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PX158-10 Astronomy

Undergraduate Level 1
Module leader
Daniel Bayliss
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% exam
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

Astronomy is the study of everything that occurs beyond the Earth's atmosphere. The module covers the concepts and techniques that are the basis of astronomy. It investigates a diverse range of astronomical objects, ranging from planets, to stars and galaxies, to the Universe as a whole. We focus on the fundamental properties of these objects, such as their masses, sizes, distances and temperatures. We will see that understanding of what is observed requires understanding of fundamental physics, particularly in relation to gravity and light, as well as mathematics.

Module web page

Module aims

To describe the constituent objects of the Universe and the physics needed to estimate their distances, sizes, masses and natures. The module will show how our knowledge of the Universe beyond Earth relies upon the application physical theories and experimental techniques.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Description of the main constituents of the Universe with typical sizes, masses and distances covering: planets, stars, blackholes, and galaxies.

Angles, distances & sizes: angular size and the small-angle approximation; trigonometric parallax; simple astronomical telescopes, spectrographs, and detectors.

Masses: the Doppler effect and the measurement of speed from spectra; the use of speeds and sizes to derive masses in the Solar System, binary stars, star clusters and galaxies.

Physical properties of stars: stellar temperatures; spectra and elemental compositions. Physical conditions within stars.

Galaxies: the Milky Way; galaxy types, galaxy evolution.

The Universe: Hubble's discovery of the expansion of the Universe; implication of a finite age; the Big Bang, the Cosmic Microwave Background; the composition of the Universe.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding, and make use, of concepts in astronomy, including astronomical coordinates, angles, fluxes, and magnitudes
  • Identify, describe, and demonstrate understanding of the main constituents of the Universe, including planets, stars, black holes, and galaxies
  • Describe the techniques and methods for measuring the distances and masses of stars and galaxies
Indicative reading list

Marc Kutner, Astronomy: a Physical perspective, CUP.

View reading list on Talis Aspire

Subject specific skills

Knowledge of mathematics and physics. Skills in modelling, reasoning, thinking.

Transferable skills

Analytical, communication, problem-solving, self-study

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 30 sessions of 1 hour (30%)
Private study 70 hours (70%)
Total 100 hours
Private study description

Working through lecture notes, solving problems, wider reading, discussing with others taking the module, revising for exam, practising on past exam papers


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group B
Weighting Study time
In-person Examination 100%

Answer 4 questions

Feedback on assessment

Personal tutor, group feedback

Past exam papers for PX158


This module is Core for:

  • Year 1 of UPXA-F300 Undergraduate Physics (BSc)
  • Year 1 of UPXA-F303 Undergraduate Physics (MPhys)
  • Year 1 of UPXA-F3F5 Undergraduate Physics with Astrophysics (BSc)
  • Year 1 of UPXA-F3FA Undergraduate Physics with Astrophysics (MPhys)

This module is Option list B for:

  • Year 1 of UMAA-G105 Undergraduate Master of Mathematics (with Intercalated Year)
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G100 Undergraduate Mathematics (BSc)
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G103 Undergraduate Mathematics (MMath)
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G106 Undergraduate Mathematics (MMath) with Study in Europe
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G1NC Undergraduate Mathematics and Business Studies
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G1N2 Undergraduate Mathematics and Business Studies (with Intercalated Year)
  • Year 1 of UMAA-GL11 Undergraduate Mathematics and Economics
  • Year 1 of UECA-GL12 Undergraduate Mathematics and Economics (with Intercalated Year)
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G101 Undergraduate Mathematics with Intercalated Year