Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Basic Astronomy

LEVEL 00 - Mod Pre-Tert, Foundation, Proficiency & DegreePlus

ECTS CREDITS Not Applicable

DEPARTMENT Degree Plus Programme

DESCRIPTION An Introduction to Astronomy: Introduction to the structure of the cosmos, from small to large-scale; naked eye astronomy, limitations and light pollution.

The Solar System and its Formation: The Sun as the gravitational centre of our system; rocky and gaseous planets; moons, asteroids, comets and the Kuiper belt; a brief look at exoplanets.

Stars: Their Birth, Life and Death; Introduction to the main different types of stars; importance of stellar spectroscopy; fusion energy and gravitational pressure for star stability; supernovae and gamma ray bursts; white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.

Nebulae and Star Clusters: Regions of star formation or remnants of exploded stars; diffuse nebulae, planetary nebulae and supernova remnants; globular and open star clusters.

Galaxies and the Origins and Fate of the Universe: Galaxy morphology and classification; dark matter and dark energy; the Big Bang, the Big Rip, Heat Death and the Big Crunch/Bounce theories.

Observing the Cosmos: Introduction to different observation windows; optical astronomy; concepts of aperture, focal length and magnification; equatorial telescope mounts.

Planetary, Lunar and Solar Astrophotography: Atmospheric turbulence in planetary astrophotography; processing of planetary data; solar and lunar astrophotography basics.

Deep Sky Astrophotography: Long exposure photography; concept of exposure stacking; challenges in capturing long exposures of several minutes; imaging at different wavelengths.

Observation Night*: An introduction to the night sky; observing the moon, planets and bright deep sky objects through the eyepiece; capturing planetary data and long exposures of deep sky objects.
*Optional session. Subject to changes of date due to weather conditions.

Learning Objectives:

- To obtain a basic understanding of core concepts in astronomy, and the path that led to our current knowledge of the universe today;
- To grasp the ideas of basic cosmological theories and the underlying observations that brought about these theories in the first place;
- To gain knowledge of different cosmic processes that produce a variety of celestial objects, including those that gave rise to our own solar system and, by extension, our own planet itself;
- To learn how to use a telescope, mounted with tracking capabilities, and understand the concepts behind the requirement for such tracking equatorial mounts;
- To identify the basics in capturing photos of planets and deep sky objects and the different challenges that different targets present in photographing them.

Unit Material:

Appropriate unit material will be provided by the tutor during the sessions.


In keeping with the spirit of Degree Plus, there is no formal assessment associated with the unit. A certificate of attendance and of satisfactory completion of the unit will be provided at the end of the semester.

ADDITIONAL NOTES This unit may not be offered if there are an insufficient number of applicants.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Practical

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Attendance No 100%

LECTURER/S Joseph Noel Grima (Co-ord.)

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 description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.