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The Department of Astronomy is one of the leading centers for astronomical research in the world. Areas of research include cosmology, exoplanets, planetary science, the interstellar medium, galaxies and stars (including black holes, white dwarfs and neutron stars). The department places strong emphasis on the participation of students in ongoing research projects. It strives to foster an interdisciplinary approach to solving astronomical problems and maintains strong ties with other departments. Many undergraduate and graduate alumni of Cornell astronomy have become leaders in the field.

Cornell astronomers have played major roles in NASA missions to explore the solar system and distant universe. This commitment continues today, with Cornell astronomers leading the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission and playing integral roles in the Cassini mission to Saturn, its moons and environs. Cornell planetary scientists are intimately involved in planning and executing the next generation of spacecraft missions to explore the solar system.

Selected examples of current research topics (among many) include: the study of methane lakes on Titan, determination of the spectral signature of earth-like planets around other worlds, searching for gravitational waves by observing a network of pulsars, the migration of planets in exoplanet systems, the nature and origin of features in Saturn’s rings, and the structure and physical conditions of the earliest galaxies in the Universe.

The Department is home to the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Research (CCAPS) and the Carl Sagan Institute (for exoplanet and planetary research).