Subject details

The primary capabilities developed by this subject are:

Application capability: solve problems using knowledge of the basic laws of physics in an astronomical context; calculate the age and size of the observable universe; calculate basic properties of stars at all stages of their lifecycle. 

  • Knowledge capability: understand the basics of astronomical observation, and the determination of stellar properties; understand the processes leading to the formation and lifecycle of stars; understand stellar death and the formation of black holes from gravitational collapse; understand the meaning of singularity, event horizon and Schwarzschild radius and how they relate to Black Holes; describe and predict the basic properties of the universe, its age, size and fate; understand the fundamental assumptions of modern cosmology.
  • Analysis capability: differentiate between the different forces governing stellar processes, including thermonuclear reactions, gravitational collapse, stellar pressure and the Pauli exclusion principle; be able to classify different stars based on simple spectral data and predict the future form this star will take using an H-R diagram; explain the Big Bang hypothesis and contrast this to competing theories of the formation of our Universe; relate the observational evidence for Black Holes to the theory of their size and effect on surrounding matter.
  • Comprehension capability: grasp the tension between thermonuclear reactions and gravitational collapse which drives stars throughout their life and which produces cataclysmic results in the death of some; differentiate between the quantities which characterise our Universe and explain what each measures.
    • Introduction to Astronomical Observations & Measurement
    • Physical Characteristics of Stars
    • Birth, Life and Death of Stars
    • Black Holes - Theory and Observations
    • Introduction to Cosmology


A good working knowledge of secondary school mathematics is assumed Additionally, secondary school physics; or the completion of a first year (level 1) science subject; or completion of any second year (level 2) university subject, are recommended prior to attempting this subject.

Special requirements

No special requirements

This subject is a general science elective for students without necessarily a science background, nevertheless a fundamental mathematical component is key to fully appreciating the topic material (this includes a basic understanding of algebra, trigonometry and logarithms; no calculus is required in this course).

The subject provides an introduction to some of the key concepts in astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. An understanding of stars, galaxies, black holes and the Universe in general is developed. In addition, students are invited to research their own area of interest in astronomy to a depth dictated by their own ability.

  • 6 online tests (6% each) (36%)
  • Individual mini-projects x 2 (20%)
  • Group mini-project (8%)
  • Written Essay (36%)

Textbook information is pending.

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