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TITLE Reaching for the Stars: Astronomy and the Universe

LEVEL I - Introductory Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION The Universe has awed and inspired countless generations but how well do we know what is there millions of light years away from the Earth, and how did it all begin? This Unit will consist of a non-technical approach to astronomy where the main concepts and discoveries will be investigated – from the constellations to the planets making up our Solar System, to the vast and remote galaxies where new stars are being born right now. Short movies and computer animations will be used to make the subject matter easier to understand, putting everything into perspective.

Students will learn about the history of astronomy and about scientists like Tycho, Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and many others who paved the way to our modern understanding of the Universe. Practical sessions will help build up the necessary skills to be able to orient oneself by recognising the constellation patterns and important stars within them. The solar system will be studied starting from the Sun at its centre, the inner and outer planets as well as comets, asteroids and meteors as the debris left over from its formation.

Furthermore, this Unit shall then investigate what is there beyond the solar system, out in the depths of space - giant gas clouds, clusters of stars and other galaxies. These are only visible by means of telescopes as no spacecraft has ever visited such remote places. Manned missions and unmanned probes have vastly opened up our understanding and imagination of life in space – and whether there is life beyond Earth. This will be tackled in the final part of the Unit.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to understand both observational and theoretical aspects of astronomy including most importantly obtaining an understanding of the Universe as a whole. Learners will study the fundamental principles of astronomy, which will allow them to access more in-depth concepts and develop their scientific thinking skills in the future.

The Unit will help students:
a) Understand and apply basic scientific concepts to problems in astronomy;
b) Understand the observational foundations of various astronomical discoveries.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to appreciate the role of astronomy as a link to a multitude of other sciences and/or scientific disciplines. Learners will develop an understanding of physical laws and how these are gradually allowing scientists to develop our understanding of the Universe.

The Unit will help students:
a) Apply scientific thinking to problems in astronomy and other areas;
b) Collect and interpret data;
c) Identify the components of the observational Universe.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Stars and Planets (DK Handbooks) by Ian Ridpath, Dorling Kindersley Publishers (2010). ISBN 13: 9781405357968.
- Universe (ed) by Martin Rees, Dorling Kindersley Publishers (2012). ISBN 13: 9781409376507.
- Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox, Andrew Cohen, Collins (2011). ISBN 13: 9780007395828.
- Bang!: The Complete History of the Universe, by Brian May, Patrick Moore, and Chris Lintott, Johns Hopkins University Press (2008). ISBN 13: 9780801889851.
- Universe by Roger Freedman, William J. Kaufmann and Robert Geller, WH.Freeman (2010) ISBN 13: 9781429231534.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Fieldwork

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 50%
Project Yes 50%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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