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Admissions Information

Application Deadlines

Degree Requirements


Financial Assistance








Harris, Andrew I., Full Member


Deming, Leo Drake, Full Member

Hamilton, Douglas P., Full Member

Harris, Andrew I., Full Member

Miller, M. Coleman, Full Member

Mundy, Lee G., Full Member

Mushotsky, Richard, Full Member

Papadopoulos, Konstantinos Dennis, Full Member

Reynolds, Christopher, Full Member

Richardson, Derek C., Full Member

Sunshine, Jessica M., Full Member

Veilleux, Sylvain, Full Member

Vogel, Stuart N., Full Member

Associate Professor

Ricotti, Massimo, Full Member

Assistant Professor

Stock, Suvi Gezari, Full Member

Professor Emeritus

Earl, James A., Full Member

Harrington, J. Patrick, Full Member

Leventhal, Marvin, Full Member

More ASTR Faculty Information

Astronomy (ASTR)   

Program Title and Classification


Graduate Degree Program

College: Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences


The Department of Astronomy offers programs of study leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. A full schedule of courses covering most fields of astronomy is offered. Some areas in which the faculty focus their research efforts are comets, interplanetary dust, planetary dynamics, extrasolar planets, star and planet formation, mm wavelength astronomy, the interstellar medium, black holes, active galaxies, time-domain astronomy, galaxy formation and evolution, plasma astrophysics, high energy astrophysics, theoretical and computational astrophysics, and cosmology.

Admissions Information

General Requirements:

Program-Specific Requirements:

  • Letters of Recommendation (3)
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Please contact to discuss exceptions. (The University of Maryland’s institution code is 5814.)
  • Supplementary Application
  • Description of Research: 1-2 page description of research and relevant work experience. It should include the topic of research, where it took place and who supervised it, the description of the actual activity (for example, “data reduction for a ground-based optical FTS instrument, wrote reduction software in Python”), whether there were resulting publications, what you learned from pursuing this activity, and what motivated you to pursue it. Note: Please do not upload documents for the Writing Samples. (The admissions committee will not read these.)
  • Publications/Presentations
  • Faculty of Interest: applicants are asked to select a minimum of 3 tenured/tenure-track faculty members.
  • GRE Subject

Because of the large number of qualified applicants, the Department of Astronomy has had to restrict formal admission to the Graduate School to those who have shown particularly outstanding work in their undergraduate records. Students who enter the graduate program are normally expected to have strong backgrounds in astronomy, physics, and mathematics. A student with deficiencies in one of these areas may be admitted but will be expected to remedy such deficiencies as soon as possible.

Note that the Department of Astronomy accepts applications for the Ph.D. program only. (Admitted students typically receive an M.S. degree after their second year in the program.) For full details, see

For more admissions information or to apply to the program, please visit our Graduate School website:

Application Deadlines

Type of Applicant Fall
Domestic Applicants:
US Citizens and Permanent Residents
Priority Consideration: 15 Dec / Final: 17 Jan
International Applicants:
F (student) or J (exchange visitor) visas
A,E,G,H,I and L visas and immigrants.
17 Jan

Other Deadlines: Please visit the program website at

Degree Requirements

Master of Science (M.S.)

Total CreditsCore Requirements

Non-thesis option: 30 credits

Thesis option: 30 credits

Non-thesis option requires 30 credits of coursework including six of the nine principal Astronomy graduate courses, and at least 18 credits at the 600 level or above. Students must also submit a scholarly paper and pass a comprehensive final exam.

Thesis option requires 30 credits of coursework including six of the nine principal Astronomy graduate courses and six credits of ASTR 799: Master's Thesis Research.


Candidates for the non-thesis option of the M.S. degree are required to complete 30 credits, including six of the nine principal Astronomy graduate courses (18 credits), with the remaining 12 credits consisting of classroom courses or research credits in Astronomy or supporting fields. One or more scholarly papers are required, usually fulfilled by the 2nd-year project report. The student must also pass a written examination, normally consisting of the written part of the Ph.D. qualifying examination with appropriately chosen passing requirements.

