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Master of Science in Astronomy and Space Sciences

College of Sciences
Applied Physics and Astronomy
Study System
Thesis and Courses
Total Credit Hours
33 Cr.Hrs
2-4 Years
Fall & Spring
Sharjah Main Campus
Study Mode
Full Time and Part Time

Master of Science in Astronomy and Space Sciences

The University of Sharjah (UoS) and the Sharjah Academy for Astronomy, Space Sciences, and Technology (SAASST) represent the main centers of education in Sharjah. UoS is one of the largest universities in the UAE, with more than 16,000 students spread all over its many branches across the Emirate.  Hundreds of degrees in various fields are offered, and both astronomy and space sciences represent an integral part of the university program.  To strengthen these two fields and in addition to its Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Physics and Astronomy, the University has developed a new graduate program in "Astronomy and Space Sciences." In this regard, the College of Sciences is offering a "Master of Science in Astronomy and Space Sciences." The aims of this MSc in Astronomy and Space Sciences are to augment and enhance the knowledge acquired at the undergraduate level through a combination of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary learning, interpersonal, research, skills, and expertise required for a career working in Astronomy/Space Sciences and their applications.

The new program will improve employability through the development of the postgraduate skills required for a successful transition to a research role in academia or professional research centers. This will be achieved through the delivery of Masters-level taught elements as well as the completion of new research projects. The proposed program will be delivered through a range of learning experiences such as lectures and hands-on experiences through the newly Sharjah Academy for Astronomy, Space Sciences and Technology, and other local and international related facilities such as the UAE Space Agency and Mohamed Bin Rashid Space Center. The academic aim of the program is to provide students with advanced knowledge and skills in Astronomy and Space Sciences, such as understanding the physical Universe through astronomical observations carried out from the ground or space. The intent is also to prepare students to engage in independent and collaborative research in academic, governmental, and industrial sectors.

Program Objectives
The essential objective of the MSASS is to strengthen the academic and professional knowledge of students. The program is also intended to provide students with the required experience in their chosen area of focus. The specific objectives of the program are to:

  1. Provide students with the quality education to understand the astronomical, physical world as well as space sciences concepts, and conceive the overall structure of the Universe.
  2. Equip students with the attributes of advanced astronomical knowledge and space sciences technologies and address future challenges in the field.
  3. Provide students with practical experience in space sciences research, project development, and management.
  4. Prepare students to engage in independent and collaborative research in University, government, and industrial sectors.

Program Structure & Requirements
To be awarded the MSASS degree (Thesis), a student has to complete 33 credit hours distributed as in Tables 1.

Requirement Credit Hours
Compulsory Courses
Elective Courses 12
Thesis 9
Total Credit Hours 33

Table 1: Program Components: Thesis Option

The University of Sharjah has published and implemented a set of By-Laws that govern all aspects of graduate studies at the University. These By-Laws are published to define the rights and obligations of the faculty, staff, and students, and organize the teaching process. Some of these laws and requirements (presented below) specify a certain grade point average and duration of the study.

The requirements for graduation with the MSASS degree are:

  1. Passing all courses in the study plan.
  2. Completing all the other requirements of the study plan.
  3. Accumulating an average GPA of 3.0 or more (on a 4-point scale).

Special Admission Requirements
Students whose undergraduate degree is not directly related to Applied Physics and Astronomy may be admitted to the MSASS program upon the recom­mendation of the Department council and the approval of the Graduate Studies Council. This admission will be conditional on the candidate passing up to 24 credit hours as prerequisite cours­es if required, shown in Table 2, within two academic semesters from enrollment subject to the following:

  • Registration for Master level courses is not considered unless the candi­date has passed the required prerequisite courses. If he has only one more prerequisite course to complete, the Department may allow him to enroll in the Master courses.
  • The time the student takes to finish the required prerequisite courses shall not be counted in the period set for obtaining the degree unless the student has enrolled in some of the compulsory graduate courses along with the prerequisites.
  • Credit hours obtained in prerequisite courses shall not be included in the CGPA or counted toward the time limit set for graduation.
  • Prerequisite courses are graded on a pass-fail basis, and the passing grade is "C."

