Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Stars and Planets
Academic Year
Semester 1
A Level Physics and Mathematics or equivalent
Reading List

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Continuous Assignments  30%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Examination  70%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Examination  Examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

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

Summarise the basic features of observational astronomy and infer stellar distances, colours, and diameters.

Examine the structure of stars and planets.

Discuss the formation and evolution of stars and planets.

Evaluate the current techniques for determining the surface and internal composition of planets

Assess current observations, detection techniques, and atmospheric models.

Brief description

The course provides an overview of stars and planets, their formation, structure, and evolution. PH18010 provides useful background for the module but is not essential as a prerequisite.


The aim of the module is to develop the student's understanding of the principles and techniques of stellar / planetary detection and measurement techniques, the formation and evolution of stars and planets. The module covers core topics in physical sciences degree schemes and prepares the students for use of the topics in more advanced Year 3 modules.


Stars: measurement techniques

Methods used to determine distance to stars and hence their luminosity;
Methods of measuring stellar masses and radii;
Spectroscopy of eclipsing binaries;
Radial velocity/Doppler shift;
Spectroscopic parallax;
Standard candles: Cepheid Variables, Type 1a supernovae;
The Tully Fisher relation and Hubble's Law;

Stars: theory

The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram;
The main sequence;
Nuclear reactions;
Stellar evolution, Post-main sequence;
Particle degeneracy in stars;
Stellar remnants: white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes;


Defining planets;
Terrestrial planets, gas giants, ice giants;
Minor objects: Kuiper belt objects, Oort cloud objects, asteroids, meteoroids and dust;
The exoplanetary 'zoo' and exoplanet detection methods;
Planetary formation, accretion in the protostellar nebula;
Planetary structure and generation of magnetic fields;
Planetary dynamics: orbits, tides, moons and rings;
Planetary surface processes: cratering, erosion, tectonics;
Planetary geodesy and planetary mapping;
Comparative planetology.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Creative Problem Solving Problem solving is a key skill in physics and will be tested via the problem questions posed in the assignments and the semester examination.
Professional communication Clear presentation of work by the students in courseworks and the semester examination develop written communication skills.
Reflection The assignments are used in order that students might reflect on their progress during the module
Subject Specific Skills Stellar / planetary formation, structure, evolution, observational techniques, are core topics in Physics degree schemes. Students are expected to gain understanding of these topics.


This module is at CQFW Level 5