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Subject details

  • Topics
    • Observing the night sky, star trails, the planets as wanderers
    • Lunar orbit and phases, tidal forces, synchronous rotation
    • Modelling the formation of the Solar System
    • The Earth: structure, surface geology, atmosphere and magnetic field
    • The Moon: interior, lunar surface characteristics and theory of formation
    • The terrestrials: Mercury, Venus and Mars; comparative planetary geology
    • Planets as habitats and signs of life
    • The asteroid belt: properties and evolution
    • The giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune
    • Satellites and planetary rings
    • Dwarf planets, Pluto and the Kuiper Belt
    • Comets and the dirty snowball model
    • The Sun: structure, nuclear power, solar activity and its effects on Earth

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

  1. Understand the basic principles of both celestial motion and planetary astronomy, and discuss these concepts in a non-technical manner understandable to the general public
  2. Understand and appreciate night sky observing and celestial phenomena
  3. Understand our place in the solar neighbourhood, especially of the relationship between our present environment on Earth and that of our companions in the Solar System
  4. Understand the social implications of planetary research
  5. Research an astronomy topic in depth, using dependable sources of astronomical information on the internet.
  • Assignment 1 - Test (20%)
  • Assignment 2 - Project (30%)
  • Assignment 3 - Essay (20%)
  • Assignment 4 - Assignment (30%)

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 subject

Entry Requirements

Equivalent Subjects

You cannot enrol in this unit if you have successfully completed any of the following subject(s) because they are considered academically equivalent:

  • SWI-HET602

Special requirements

No special requirements

This subject aims to provide an introduction to our solar neighbourhood, including terrestrial planets, giant planets, minor bodies and the Sun. The emphasis is on conceptual astronomy rather than mathematical techniques.

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