Specialization Required Basic Courses (or equivalent)
All Specializations 1430201 Fund. Astronomy & Space Sciences

1430241 Modern Physics

1430251 Math. Method of Physics (1)

1430323 Quantum Mechanics (1)

1430331 Electricity and Magnetism (1)
Table 2: Transitional undergraduate courses required for MSASS Program

Students must obtain 550 points on the TOEFL test or its equivalent on the iBT or CBT or 6 on the IELTS before being admitted to the MSASS program. A student may be admitted conditionally if he/she obtains 530 points or better on the TOEFL provided that the student enrolls in an English language course and receive a TOFEL score of 550 at the end of his/her first semester of study. The student will be expelled from the program if these two conditions are not met.

The minimum admission requirement for the MSASS program is a grade of Good in the first degree and a cumulative grade-point average (CGPA) of not less than 3.0 on a 4-point scale. Students with a CGPA of 2.5 to 2.99 may be admitted conditionally provided that they register between 6 and 9 credit hours in the first semester of their study and obtain a "B" average. Otherwise, the student will be expelled from the program.

Study Plan

Program Requirements (33 Credit Hours)

The Applied Physics and Astronomy Department has defined the following two baskets in the MSASS program:

  • Astrophysics
  • Space Sciences

Based on the above definition, the Department selected a set of compulsory courses, summarized in Tables 3. These mandatory courses are designated to establish a strong foundation for all graduate students upon which more advanced topics could be acquired.

Department Requirements – Compulsory
Course Code Course Title Cr. Hrs. Prerequisites
1430501 Stellar Astrophysics 3  
1430502 Planetary Science 3  
Galactic and Extragalactic Astrophysics 3  
1430504 Solar and Space Physics 3  
  Elective Course 1 3  
  Elective Course 2 3  
  Elective Course 3 3  
  Elective Course 4 3  
1430591 Thesis Proposal 3 Grad. Standing
1430599 Master Thesis 6 Grad. Standing
Table 3: Department requirements – compulsory courses (Thesis Option)

Note – Students should complete 12 credits hours of their study plan before they can register the "Master Thesis" course.

Students are required to complete a Thesis as part of the degree requirements. The Master's Thesis accounts for 9 credit hours of the 33 credit hours of the program, as shown in Table 1.

Program Elective Courses
Table 4 lists all of the elective courses offered in the program.

Course Code  Course Title  Cr. Hrs. 
1430505  Observational Astronomical Techniques 
1430506  Space Weather 
1430507  Celestial Mechanics 
1430508  General Relativity   
1430509  Data Analysis and Astrostatistics   
1430601  Computational Astrophysics   
1430602  Radio Astronomy   
1430603  Research Methodology 
1430604  Atmospheric Physics and Meteorology 
1430605  Radiative Processes in Astrophysics 
1430606  Variable and Binary Stars 
1430607  Cosmology 
1430608  Astronomical Optics 
Table 4: Program Electives' List

Study Plan: Course Distribution

Tables 5 shows the recommended study plan (designated for Full-Time students) in the MSASS Program. The program is organized for three semesters. It is clear from the study plan that a student should be able to complete the program efficiently within four semesters, including Thesis work over a full year.

Proposed Study Plan for the degree of "M.Sc. in Astronomy and Space Sciences." Thesis Option ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​
Year 1 - Fall Semester  ​ ​ ​     Year 1 - Spring Semester  ​ ​ ​ ​
Course Title  Type  Cr. Hr    No.  Course Title  Type  Cr. Hr 
1430501 Stellar Astrophysics  C 3   1430504 Galactic and Extragalactic Astrophysics  C 3
1430501 Stellar Astrophysics  C 3   1430xxx Elective 1 E 3
1430502 Planetary Science  C 3   1430xxx Elective 2 E 3
 Total 9     Total   

Year 2 - Fall Semester   ​ ​ ​ ​

Year 2 - Spring Semester  ​ ​    
No.  Course Title  Type  Cr. Hr    No.  Course Title  Type  Cr. Hr 
1430xxx Elective 3   1430599 Master Thesis   
1430xxx Elective 4           
1430591 Thesis proposal   3          
  Total            6
Table 5: Study Plan, (C = compulsory, E = Elective)

Course Description

1430501 - Stellar Astrophysics (3 crs)

Basic Concepts; Stellar Formation; Radiation Transfer in Stars; Stellar Atmospheres; Stellar Interiors; Nucleosynthesis and Stellar Evolution; Chemically Peculiar Stars and Diffusion; Astrophysics Research Projects.

1430502 - Planetary Science (3 crs)

This course will cover the following topics: the origin of the solar system, planets of the solar system, Earth as a model of planetary evolution, meteorites and impact craters, ice worlds, brown dwarfs stars and exoplanets planets.

