History of Astronomy - 2016

To enrol in this unit, you must be accepted into a course from the provider. Read before you start

Unit summary


  • Level of Study: Postgraduate
  • Study load: 0.125 EFTSL
  • Delivery method: Fully Online
  • Prerequisites: No
  • Duration: 13 weeks
  • Government loans available: FEE-HELP
  • Availability for 2016: SP3
  • Availability for 2017: SP3
  • Assessment: Assignment - Newsgroups (30%) , Essay (50%) - Learn more

Unit provided by

2016 Fees
Domestic 2,300.00
Domestic continuing 1,966.00
International 2,550.00
International continuing 2,216.00

2016 Swinburne tuition fees are reduced for continuing postgraduate students.
Please login in to view the applicable amount.

This unit investigates the development and impact of astronomy from ancient times to the present day, from the viewpoint of practising astronomers. No background knowledge of astronomy or physics is assumed.

At the completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. identify and describe the social reasons which lead to the development of astronomical knowledge in ancient times
  2. discuss and explain the development of astronomical concepts and techniques throughout the ages in world societies
  3. recognise the major influences on and key players in the development of astronomy as it emerged as a science in western societies
  4. appraise the interplay of Newtonian and post-Newtonian physics with astronomy, and the influence of the rise of scientific instrumentation in astronomy
  5. judge the social implications of the historical development of astronomy, plus the status of astronomy as an international science in the 21st century
  6. design and create an essay on an astronomy topic, assessing and critiquing current knowledge, using credible sources of astronomical information and research articles.
  • Assignment — Newsgroups (30%)
  • Essay (50%)
  • Test (20%)

There are no prerequisites for this unit.

  • Broadband access

In order to enrol in this unit, you must be accepted into one of the following courses:

Please visit the course details page and read the Requirements tab for more information about eligibility.

This unit addresses the following topics.

1Naked eye astronomy; archaeoastronomy; the influence of mythology
2The development of astronomy in Mesopotamia and Egypt; constellations, the zodiac, eclipses, astrology, concepts of time
3Natural philosophy and science in ancient Greece, Greek and Roman astronomy
4Islamic astronomy; astronomy in Asia: Chinese and Indian astronomy
5Medieval astronomy: the influence of Islamic science, pre-Copernicans, medieval astronomy, Copernican revolution: Brahe, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo
6The Newtonian revolution: Descartes, Newtonian cosmology, Halley; Kant and galaxies, Herschel and Uranus, physics and astronomy after Newton
719th century: discovery of Neptune, large telescopes & observatories, nebulae to galaxies, spectroscopy & astrophysics, astrophotography & photometry
8New wavelengths: the electromagnetic spectrum, infrared radiation, the dawn of radio astronomy
920th century: relativity, cosmology and the Big Bang; the shift from imaging to imagination; modern cosmology
10Issues in history of astronomy: philosophy science & scientific method; women in astronomy; astronomical instrumentation & technological developments

This unit is delivered using the following methods and materials:

Instructional Methods

  • Discussion Forum/Discussion Board
  • Embedded Multimedia
  • Online Quizzes/Tests
  • Online assignment submission
  • Standard Media
  • Web links

This unit is an approved elective in the following courses:

This unit may be eligible for credit towards other courses:

  1. Many undergraduate courses on offer through OUA include 'open elective' where any OUA unit can be credited to the course. You need to check the Award Requirements on the course page for the number of allowed open electives and any level limitations.
  2. In other cases, the content of this unit might be relevant to a course on offer through OUA or elsewhere. In order to receive credit for this unit in the course you will need to supply the provider institution with a copy of the Unit Profile in the approved format, which you can download here. Note that the Unit Profile is set at the start of the year, and if textbooks change this may not match the Co-Op textbook list.

Textbooks are subject to change within the academic year. Students are advised to purchase their books no earlier than one to two months before the start of a unit.

Click on the titles of the listed books below to find out more:

Required textbooks

  • Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology

    By:North, John

    ISBN: 9780226594415


    Supplier:Go to The Co-op Bookshop

  • Enquire online

    Need to ask a question that's best put down in words?
    Make an online enquiry.

    Enquire now

    Ready to enrol?

    Start studying this unit now.


    Got a question?

    Get an answer from one of our friendly Student Advisors.