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Foundations of Astronomy


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Professor Ian Crawford
  • Assessment: a 2.5-hour written examination (75%) and continuous assessment of practical and written work (25%). There will be two pieces of assessed coursework, consisting either of two problem papers or one problem paper and one 1200-word essay.

Module description

In this module we introduce you to the science of astronomy.

There will be one visit to a professional observatory. In addition, practical observations will be conducted with our own telescope in the UCL Front Quad, weather permitting.

Indicative syllabus

  • Astronomical nomenclature (constellations; star names and catalogues; stellar magnitudes; non-stellar objects etc)
  • Astronomical coordinate systems
  • Astronomical distance scale
  • Techniques of astronomical observation (electromagnetic spectrum; telescopes; spectroscopy)
  • Stars (classification; energy sources
  • Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram (stellar evolution; nucleosynthesis)
  • Interstellar medium
  • Structure of the Milky Way Galaxy
  • Extragalactic astronomy
  • Cosmology

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand scientific hypothesis development and testing
  • relate specific knowledge to a broader context
  • understand and synthesise original research findings
  • think quantitatively
  • discuss the relationship between theory, empirical data and models.