1430503 - Galactic and Extragalactic Astrophysics (3 crs)

This course will cover one of the most exciting areas of contemporary astronomy, covering a large variety of phenomena and objects in the Universe. A thorough treatment is given of the physical processes that govern the behavior of particles and emission of radiation in astrophysical environments and then discuss different observable aspects such as neutron stars, black holes, Active Galactic Nuclei, etc. This course will also emphasize on how observations are made and the limitations imposed on them.  We will discuss that the new disciplines of radio, millimeter, infrared, ultraviolet, X, and gamma-ray astronomies combined with optical astronomy have led to the growth on many new areas of astrophysics.

1430504 - Solar and Space Physics (3 crs)

We live in the extended atmosphere of a magnetic variable star. Solar radiation enables and sustains life, but the Sun also produces streams of high energy particles and radiation that can be harmful to people and their technology. In this course, we will explore the physical processes that link the Sun to the planets, and we will learn about the behavior of the tenuous, magnetized plasma that fills the rest of the solar system. Topics discussed in this course will include some basic plasma physics, the solar interior and atmosphere, the solar wind and coronal mass ejections, planetary magnetospheres, and space weather.

1430505 - Observational Astronomical Techniques (3 crs)

This course describes the techniques used by astronomers to observe the Universe: optical telescopes and instruments are discussed in detail, but observations at all wavelengths (from gamma rays to radio) are covered, and there are sections on cosmic rays, neutrinos, and gravitation waves. After a short interlude describing the appearance of the sky at all wavelengths, the role of positional astronomy is highlighted. Students will learn here the quantitative aspects of the electromagnetic spectrum, telescopes at all wavebands, speckle interferometry, detectors such as CCDs. With the great advances of IceCube, LIGO, HESS, MAGIC, and CTA, the era of multi-messenger astronomy is here. We will also discuss the input from this instrument, beyond the classical photon-based astronomy.

1430506 - Space Weather (3  crs)

Space weather is an emerging field of space science focused on understanding the societal and technological impacts of the solar-terrestrial relationship. The Sun, which has a tremendous influence on Earth's space environment, releases vast amounts of energy in the form of electromagnetic and particle radiation that can damage or destroy satellite, navigation, communication, and power distribution systems. This is a course about how to forecast space weather. It will give the tools and necessary knowledge to analyze and predict space weather.

1430507 - Celestial Mechanics ( 3 crs)

This course in celestial mechanics treats Newtonian mechanics and gravitation – separate chapters are devoted to Newton's Laws of motion and law of gravitation as applied to system of particles; motion in the gravitation field with an especially full discussion of the two body problem; Keplerian orbits. The course will also treat rigid body rotation, the three-body problem, and also the orbital perturbation theory. 

1430508 - General Relativity (3 crs)

Review of special relativity and Newtonian gravity; Gravity as the geometry of curved spacetime; Geodesics and conservation laws; Schwarzschild geometry; Post-Newtonian expansions and tests of general relativity; Gravitational collapse and black holes; Linearized gravity and gravitational waves; Cosmological models for the expanding Universe.

1430509 - Data Analysis and Astrostatistics (3 crs)

This course will cover a variety of topics in the area of Statistics and Probabilities with the intention to utilize them in spectral fitting and parameter determination. The students will get a hands-on experience with conduction and analysis of optical photometry using the telescopes available at our institute. Experience with Bias, Dark frames, flat frames, and Johnson UBVRI system to calibrate their fluxes will be gained. In addition, some basic properties of spectral analysis will be discussed. 

1430590 – Project Course (3 crs)

Students who do not opt to take the thesis option must complete the project course. During this phase, students are expected to implement a proposed project as outlined by their project supervisor. Each student is required to prepare a detailed report, a poster, and make a formal presentation of their work that will be used to evaluate their project and verbal and communication skills.

1430599 – Master Thesis (9 crs)

The student has to undertake and complete a research topic under the supervision of a faculty member. The thesis work should provide the student with in-depth perspective of a particular research problem in his chosen field of specialization.  It is anticipated that the student be able to carry out his research fairly independently under the direction of his supervisor.  The student is required to submit a final thesis documenting his research and defend his work in front of a committee.

