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There are over ten world-class observatories atop Mauna Kea, near UH HiloAstronomy is rich in history as man has tried to explain his universe over the years. Astronomers combine the basic sciences (physics, chemistry, optics, etc.) with computers and complex technology in order to scan and to understand the heavens and the world in which we live. UH Hilo’s proximity to some of the most advanced astronomy facilities in the world provides opportunities that undergraduate students rarely experience. The UH Hilo academic astronomy program utilizes the astronomy infrastructure of Mauna Kea and the University Park of Science and Technology to provide students with knowledge of astronomy and training in modern methods of observational astronomy.

The B.S. degree program provides the training needed for students seeking careers in astronomy, both as professional research astronomers and as observatory technical staff members. In most universities, students are able to study astronomy only at the graduate level. The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy at UH Hilo is the only such undergraduate university program within the State of Hawaiʻi. Our program provides training and instruction at the undergraduate level for students seeking careers in astronomy and related fields, as well as opportunities for non-majors who are also interested in astronomy.

To accomplish this, the program incorporates the following elements:

  • Emphasis on training in observational astronomy, thereby building on the resource represented by the astronomical observatories atop Mauna Kea
  • A full array of courses which provide the theoretical and conceptual background for understanding astronomy
  • A strong component of computer assisted computation and analysis
  • Flexibility to allow students to prepare adequately for a wide variety of career choices, such as: entrance to astronomy graduate school, training for technical careers in astronomy observatory support roles, preparation for careers in related fields such as planetary geosciences or remote sensing, and preparation of teachers, who wish to incorporate astronomy into the public school curriculum

The Department offers a range of astronomy courses suitable for all levels of interest and mathematical preparation. Students in other disciplines who have always wondered about the universe are served by an introductory, non-mathematical course. Students planning a more detailed study of the subject will wish to enroll in the year-long astronomy sequence suitable for astronomy and physics majors. The astronomy program also provides the astronomy components of the Natural Sciences degree and General Education programs, for the enrichment of students in a field of major importance to the State of Hawaiʻi.

Degree Requirements

See undergraduate education in the UH Hilo Catalog for a detailed listing of the:

Astronomy website

Visit the Astronomy website.


The UH Hilo astronomy program aims to (a) develop the science knowledge and analytic skills of students, whether they be majors or not, through a focus on the field of astronomy; and (b) instill an appreciation of science, particularly astronomy, in students. The program provides the students with transferable skills so they can excel in a wide range of STEM-related fields. Through the study of astronomy, graduates will also learn to appreciate and understand science more broadly, enabling them to be more informed citizens. The B.S. degree program, taking advantage of our access to Mauna Kea Observatories, provides the training needed for students seeking careers in astronomy—as professional astronomers, observatory technical staff, and educators. Our program supports the liberal arts mission of the University by providing general education courses in a field of major importance to the State of Hawaiʻi.

Program Learning Outcomes

The B.S. program in astronomy is designed to develop student mastery of:

  • Major fields of modern astronomy: stars, planets, interstellar/intergalactic gas, galaxies, and cosmology;
  • Basics of mechanics, optics, electromagnetism, atomic structure, and modern physics; and
  • Practical applications such as instrumentation, computation, modern observational techniques, and data analysis.

Goals for Student Learning in the Major

Graduates are also expected to:

  • understand the relations between astronomy and other areas of science;
  • solve problems with scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills;
  • communicate complex ideas effectively, both verbally and in writing; and
  • appreciate the impact of astronomy in the state of Hawaiʻi.

Special Aspects of the Astronomy Program

The Department is housed in the new Science and Technology Building, which provides modern offices, classrooms, introductory and advanced undergraduate labs, and faculty research facilities that offer students an ideal working environment.

The Department owns an observatory site on Mauna Kea among some of the largest and most powerful instruments in the world. A planned new telescope will provide students with the opportunity to pursue research-grade projects under the supervision of Department faculty, who have active research projects in several areas of astronomy. In addition, the Observatory Internship program, coordinated with institutions based in the University Park of Science and Technology, offers students a unique opportunity to gain practical or research experience at astronomical observatories atop Mauna Kea prior to obtaining their degree.

The Space Grant Fellowship Program offers competitive fellowships to students of exceptional promise, usually during their senior year. The fellowships provide a full tuition waiver and a small stipend. Space Grant Fellows conduct a proposed research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor and participate in University-wide Space Grant College symposia. Funding for travel to meetings is available from this program.

Affiliated faculty from the University Technology Park and other facilities offer a rich array of supplemental Special Topics courses which expand opportunities for students.

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