction of, a staff member. Not eligible for CR/NCR option.

Prerequisite: Minimum GPA of 3.5 in Astronomy program courses and the permission of the Undergraduate Chair and the prospective adviser

Breadth Requirements: The Physical and Mathematical Universes (5)

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