Masters in Space Sciences

Master of Science
Main Campus - Melbourne
Major Code: 8132 Degree Awarded: Master of Science
Age Restriction: N Admission status: graduate
Delivery Mode/s: classroom only Location/s: main campus
Admission Materials: 3 letters of recommendation, résumé, objectives  

The space sciences graduate program stresses many subfields of space studies, such as stellar and extragalactic astrophysics, solar-terrestrial interrelation (space weather, solar energetic particles), cosmic ray physics, energetic radiation from thunderstorms and lightning on Earth and other planets, planetary science, human space exploration research and related instrumentation. Graduate study in space sciences at the master's level prepares graduates for continued and specialized study toward the doctoral degree in space-related fields as well as a wide range of scientific and technical responsibilities in industry and government.

Admission Requirements

An applicant for admission should have an undergraduate degree in any subfield of space sciences (astronomy/astrophysics, geosciences, planetary sciences, astrobiology), physics or a related engineering field. All entering space sciences graduate students are required to be prepared in mathematics at least through vector analysis. The GRE scores from both the general and subject test in physics are recommended but not required.

Degree Requirements

The master's degree is conferred on students who have satisfactorily completed a minimum of 30 semester credit hours of graduate study. A master's thesis is optional. Master's degree students must complete the following five core courses with a grade of C or better:

Core Courses (15 credit hours)
  • MTH 5201 Mathematical Methods in Science and Engineering 1
    Credit Hours: 3
    Fourier series and their convergence properties; Sturm-Liouville eigenfunction expansion theory; Bessel and Legendre functions; solution of heat, wave and Laplace equations by separation of variables in Cartesian coordinates.
  • PHY 5015 Analytical Mechanics 1
    Credit Hours: 3
    A general treatment of dynamics of particles and rigid bodies, rotational dynamics, potential theory; Hamilton's principle and principle of least action, Lagrange's equations; and applications.
  • PHY 5017 Electromagnetic Theory 1
    Credit Hours: 3
    Introduces electrostatics, boundary-value problems in electrostatics, multipoles, electrostatics and macroscopic media, dielectrics, magnetostatics, Faraday's law, Maxwell equations, plane electromagnetic waves and wave propagation.
  • PHY 5030 Quantum Mechanics 1
    Credit Hours: 3
    Schroedinger equation, discrete and continuous eigenfunctions and eigenvalues, collision theory, matrix mechanics, angular momentum perturbation and other approximation methods, identical particles and spin, semiclassical theory of radiation, atomic structure.
  • PHY 5082 Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics
    Credit Hours: 3
    Covers the principles and applications of statistical thermodynamics, thermal and general interactions of macroscopic systems and parameter measurement. Also includes basic methods and applications of statistical mechanics, equilibrium conditions, quantum statistics of ideal gases, and the kinetic theory of transport and irreversible processes.
    Prerequisite course or instructor approval


In addition, students must take three subject courses from the list below and six semester credit hours of Thesis (SPS 5999). Students choosing to complete a nonthesis program must take two additional subject courses in place of the six semester credit hours of thesis. The subject courses must be PHY or SPS 5000-level or higher, and must include at least three courses from the following:

Subject Courses (a minimum of 3 courses from the following)
  • MTH 5202 Mathematical Methods in Science and Engineering 2
    Credit Hours: 3
    Solution of heat, wave and Laplace equations by separation of variables in cylindrical and spherical coordinates. Associated Legendre functions, hypergeometric functions and spherical harmonics. Fourier transforms and separation of variables for heat and wave equations on infinite intervals. Vector integral calculus.
  • SPS 5010 Astrophysics 1: Stellar Structure and Evolution
    Credit Hours: 3
    Introduces basic interior structural equations, energy generation processes, opacity, energy transport, radiation transport in stellar atmospheres, star formation, late stages of stellar evolution, stellar binaries and clusters. Special emphasis on analytic and numerical models relevant to the sun.
  • SPS 5011 Astrophysics 2: Galactic Structure and Cosmology
    Credit Hours: 3
    Includes formation and evolution of the Galaxy, including stellar populations and kinematics, spiral density theory; extragalactic astronomy, active galactic nuclei, Hubble's law, large-scale structure; and cosmology, including inflationary cosmology and the particle physics connection.
  • SPS 5020 Space Physics 1: the Low-Energy Universe
    Credit Hours: 3
    Introduces low-energy space plasma physics including the statistical behavior of plasmas, kinetic theory and magnetohydrodynamics. Emphasizes solar system space plasma physics and the sun-Earth connection including magnetospheric physics.
  • SPS 5021 Space Physics 2: the High-Energy Universe
    Credit Hours: 3
    The theoretical background and methods for observing gamma rays, x-rays, high energy electrons and heavy particles, cosmic rays, neutrons and gravitational waves from both spacecraft and Earth.
    Prerequisite course or instructor approval
  • SPS 5030 Planetary Science 1: Interiors
    Credit Hours: 3
    Mechanical and thermal processes governing the interior structure and surfaces of the major and minor planetary bodies of the solar system. Includes the planetary crust, mantle, core, core-mantle interface, seismicity, density and elastic constants.
    Prerequisite course or instructor approval
  • SPS 5031 Planetary Science 2: Atmospheres
    Credit Hours: 3
    Principles governing the evolution, composition and retention of planetary atmospheres and the interplanetary environment. Includes the neutral atmosphere, photochemical processes, diffusion dynamics and planetary ionospheres and magnetospheres.


Course substitutions must be approved by the department head and the Graduate Research and Academic Steering Panel (GRASP).


A general written examination is required in the first semester of residence for diagnosing any deficiencies in undergraduate preparation. Any deficiencies must be removed before a degree will be granted, as evidenced by this examination.


Before the master's degree is granted, the student must pass a final oral examination administered by a committee of three or more members of the graduate faculty selected by the student and the departmental advisor and including at least one member from outside the physics department. The oral examination emphasizes, but is not necessarily restricted to, subject matter related to the field of the thesis. For students not electing to do a thesis, the oral examination covers the general areas of the student's graduate studies.