Studying Astronomy at York launches you directly into the frontiers of experimental and theoretical planetary, stellar, and extragalactic astronomy. At York your studies will give you an excellent education in the observational, computational, and theoretical techniques of Astronomy, as well as a solid training in the mathematical and physical concepts that underpin them, preparing you for a rewarding and fulfilling career in astronomical research and a wide variety of related fields.
Astronomy is the oldest science. It is the study of the cosmos, looking outward to the beginning of the universe, including the planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies, dark matter, and dark energy that compose it. Today, astronomy remains one of the most exciting and important scientific fields as new discoveries are made about the origin and composition of the universe and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Astronomy is integrally linked to other scientific disciplines such as mathematics, biology, chemistry, geology, atmospheric science and especially physics.
Studies in Astronomy at York are designed to train you as an astrophysicist. In addition to learning astronomy and physics, the program will help you develop strong mathematical skills with an emphasis on practical mathematics; computing skills including programming, visualization of data, symbolic and numerical computation, and computer-interfacing of laboratory experiments; and technical writing skills, particularly the writing of scientific laboratory reports.
The Astronomy program at York offers a wide variety of degree options, including the three year Bachelor B.Sc. degree in Astronomy; a Specialized Honours B.Sc. in Astronomy; an Honours Double-Major B.Sc. program in which you may combine your studies in Astronomy with equal focus on studies in Chemistry, Mathematics, or another discipline in Science & Engineering or Arts; and an Honours Major-Minor or Minor-Major combining a Major in Astronomy with a Minor in another subject or a Minor in Astronomy with a Major in another subject. It is best to speak with your advisors to identify the most appropriate option for you. Whatever path you choose, your studies are likely to begin with courses in Astronomy, Physics, Chemical Structure and Dynamics, Computing, and Mathematics, and move on to advanced courses in subjects including Galaxies and the Universe, Planets and Planetary Systems, and Stars and Nebulae, as well as related courses in Physics and Mathematics.
The different degree options in York’s Astronomy program help our graduates realize a wide variety of academic and career objectives. Completing an Honours degree is an essential prerequisite to graduate studies in Astronomy or Physics. Astronomy, like Physics, is useful for students contemplating a career in post-secondary teaching. Overall, your studies in Astronomy at York will prepare you for a fulfilling career in a wide variety of fields which benefit from highly developed skills in problem-solving built upon advanced knowledge of physics and astronomy concepts and sophisticated laboratory, mathematical and computational experience.
Facilities and Opportunities
York’s most important astronomical facility, apart from its excellent faculty members, is the York University Astronomical Observatory, as well as the high quality computer resources. Located in one of the science buildings, the observatory features two Cassegrain reflecting telescopes with mirror diameters of 40 and 60 centimetres. The observatory is well equipped with a variety of instrumentation, including state-of-the-art solid-state cameras that can be used for both imaging and spectroscopy. It is central to the astronomical teaching and research programs at York, as well as to York’s very large and active Astronomy Club. The exciting teaching and learning environment in York’s Astronomy program results from the high level of enthusiasm and commitment our faculty members have for Astronomy teaching and research. As a student, you will be exposed to research at the forefront of Astronomy, including fascinating research opportunities on faculty projects ranging from the inner solar system to the edge of the universe.
If you major in Astronomy your courses in first year will probably be:
• Linear Algebra
• Computer Programming
• a general education course
In second year you will probably take:
• Galaxies and the Universe
• Classical Mechanics
• Electricity and Magnetism
• Relativity and Modern Physics
• Optics and Spectra
• Experimental Physics
• Computational Methods for Scientists and Engineers
• Multivariate & Vector Calculus
• Differential Equations
• a general education course
Courses in your upper years include:
• Planets and Planetary Systems
• Stars and Nebulae
• Astronomical Techniques (including hands-on observing)
• Radio Techniques for Space Exploration
• Modern Physics
• Statistical and Thermal Physics
• Quantum Mechanics
• Experiments in Modern Physics
• Experimental Techniques in Laser Physics
• Particle Physics
• Spectral and Time Series Analysis
• Astronomy Project (student/professor research collaboration)
Career options for Astronomy majors include:
• Research or research support at government laboratories, National Research Council Observatoriese
• Applied Computing
• Mathematical and Computer Modelling
• Digital Imaging (e.g., in remote sensing, oceanography, geophysics, biophysics, medicine)
• Virtual Reality and Data Visualization
• Medical Physics – hospitals, biotechnology industries
• Finance or Consulting (applied statistical analysis)
• Postgraduate Studies/Academic Career
• Education – elementary, high school, college, university
Technology Internship Program
Qualified Astronomy students have the opportunity to participate in the innovative Technology Internship Program, which provides paid work experience. These internships take place between third and fourth year and range from four to sixteen months. Unlike a 4-month co-op placement, the internship is designed to allow you to participate in more significant projects in the workplace. Assistance is provided in placing students in internships after the completion of third year. York’s internships provide valuable professional experience, enabling our graduates to move more easily into exciting careers.
Research Excellence in Astronomy at York
The Astronomy stream at York University combines excellence in research with excellence in teaching. One of the most recent arrivals in the department, Professor Patrick Hall, illustrates this well. He motivates his students by bringing to life his research interests.
Dr. Hall’s astronomical research is helping to better understand how galaxies form. In the past decade we have learned that every large galaxy, including our own Milky Way, has a giant black hole at its centre. Large galaxies and their central black holes must have formed in an intimately connected manner, because the galaxy and black hole masses are tightly correlated. Why this close connection? One possible explanation relies on the observation that black holes don’t always swallow all the matter spiralling in toward them, but can fling some of it away, like a blender with the lid off. If these ‘winds’ can overcome the gravity of the host galaxy, they might form a feedback mechanism which couples galaxy and black hole masses together.