1430601 - Computational Astrophysics (3 crs)

In this course, the student will encounter for the very first time the environment of modern Theoretical Astrophysics. Although a large part of this course will revise the basic equations governing the relevant topics, the course will mainly focus on the numerical principles and code development to tackle the problem. From Ordinary Differential Equation to sophisticated solvers for Hydrodynamical equations will be discussed. At the end of each topical unit we will solve an important problem using computer language (from low level C to high level such as Python). Also, some visualization tools will be employed. Main topics in this course are: Gravitational Dynamics, Stellar Structure and Evolutions, Hydrodynamics, and Radiative Transfer.

1430602 - Radio Astronomy (3 crs)

This course is to give students the background needed to understand radio astronomy, to recognize when radio observations might help solve an astrophysical problem, and to design, propose, and analyze radio observations. It will cover topics such as descriptions of the properties and use of radio telescopes and various types of receivers needed to analyze cosmic radio signals, the techniques of radiometry, spectroscopy, interferometry, and the descriptions of radiation mechanisms responsible for broadband and spectral line radiation.

1430603 - Research Methodology (3 crs)

This course describes the process of scientific research, the literature sources, gathering information, writing a scientific article, thesis, and a report. Students are introduced to the process of scientific writing and editing.  The course focuses on the scientific arguments that are used in research to provide and support an idea. Also, the students will deal with the different tools that give them access to a journal such as, the NASA ADS, the SIMBAD, Google Scholar, the Web of Knowledge, etc.  On the more practical aspect, a part of the course is dedicated to structuring a paper or a report using both Microsoft Word and LaTeX, following templates of major journals in Astronomy and Astrophysics such as the "Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS)" and "Astronomy and Astrophysics (A&A)" and many others. Different styles of writing, e.g., Thesis, Review, journal article, lab report, etc. are also discussed. In addition, citation editors like ZOTERO (for MW) and Bibtex (for Latex) will be utilized, alongside with different journal-citation styles. The course also focuses on the development of soft skills such as communication and presentation.

1430604 - Atmospheric Physics and Meteorology (3 crs)

The course is mainly intended for students to get a grasp on atmospheric physics and meteorology of the Earth. The course introduces the basic terminology, followed by a detailed description of the atmospheric elements (pressure, temperature, humidity, etc.) and ways of measuring them.  Moreover, the thermodynamics of the atmosphere including vertical charts, recent models of  Earth's atmospheres, and weather forecasting, are discussed. Instabilities in the atmosphere, radiative transfer, and basic hydrodynamics and chemistry, the ozone layer, etc. are included in the course. Also, in the light of the Emirate Mars mission, the last part of the course is dedicated to extraterrestrial atmospheres like the Martian Atmosphere and the capabilities of the mission.

1430605 - Radiative Processes in Astrophysics (3 crs)

The course will discuss classical radiation properties and radiative transfer. More specifically, essential radiative transfer concepts, reddening, Einstein relations, moments of the radiative transfer equation, grey atmosphere, opacities, the Eddington approximation, radiative force, line profile formation, line broadening, the curve of growth, etc. Emission mechanisms such as Bremsstrahlung and synchrotron/cyclotron, as well as Compton scattering will also be discussed. Application to specific objects such as X-ray sources and stellar atmospheres will be discussed.

1430606 - Variable and Binary Stars (3 crs)

The course describes binary stars in terms of the means of their detection: visual, eclipsing, spectroscopic, and astrometric. It will explain the importance of binary stars in determining stellar masses, classify variable stars as either intrinsic or extrinsic and periodic or non-periodic. It will also show the importance of the period-luminosity relationship for determining the distance of cepheids. The course will allow the students to see how to perform an investigation to model the light curves of eclipsing binaries using computer simulation.

1430607 – Cosmology (3 crs)

This course is to give students the necessary cosmological tools to understand the main cosmological principles and the significant recent developments in the field. The course will cover topics such as the cosmological constant, the accelerating Universe, the cosmic microwave background radiation, the different cosmological models, the large-scale structure of the Universe, etc. It will also involve discussions of current theories and recent observations.

1430608 - Astronomical Optics (3 crs)   

This course provides an overview of optical systems for astronomy. It introduces astronomical and optical concepts related to astronomical observations, such as stars, exoplanets, etc. By focusing on a particularly challenging observational problem of modern astronomy, the course will teach design and analysis of high precision optical systems and measurement techniques for astronomy, including spectroscopy, photometry, optical metrology, and interferometry. Design and fabrication of both ground-based and space-based astronomical observatories and instruments will be discussed.