Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Mutually Exclusive
This module is suitable for non-Physics and Mathematics students but requires GCSE level Mathematics and Science, or equivalent.
Reading List
External Examiners
  • Professor Pete Vukusic (Professor - Exeter University)
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 3 x 40-minute multiple choice tests  100%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   Multiple Choice Test  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Memorise the development of ideas attempting to describe the complex observable universe in terms of underlying physical laws.
2. Demonstrate a scientific grasp of the basic ideas in our understanding of the physical Universe.
3. Describe the basic physics of the Sun and other stars.
4. Distinguish between the near and far Universe.
5. Describe the formation and the structure of solar system planets and exoplanets.

Brief description

The sky at night has fascinated humankind since the beginning of history. Contemporary astronomy provides us with a comprehensive picture of the physical universe, yet one in which many questions remain unanswered. This module reviews our present understanding of the universe and highlights important gaps in our knowledge. Topics covered include : the birth, life and death of stars (white dwarfs, black holes etc.); planets, comets and asteroids; the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe; galaxies and quasars; cosmology and the big bang. The course is suitable for undergraduates of any discipline.


The sky at night : motions of the heavens, stars and planets. Astronomy through history : ancient and Greek astronomy, the birth of modern astronomy - how astronomy has changed our concept of the universe we live in. Observing the universe.

Stars and planets: the formation of the Solar System. The Terrestrial planets, formation, differentiation and the evolution of surfaces and atmospheres. Jovian planets: atmospheres and interiors. Minor bodies of the Solar System : comets, asteroids, Pluto-Charon, meteors. Extra-solar planets and life in the universe.

Stellar properties. The Sun. Star birth and interstellar matter. Stellar evolution. The deaths of stars : black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs.

Types and evolution of Galaxies. Cosmology and relation to Physics.

Transferable skills

Introductory skills for using the Internet and other electronic sources of information.


This module is at CQFW Level 4