Astronomy 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.
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- A basic knowledge of all major fields of modern astronomy, and an understanding of the relationship between astronomy and other areas of science and knowledge;
- Advanced training in all aspects of modern observational astronomy and related research methods;
- Acquisition of a deep understanding of the physical principles underlying modern astronomy;
- Development of basic skills in computational and data analysis techniques of current importance in research astronomy and observatory operations;
- Acquisition of basic scientific reasoning, critical thinking, and communications skills.
The Department will be housed in a new Science and Technology Building which is in the final stages of design. Construction begins in 2009. Modern offices, classrooms, introductory and advanced undergraduate labs, and faculty research facilities will provide students with an ideal working environment.
With the assistance of a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Department is currently developing a 0.9-meter telescope that will be sited on Mauna Kea among some of the largest and most powerful instruments in the world. When completed, this telescope will provide students with the opportunity to pursue research-grade projects under the supervision of Department faculty, who have active research projects in galactic and stellar astronomy. This instrument will replace our historic 0.6-meter telescope. 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.
Students can also benefit from the Department’s international collaborations. Department faculty and student Interns have been involved in the All-sky High Resolution Air shower (ASHRA) cosmic ray detection program. The Department is a partner, along with the UH Mānoa Institute for Astronomy and other institutions, in the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PanSTARRS) asteroid detection system. Additional student opportunities come from the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) which focuses on sustainable human habitats for the Moon and Mars, and from the Taiwan-America Occultation Survey (TAOS) that studies the outer solar system.
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 $1,000/semester 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.