Candidates for the thesis option of the M.S. degree (less common) are required to complete 30 credits, including 6 credits of thesis research (ASTR 799) and eight graduate courses (24 credits). At least six of the courses must come from the nine principal Astronomy graduate courses 601, 606, 610, 615, 620, 622, 630, 670, and 680. A written thesis is required and must be successfully defended in an oral examination. The student must also pass a written examination, normally consisting of the written part of the Ph.D. qualifying examination with appropriately chosen passing requirements.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Core Requirements

1. Doctoral students are required to complete eight 3-4 credit graduate courses, including at least six of the nine ASTR 600 level courses routinely offered. Students must also pass a Qualifying Exam.

2. A research project is required and can be fulfilled by taking ASTR 699: Special problems in Advanced Astronomy or ASTR 898: Pre-Candidacy Research.

3. Students are also required to complete one credit of ASTR 695: Introduction to Research.


Course requirements for the PhD in Astronomy currently consist of eight courses, at least six of which must come from the nine principal Astronomy graduate courses 601, 606, 610, 615, 620, 622, 630, 670, and 680. A qualifying exam based on these courses is given in the summer after the second year. A research project is required of all students in the second year of graduate study. Admission to the PhD program is based on course work, the research project and the qualifier.

Students choose a research stream depending on their interest within the field. Courses beyond the required eight are sometimes necessary for advanced research. This will be assessed by the student's thesis committee.



Facilities and Special Resources

The Department has guaranteed observing time on the new 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope through a partnership with Lowell Observatory. We have strong interactions with other major observatories, where many students and faculty maintain observing programs, and with neighboring scientific institutes, including the Naval Observatory, the Naval Research Lab, and other government agencies. We have joined with Caltech and other partners in the Zwicky Transient Facility, a time-domain survey for studying rare and exotic transient phenomena which will see first light at Palomar Observatory in 2017. Our planetary science team is heavily involved with space missions visiting solar system bodies, such as NASA’s Deep Impact, EPOXI, and Rosetta missions to study comets.

The Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science & Technology (CRESST) is the most visible of our many interactions with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, located only 5 miles away. UMD researchers work together with Goddard scientists on many topics, ranging from the study of neutron stars, black holes, and extremely hot gas throughout the universe to the study of planets in our Solar System. This partnership offers an exciting array of opportunities for graduate students to work with Goddard scientists and facilities on their Ph.D. theses.

In 2010, U. Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center signed an agreement launching the Joint Space-Science Institute (JSI), a close collaboration between the Departments of Astronomy and Physics and NASA/Goddard. JSI’s areas of investigation include black hole physics, high-energy astrophysics, and cosmology.

The Department has also established a partnership with Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (PUC). PUC, one of the top two institutions for astronomy in Chile, signed an agreement with UMD in 2010 that enables astronomy graduate students at both institutions to participate in a joint Ph.D. program starting in their third year. These students split their time between both locations and conduct their thesis research under the supervision of UMD and PUC co-advisors. UMD students gain improved access to Chilean observatories, which include many of the best telescopes in the world.

The Center for Theory and Computation (CTC), a strong group of theoretical astrophysicists within the department, built and maintains a Beowulf cluster to perform computational analyses and simulations across a range of research areas. We also have access to three larger university clusters, including the world-class "DeepThought2" and "MARCC/Bluecrab", which have been invaluable to our students in completing computationally-intensive thesis projects.

In 2014, much of the Department moved to the new Physical Sciences Complex (PSC). Highlights of the building include beautiful architecture, windowed office space for grad students, a grad student lounge, and a state-of-the-art visualization lab for state-of-the-art simulations and displays of large datasets.

This Department is associated with the following research units and facilities:

Financial Assistance

The Department of Astronomy offers both teaching and research assistantships. Essentially all full-time graduate students receive full financial support. Most students receive research assistantships to cover the summer period. These are either with faculty in the Department or with staff members at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Some summer teaching assistantships are also available.

Contact Statement

For more specific information, contact:



Graduate Entrance Committee

Dept of Astronomy, Univ of Maryland

College Park MD, 20742

Telephone: (301)405-3001

Fax: (301)314-9067">


Associated Information




Theoretical and Observational Studies of the Interstellar Medium; Star Formation; Galactic Structure; Extragalactic Astronomy; Cosmology; Solar System Objects; Planetary Science; Millimeter Radio Astronomy; Instrumentation; Computational MHD; Stellar and Solar System Dynamics; Exoplanets; Extrasolar Planets; Time-Domain Astronomy; High Energy Astrophysics; Black Holes; Joint Space Science Institute; JSI; LMA; CRESST; Deep Impact; EPOXI.


Physics (PHYS)