The Graduate University for Advanced Studies

  1. Home
  2. Outline of Astronomical Science Program

Outline of Astronomical Science Program

1. Outline of the program

Astronomical Science Program offers advanced education and research through a wide range of observational and theoretical studies with state-of-the-art optical-infrared and radio telescopes. More specifically, this program covers development and application of advanced new technologies fundamental to astronomical observation, design, fabrication, and experimentation of new observational instruments, development of data acquisition and analysis methods, and development of technologies ranging from basic to advanced observational astronomy, as well as observational research using these technologies and theoretical research using supercomputers.

The Subaru Telescope
The Subaru Telescope and other telescopes
at the summit of Maunakea in Hawai`i.

There are two types of programs: a five-year doctoral program for bachelor's degree holders and a three-year doctoral program for master's degree holders. Graduate students enrolled in the program will conduct their studies and research activities at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), whose headquartered is in Mitaka City, Tokyo.

2. Program objectives

This program focuses on observational and theoretical research, along with instrumentation research for astronomy and related fields. The program infrastructure provides the world’s most advanced research environment with the state-of-the-art observational instruments as well as supercomputers. We aim to foster 1) researchers who can play an active role at the forefront of the international research; 2) specialists who will play leading roles in development of advanced technology; and 3) personnel who will work to promote science against the backdrop of advanced scientific knowledge.

3. Academic and research activities

Graduate students enrolled in this program receive research guidance from multiple supervisors in the program, consisting of a primary supervisor, a sub-supervisor, and an assistant supervisor. The curriculum is based on systematic guidance to enable students to conduct observational, theoretical or developmental research independently, and is designed to cultivate (1) basic knowledge in natural sciences, (2) specialized knowledge and research skills in astronomical science and related fields, and (3) communication skills required for international research activity and the ability to communicate specialized knowledge and technology to the society. In addition to courses that cultivate basic academic skills in natural science, students develop specialized research skills in astronomy and related fields through well-balanced study of courses offered in the fields of optical-infrared astronomy, radio astronomy, and common basic astronomy. In the experimental courses, students learn the fundamentals of observation through hands-on observation with optical and radio telescopes, while seminars in small groups provide practical and active educational opportunities.  Students give research presentations in English at Colloquium regularly. In addition, they systematically develop their presentation and discussion skills in English through classes such as "Exercise in Scientific English" and "Training of Presentation in English". In "Introduction to Scientific Communication," students develop the ability to communicate their specialized knowledge and skills to the society. In order to cultivate internationality and strengthen research capabilities, we also encourage students to take advantage of the SOKENDAI internship program to seek supervision from leading researchers in Japan and abroad. In this program, students are expected to present their research progress to the faculty members of the program on a regular basis;Progress Report (M2), the Doctoral Course Midterm Presentation (D2), and the preliminary defense of doctoral thesis (D3). The faculty members will review and advise the students on the progress of their research and provide feedback to their supervisors on their supervision strategies.
SOKENDAI also encourages students to take courses offered by other programs or receive joint instruction from faculty members of other programs, based on the interests and progress of the student's own research.

4. Degree Requirements

The degree is awarded to those who are recognized as having acquired the ability to independently pursue observational, theoretical, or developmental research that adds original and new knowledge in astronomical science and related fields, either as individuals who advance research and the development of advanced technology at the forefront of the world or as individuals involved in the promotion of science with advanced scientific backgrounds. We require that 1) the dissertation work is published in a peer-reviewed, scientific journal in European language with the candidate as the primary author, or is to be published within one year of the conferral of the degree, and 2) one paper is already published in a peer-reviewed, scientific journal in European language with the candidate as the primary author. If the content of the doctoral thesis research has not yet been published, then 1) and 2) must be satisfied separately, but the content of the paper in 2) doesnot have to be included in the doctoral thesis. In the five-year doctoral program, a master's degree can be conferred upon fulfillment of certain conditions.

5. For prospective students

Who should apply

The Astronomical Science Program seeks students with a strong interest in astronomy and the Universe, as well as a passion for unraveling scientific questions through theoretical, observational, and instrument development research; and students who have not only basic academic skills, but who also have the needed theoretical and creative aptitude for advanced research.

Admission policy

Selection of applicants is based on a comprehensive evaluation of the applicant's basic knowledge and understanding of physics and mathematics, English language ability, logicality, creativity, motivation for research, and potential ability. Applicants to the doctoral program are also determined on their ability to obtain a doctoral degree within a designated period of time.

6. Research fields

Students interested in a particular research field are encouraged to consult with a potential research advisor after examining his/her research interests. Students unable to find a suitable research advisor should contact the academic guidance instructor specified below each research field. (When sending emails, replace the [at] with the single-byte @.)
Astronomical Science Program encompass the following three areas: Optical and Infrared Astronomy; Radio Astronomy; and General Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Optical and Infrared Astronomy

This field researches heavenly bodies through visible and near-infrared light which can be observed by ground-based telescopes. The research encompasses a wide range of celestial objects, including galaxies, stars, interstellar material, extra-solar planets, and Solar System bodies. Observational and theoretical research is conducted using NAOJ's 8.2-meter Subaru Telescope near the summit of Maunakea, Hawai`i.

Academic guidance instructors for Optical and Infrared Astronomy :
Wako Aoki (aoki.wako[at]

Radio Astronomy

This field of astronomy conducts observations primarily in the radio wave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Using the Nobeyama 45-meter Radio Telescope, Nobeyama Radioheliograph, very long baseline interferometers and other observational instruments, courses focus mainly on observational research and instrument development research. Observational targets include a wide range of celestial objects such as galaxies, stars, interstellar matter, extra-solar planets, and the Solar System. Now observations have started using ALMA, a radio astronomy facility in Chile's Atacama Desert constructed through collaboration between Japan, Taiwan, Europe, and North America.

Academic guidance instructors for Radio Astronomy :
Kenichi Tatematsu (k.tatematsu[at], Noriyuki Namiki (nori.namiki[at]

General Astronomy and Astrophysics

This field includes many subdisciplines of astronomical and astrophysical research: theoretical astronomy, solar physics, gravitational wave astronomy, and database astronomy. Using instruments such as supercomputers, the Hinode solar observation satellite, solar telescopes, and the Large-scale Cryogenic Gravitational Wave Telescope KAGRA, courses pursue research on cosmology, galaxies, interstellar material, extra-solar planets, and the Solar System.

Academic guidance instructors for General Astronomy and Astrophysics :
Takashi Sekii (takashi.sekii[at]