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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS1020 Stars and Galaxies

10 creditsClass Size: 200

Module manager: Prof. Melvin Hoare

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

A level Physics, A level Maths

Module replaces

PHYS1170 Physics of Stars and Planets, and PHYS1180 Galaxies and the Universe

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module is an introduction to astrophysics for those with some science background. The basics of the Sun, stars, galaxies and Universe will be covered. Some mathematical equations will be used but no calculus. The module will be illustrated with images from the world's top telescopes from across the spectrum.


This module provides an introduction to astrophysics. It introduces the different types of stars and galaxies that make up the Universe. The telescopes used to explore the Universe will also be introduced. The insights gained from using different wavebands such as infrared, radio and X-ray will be highlighted. Students will be exposed to data from these telescopes to illustrate the main points of the module.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module you should be able to:
- discuss at an introductory level the nature of stars;
- describe the Sun’s power, radiation and the surface activity;
- describe the different types of galaxy in the Universe;
- describe the nature of interstellar matter within galaxies;
- be familiar with the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy;
- describe how and why galaxies appear different at wavelengths ranging from the radio to the x-ray;
- discuss how distances to galaxies are determined and the expansion of the Universe;
- describe and use methods to derive basic stellar parameters from astronomical observations;
- discuss at an introductory level multi-wavelength astronomical observations;
- make effective use of physics skills and knowledge to applications in Astrophysics.


The Sun: Surface temperature, blackbody radiation, luminosity, energy source, lifetime. Solar surface, granulation, sunspots.
Telescopes across the spectrum: Ground vs Space, diameter, resolution, seeing, interferometers.
Stars: Stellar parameters: brightness, magnitudes, colours, temperatures. Spectra, absorption lines, spectral types.
The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Stellar types and populations. Distances, parallax, proper motion. Stellar masses from binary systems.
Galaxies: Classification: spirals, ellipticals, irregulars. Interstellar gas and dust. Multi-wavelength views of The Milky Way and other galaxies
Universe: The distance scale, standard candles: Cepheids and supernovae. The expansion of the universe, Hubble's Law.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours22.00
Private study hours56.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

56 hours to used for background reading, preparing for lectures, researching and writing assignments.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Feedback from in course MCQs

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
In-course MCQRegular MCQs30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)30.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 00 mins70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)70.00

Students will have to complete an in-person exam at the end of the module. This will take place during the examinations period at the end of the semester and will be time bound. Students must submit a serious attempt at all assessments for the module, in order to pass the module overall.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:31:37


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