Students working on a planet model
Degrees Offered: Minor BA IBA (MS) PhD

Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences: (MS); PhD; minor

Astronomy: BA; IBA 

The Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences is one of the few programs that combines both astrophysics and planetary science, providing a unified view of space sciences; the solar system and comparative planetology; stellar and galactic astronomy; and cosmology. Students are given hands­on experience with telescopes, optics, instrumentation and computer image processing and modeling. 

The department’s general astronomy track lends itself to a career in education, science journalism, science policy, information technology, science management or technical work that does not require a graduate degree. The astrophysics/physics track is intended for students who wish to do research and continue on to graduate work in astronomy or planetary sciences. This track also lends itself well to a career in technical work related to the field.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The BA program is designed to meet student needs for training in space sciences, including astronomy, astrophysics, planetary sciences and space physics. Students pursuing this major have the option of following one of two tracks: general astronomy, housed in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS), or astrophysics/physics, jointly supervised by APS and the Department of Physics. 

The general astronomy track highlights the science of astronomy, observation and technology. As a major in this track, students receive core training in astronomical sciences, mathematics, applied physics and computational and instrumental technology needed for professions in the space sciences. 

The astrophysics/physics track is directed toward students interested in pursuing graduate studies in astrophysics. The track is multidisciplinary in focus with work in physics, mathematics and astronomy. Upon graduation, students should have solid technological training in the space sciences, including mathematical, physical, computational and instrumental expertise.

Graduate Studies

The APS department offers an MS and PhD degree, as well as an undergraduate minor and major; however, only students planning to earn their PhD will be considered for admission. Graduate students generally specialize in the areas of astrophysics or planetary science. 

The Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) at the University of Colorado has a reputation of excellence, both nationally and internationally. Consistently ranked among the top programs in the country, the department enjoys a diversity of research interests with 22 rostered faculty, 50 research and affiliated faculty and 47 graduate students.

The program successfully integrates astrophysics, planetary science, solar physics and space instrumentation, with strong observational and theoretical components. These assets facilitate interaction and collaboration between the disciplines and enable students to explore a wide variety of research areas. In addition, the Sommers­Bausch Observatory on campus provides excellent hands­on experience with telescopes and observing, and the department supports the world­class Fiske Planetarium, which offers a unique opportunity for public outreach. These campus resources are complemented by other affiliated research organizations in Boulder.

Research Opportunities

The APS Department is affiliated with many different research labs, both within the university (CASA, LASP, JILA) and in the Boulder area (High Altitude Observatory/NCAR, NOAA, NIST, Southwest Research Institute). These affiliations often lead to research opportunities for students in the major. Students may also choose to work with APS faculty on independent research projects that use the Sommers-Bausch Observatory, the 3.5m Apache Point Observatory or the Fiske Planetarium.