Astronomy, Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Program Description

Members of the staff are particularly interested in directing graduate research in the following subjects:

Astronomy and astrophysics. Relativity and cosmology; dynamics of the interstellar gas; evolution of planetary systems; magnetohydrodynamics; nuclear astrophysics; gravitational theory; X-ray sources; black holes; chemistry of interstellar medium; high energy astrophysics

Atmospheric and ionospheric radio investigations. Dynamics of the atmosphere and ionosphere; incoherent electron scattering; refraction, scattering, and attenuation due to the inhomogeneous nature of the troposphere and ionosphere; propagation of radio waves and ionized media

Infrared and optical astronomy. Spectroscopic studies of the interstellar medium, external galaxies, Galactic Center, star formation; development of novel instrumentation; observations from ground-based and airborne telescopes

Planetary studies. Observational, theoretical, and laboratory studies of planetary atmospheres, surfaces, and interiors; origins of planetary systems; exoplanets; spacecraft investigations such as Galileo, Mars Surveyor Magellan, Cassini and MER; investigations of asteroids, comets, and ring systems; solar-system dynamics; dynamics of planetary atmospheres; exobiology and prebiological organic chemistry

Radio astronomy. Distribution and properties of galaxies; radar investigations of the planets and asteroids; solar radio observations; studies of gaseous nebulae; interstellar radio lines; radio galaxies, quasars, and pulsars; interstellar molecular clouds and star-forming regions

Space vehicle instrumentation. Instrumentation relating to solar-system exploration, including cameras and spectral mappers; infrared observations from airplanes and satellites

Graduate students in this field may be connected with the Cornell University Center for Radiophysics and Space Research or the Cornell-operated National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, the site of the world's largest radar-radio telescope. Students often conduct thesis or dissertation research at Palomar or Arecibo, or at other major observatories. In addition, members of the department are PIs on the Mars Rover NASA mission and the Spitzer Infrared Telescope, which is the last of the four NASA great observatories (Hubble, Chandra and Crompton GRO were the first three). Additional details on these organizations and facilities are in brochures available from the respective organizations or the graduate field office.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-3727

104 Space Sciences Building
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • astronomy
  • astrophysics
  • cosmology
  • infrared astronomy
  • planetary studies
  • radio astronomy
  • radiophysics
  • space sciences [general]
  • theoretical astrophysics


2015-2016 $29,500

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec. 15; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

Applicants should have a strong background in electrical engineering, engineering physics, mathematics, or physics. Applicants are required to submit GRE general test scores and GRE physics subject test scores; these are often of great help in admitting outstanding students from less well-known institutions. A minimum TOEFL score of 600 (paper-based) or 250 (computer-based) is required.

  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for Non-Native English Applicants
  • three recommendations
  • GRE general test
  • GRE subject test in physics
  • TOEFL minimum score of 600 paper-based or 250 computer-based


The first two years of your education is directed towards the goal of gaining a broad inclusive knowledge of the field of Astronomy and Space Sciences. The means to this end will include classwork, seminars, colloquia and consultation with faculty. You will gain experience communicating your ideas verbally and in written form. The background you acquire will be suitable for you to begin to conduct research in an area of interest. It will also provide the foundation of a future career whether it be in the specific field of Astronomy and Space Sciences or in some other quantitative, scientific discipline. As you move forward and specialize to begin full-fledged research you will acquire expert knowledge in several areas and learn how to grapple with problems bringing all your resources to bear to solve them.

You will hone your professional scientific skills and carry out original, publishable research.

Full learning assessment plan