Course Information

Currently, 37 semester hours of coursework (including at least four graduate seminars) in courses numbered 5000 or above are required for completion of a Ph.D. (We do not currently offer an M.S. program). Students who began prior to Fall 2015 must take 39 credit hours, and those who started in 2015 must take 38. Students take core courses and some electives in their first year, and then complete the required credit hours by taking special topical or elective courses. While general courses are offered every year, a given elective is usually offered every other year.

Many of these courses encourage working with peers to approach problems from different angles. Click here to see how this requirement works with the CU honor code.

Electives taken outside of the APS department must be submitted to for approval. 

APS Core

Atomic and Molecular Processes (ASTR 5110)

Thermal, mechanical, quantum, and radiative processes in gases and plasmas, with emphasis on spectroscopy, atomic and molecular physics, statistical mechanics, and kinetic theory, with applications in astrophysics, planetary physics, and plasmas.

See the standard syllabus.

Radiative and Dynamical Processes (ASTR 5120)

An introduction to radiative and dynamical processes aimed at graduate students in astrophysics, space physics and planetary science. Covers transport phenomena, the macroscopic treatment of radiation fields, magnetohydrodynamics and dynamical processes associated with planetary orbits and N-body systems.

See the standard syllabus.

Introduction to Fluid Dynamics (ASTR 5400)

Covers equations of fluid motion relevant to planetary atmospheres and oceans, as well as stellar atmospheres; effects of rotation and viscosity; and vorticity dynamics, boundary layers, and wave motions. Introduces instability theory, nonlinear equilibration, and computational methods in fluid dynamics

See the standard syllabus.

Mathematical Methods (ASTR 5540)

Applied mathematics course designed to provide the necessary analytical and numerical background for courses in astrophysics, plasma physics, fluid dynamics, electromagnetism, and radiation transfer. Subjects to be covered: integration techniques, linear and nonlinear differential equations, WKB and Fourier transform methods, adiabatic invariants, partial differential equations, integral equations, and integrodifferential equations.

See the standard syllabus.

Observations, Data Analysis, & Statistics (ASTR 5550)

Introduces multi-wavelength observational techniques, basic data handling, error analysis, and statistical tests relevant to modeling.

See the standard syllabus.

APS Planetary Core

In addition to the above required courses, the APS Planetary Core includes:

Origin and Evolution of Planetary Systems (ASTR 5820)

Topics include the solar nebula, condensation, accretion, formation of the jovian planets, origin of comets & asteroids, formation of other solar systems. Also, basic celestial mechanics, resonances, and planetary rings.

Topics in Planetary Science (ASTR 5830)

Courses on topics of current interest intended for all planetary students. Past courses have included Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Exobiology, and Galilean satellites, and science with the Galileo spacecraft.

Planetary Surfaces and Interiors (ASTR 5800)

Topics include planetary interiors & geophysics, planetary surfaces, geological history of the planets and satellites, surface/atmosphere interactions, geological influence on life.

Planetary Atmospheres (ASTR 5810)

Topics include atmospheric structure & composition, remote sensing methods, atmospheric circulation, atmospheric chemistry, origin & evolution of atmospheres, jovian planet atmospheres & interiors, atmosphere-magnetosphere interaction, cometary activity, habitable zones around stars.

APS Electives

General Electives

  • ASTR 5140: Astrophysical and Space Plasmas
  • ASTR 5150: Introduction to Plasma Physics
  • ASTR 5410: Fluid Instabilities and Waves
  • ASTR 6000: Special Topics Seminar
  • ASTR 6050: Space Instrumentation
    (cross-listed as ASEN 6050, GEOL 6050)
  • ASTR 7150: Magnetohydrodynamics
  • ASTR 7160: Intermediate Plasma Physics
  • ASTR 7430: Fluid Turbulence and Nonlinear Processes
  • ASTR 7500: Special Topics Course
  • CSCI 6118 Software Engineering for Scientists
  • PHYS 5250: Quantum Mechanics 1 
    (also PHYS 5260, QM II, PHYS 7270, QM III, and PHYS 7280, QM IV)
  • PHYS 5770: Theory of General Relativity
  • PHYS 7230: Statistical Mechanics 1 
    (also PHYS 7240: Stat Mech 2)
  • PHYS 7310: Electromagnetic Theory 1 
    (also PHYS 7320, EM II)
  • ASEN 5050: Space flight dynamics
  • ASEN 5060: Satellite Geodesy

Astrophysics Electives

  • ASTR 5700: Stellar Structure and Evolution
  • ASTR 5710: High Energy Astrophysics
  • ASTR 5720: Galaxies
  • ASTR 5730: Stellar Atmospheres and Radiative Transfer
  • ASTR 5740: Interstellar Astrophysics
  • ASTR 5750: Observational astronomy
  • ASTR 5760: Astrophysical Instrumentation
  • ASTR 5770: Cosmology
  • ASTR 5820: Origin and Evolution of Planetary Systems 
  • ASTR 6010: Astrophysics Seminar

Planetary Science Electives

  • ASTR 5250: Planetary Aeronomy
  • ASTR 5300: Introduction to Magnetospheres
  • ASTR 5560: Radiative Processes in Planetary Atmospheres
  • ASTR 5835: Seminar in Planetary Science
  • ASTR 6340: Remote sensing of planetary surfaces
  • ASTR 6610: Earth and planetary physics I 
    (also ASTR 6620, EPP II, and ASTR 6630, EPP III)
  • ASTR 6650: Seminar in Geophysics
  • GEOL 5150: Planetary geological processes
  • GEOL 5240: Remote sensing image analysis
  • GEOL 5630: Physics of remote sensing
  • ATOC 5050: Atmospheric physics and dynamics
  • ATOC 5960: Theories of climate and climate variability
  • ASEN 5210: Remote Sensing Seminar
  • ASEN 6220: Topics in Remote Sensing