Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Mutually Exclusive
None- Module is also suitable for non Physics students
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 3 x 40 minutes multiple choice tests  100%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   Supplementary exam  100%

Learning Outcomes

After taking this module students should be able to:

  • Follow the development of ideas attempting to describe the complex observable universe in terms of underlying physical laws.
  • Demonstrate a scientific grasp of the basic ideas in our understanding of the physical Universe.

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 in a non-mathematical manner 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.

Transferable skills

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

Reading List

Recommended Text
FOR OTHERS: M. Zeilek Astronomy, The Evolving Universe 6th Wiley Primo search Kaufmann & Friedmann Universe Primo search

FOR PSP STUDENTS: Marc L Kutner Astronomy - A Physical Perspective 2nd edition Cambridge University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 4