- Planetary sciences covers the characterization, origin and evolution of planetary bodies, both in this Solar System and elsewhere (exoplanets).
- Research on the Milky Way and nearby galaxies at UCSC covers a wide range of topics, including the star formation and the interstellar medium, stellar evolution, and stellar populations.
Extragalactic astronomy and cosmology represent UCSC's efforts to understand the structure and evolution of the universe on the largest scales, including the formation and dynamics of galaxies, clusters and superclusters, the large-scale-structure of the universe, and the evolution of the universe from the earliest times.
- Astrophysical sources such as neutron stars, black holes, supernovae, and even the big-bang itself require a thorough understanding of high-energy and particle physics to interpret. Likewise, such phenomena can be used as testing arenas for cutting edge-fundamental physics.
- UCSC is the home of one of the preeminent astrophysical instrumentation centers: the UCO/Lick Observatory Technical Facilities. Two of the major goals of UCSC researchers are the development of the next-generation Thirty Meter Telescope, and the continuing improvement of Adaptive Optics techniques.
- UCSC is one of the national centers for research in computational astrophysics, and is host to the High Performance AstroComputing Center (HIPACC), which brings together computational research throughout the UC system.