Astronomy major - Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences or Bachelor of Science


AUT lecturer comments on Breakthrough Listen

A massive search for alien life, known as Breakthrough Listen, has been launched with two of the world’s most powerful telescopes being engaged for the project. Breakthrough Listen has support from British physicist Stephen Hawking, and is financed by Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner. AUT’s Professor Sergei Gulyaev was invited to weigh in on the subject on TVNZ’s news show Breakfast. Professor Gulyaev is the founder and director of AUT’s Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research and a professor of astronomy. 
Turn your fascination for space into a career involving astrophysics and radio astronomy. High-performance computing and broadband networking are central to modern astronomy and space science. The Astronomy major in the Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences or Bachelor of Science has an applied nature with a strong grounding in computing and mathematics.

After building a base of knowledge in astronomy and physics, you explore the latest developments in astronomy and space science, spherical astronomy, celestial mechanics, theoretical astrophysics and mathematical physics.

AUT’s Warkworth Observatory, which is linked to New Zealand’s most powerful super computers, has two large professional radio telescopes – the only radio telescopes in the country. It enables AUT’s Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research (IRASR) to receive and process enormous amounts of data from deep space, used for cutting-edge research in astrophysics and earth science. You have the opportunity to work with IRASR during your study.

Key features

  • Access to AUT’s hi-tech astronomy facilities and equipment, including NZ’s only radio astronomy telescopes
  • Opportunity to complete a major research project in your final year

Career opportunities

  • Astronomer
  • Industrial mathematician
  • Observatory technician or research officer
  • Planetarium lecturer
  • Programmer or systems developer
  • Scientific programmer
  • Secondary teacher (following an additional year of teacher training)
  • Technical software developer


Most papers last one semester and are worth 15 points. You must complete 120 points each year (360 points for the entire degree). In each year you will study core (compulsory) papers, and select other papers from a range of options.

Year 1
Students in all majors study the same core papers this year. 

Level 5:
COMM501 Applied Communication (15 points)

SELECT 75 points from:
ASTR500 Introductory Astronomy (15 points)
COMP506 Computer Organisation (15 points)
ENSE501 Programming for Engineering Applications (15 points)
ENSE502 Object Oriented Applications (15 points)
MATH500 Mathematical Concepts (15 points)
MATH501 Differential and Integral Calculus (15 points)
MATH502 Algebra and Discrete Mathematics (15 points)
PHYS500 Physics I (15 points)
STAT500 Applied Statistics (15 points)

With a further 30 points from the Additional Papers list below or other Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences or Bachelor of Science papers (subject to meeting prerequisites).

Year 2
You become familiar with astrophysics and computational spherical astronomy. You also complete more advanced physics papers and study multivariate calculus, as well as other papers from the Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences.

Level 6:
ASTR600 Computational Spherical Astronomy (15 points)
ASTR601 Astrophysics (15 points)
PHYS600 Physics II (15 points)

With a further 75 points from the Additional Papers list below or other Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences or Bachelor of Science papers (subject to meeting prerequisites).

Year 3
You study practical astrophysics, radio astronomy and applied stochastic models. You also explore the frontiers of astronomy and choose from a range of electives.

You will have the opportunity to complete a research project in a specialist area of astronomy, under the supervision of a member of staff. This 30-credit paper will allow you to explore in depth a research topic or area, design scientific and/or computational experiments, and submit a project report detailing your findings. All the astronomy resources of AUT will be made available to project students. It may also be possible for project students to use internationally available astronomy resources, subject to agreement.

This Research Project paper counts as two papers and can be achieved either over one semester or the whole year.

Level 7:
ASTR700 Practical Astrophysics (15 points)
ASTR701 Radio Astronomy (15 points)
ASTR702 Frontiers of Astronomy (15 points)
MATH705 Research Project (30 points)*

*This paper is compulsory in the Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences but not in the Bachelor of Science. You may substitute this with approved alternative Level 7 papers

With a further 45 points from the Additional Papers list below or other Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences or Bachelor of Science papers (subject to meeting prerequisites).

Additional papers (subject to availability and sufficient student numbers):
Level 5:
COMP500 Programming 1 (15 points)
COMP503 Programming 2 (15 points)
COMP504 Computer Networking (15 points)
COMP505 Introduction to Programming (15 points)

Level 6:
COMP603 Program Design and Construction (15 points)
COMP612 Computer Graphics (15 points)
STAT602 Quality Assurance (15 points)

Level 7:
COMP710 Game Programming (15 points)
COMP716 Highly Secure Systems (15 points)
COMP719 Applied Human Computer Interaction (15 points)
ENSE701 Software Engineering (15 points)
MATH701 Special Topic A (15 points)
MATH702 Special Topic B (15 points)

Click here to view programme structure and paper outlines.
Additional course information can also be found here.

Enrolment in papers is subject to meeting all requirements and availability of papers.

Last updated: 24-Nov-2016 8.25am

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.