BSc (Hons) Astronomy Degree Course - VSASTR513

This is our flagship programme and is the UK's only BSc (Hons) Astronomy degree course specifically designed for distance learning education and studies. It consists of a total of 18 modules at HE Levels 4, 5 and 6 (ie year 1, 2 and 3 undergraduate levels).

Students are eligible to enrol when they have succesfully completed relevant courses at University level such as University Certificates or the CertHE in Astronomy. Alternatively, applicants who have recently completed appropriate A Levels may also apply for direct entry to the course.

APL of appropriate credit bearing courses is accepted towards the BSc up to a maximum of 240 credits (12 modules) at levels 4 and 5, subject to appropriate subject match and UCLan's Academic Regulations.

Level 6 modules are only available to students who have enrolled on the BSc (Hons) in Astronomy Degree Course.

The BSc(Hons) in Astronomy is recognised by the Institute of Physics (IOP) and all graduates automatically meet requirements for Associate Membership of the Institute. It is endorsed by the Royal Astronomical Society. Students on the course are eligible for free IOP digital student membership.

Modules on this Astronomy Degree Course:

Introduction to Astronomy - AA1051

In this module you will study both observational and theoretical aspects of astronomy, including the night sky, telescopes, stars, stellar lifetimes and energy sources, galaxies and cosmology. You do not need to have your own telescope or binoculars to complete this module. Students are invited to an optional weekend course at the University's Alston Observatory.

This is the module we use to introduce students to the central ideas of astronomy at first year university level. It takes a quantitative scientific approach and you will need to use maths to solve problems from the outset.

Tutor: Kate Pattle

Level: 1          Credits: 20

Introduction to Cosmology - AA1053

This module begins to explain how the Universe began and subsequently developed to its present observed form. You will learn how the Big Bang created all elementary particles, about processes that led to the formation of today's galaxies, galaxy clusters and larger-scale structures, and how we can probe the cosmological history of the Universe.

Assessments include a researched essay  and questions sheets containing a mix of problems requiring maths and explanations.

Tutor: Roger Clowes

Level: 1          Credits: 20

IT for Astronomy - AA1055

Gain an introduction to the application of Information Technology in astronomy. After a brief review of   office applications, the module provides notes and practical exercises in the astronomical application of IT. Self-study exercises are biased towards applications appropriate for astronomy and cosmology, using Internet resources.

Tutor: Jason Kirk

Level: 1          Credits: 20

Energy, Matter and the Universe - AA1056

You will acquire a quantitative understanding of the physical and mathematical concepts underlying astrophysical processes and a foundation for study at Levels 5 and 6  in astronomy.

You will cover fundamental physical forces, equations of motion, elementary particles and the electromagnetic nature of light. Appropriate mathematics, such as vectors, trigonometry and calculus, are introduced as the topics require.

Tutor: Anne Sansom

Level: 1          Credits: 20

Investigations in Astronomy - AA1057

As part of a larger award, you have an opportunity for a more detailed investigation into the topics of the other modules. You will normally cover three topics which might be: the astronomical distance ladder, exploration of the Cosmic Microwave background, the development of large ground-based telescopes, active galaxies, galactic structure and space technology.

Tutor: Alex Dunhill

Level: 1          Credits: 20

Sun, Earth and Climate - AA1058

Starting with an exploration of the Sun, Earth and Climate as complex systems, this module then looks at the interactions that cause them to be interlinked. You will study developments on astronomical, geological, historical and annual time scales and gain an understanding of the context of such matters as climate change and space weather. Practical exercises extend this understanding and develop appropriate scientific skills.

Tutor: Silvia Dalla

Level: 1          Credits: 20

Introduction to Astrobiology - AA1059

This introduction to astrobiology course provides you with a basic knowledge of chemistry and astronomy appropriate for the understanding of the biochemistry underpinning life in the Universe.

You will explore the definitions of life as we currently understand them, our understanding of how life started and evolved in the Universe and the astronomical sites that could support the basic life processes.

Assessment includes experimental reports  requiring analysis of data and question sheets including a mix of problems and explanations.


Tutor: Dimitris Stamatellos

Level: 1          Credits: 20

Great Astronomers in History - AA1066

You will explore the discoveries of key European astronomers in the context of the times they worked in. Starting with the nature and history of science, you will work from the Ancient Greeks through Nicholas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Jeremiah Horrocks, Isaac Newton and William Herschel to an understanding of the the progress of both scientific discovery and the changing view of science.

Assessment involves a researched essay, a book review and a role-play letter. This module requires good skills in written English, but no maths.

Tutor: Paul Marston

Level: 1          Credits: 20

The Milky Way - AA2051

You will build upon what you learnt about stars and our Galaxy in AA1051 Introduction to Astronomy to develop a broad understanding of The Milky Way. You will learn about observations of the overall structure of the Galaxy in which we live, concluding with the black hole at its centre. You will also gain an overview of many of the processes that are responsible for shaping the content of the Galaxy and guiding its evolution over time. Assessments include a researched essay and question sheets involving problem-solving and explanations.

Tutor: Victor Debattista

Level: 2          Credits: 20

Galaxies Beyond the Milky Way - AA2052

Using your knowledge of our own Galaxy, you will be introduced to Galaxies beyond the Milky Way. You will use multi-waveband observations coupled to basic physical principles to understand the phenomena of galaxies in the Universe.

You will cover the following topics: the local universe, the local group of galaxies, clustering of galaxies, evolution and challenges for the future.

Tutor: Victor Debattista & Anne Sansom

Level: 2          Credits: 20

UV, optical and IR Astronomy - AA2053

In this module you will develop your understanding of techniques and processess that underlie astronomical observations. You will learn about the effects of the Earth's atmosphere on observations, telescopes, the uses of photometry, and how detectors including CCD work.

You will also develop your skills in practical observing and simple data reduction, using your own equipment or commonly available resources from the Internet. Here you will carry out practical aspects of photometry and CCD imaging which will be written up as an assessed experimental report.

Tutor: Anne Sansom

Level: 2          Credits: 20

Exploring the Solar System - AA2054

Our understanding of the Solar System is constantly changing as new results from space research emerge. This module will bring your view of the Solar System up-to-date, using results from recent space missions.

It starts with an overview of space exploration, including the motivation and technology required for past, present and future missions. Then your focus will move to various solid and gaseous bodies in the Solar System. You will compare the bodies with the emphasis on how physical processes affect the different planetary environments.

Tutor: Jason Kirk

Level: 2          Credits: 20

Solar Astrophysics - AA2055

Solar Astrophysics provides a broad introduction to the subject, involving a mixture of theoretical and observational approaches to demonstrate and explain various solar phenomena. You will learn about the overall structure of the sun, including the use of solar neutrinos and helioseismology to probe its interior, the importance of the magnetic field in determining its surface features and the problem of coronal heating.

You will also develop astronomy subject skills such as data analysis, use of imaging techniques and the preparation of scientific reports.

Tutor: Silvia Dalla, Aimilia Smyrli

Level: 2          Credits: 20

Solar-Stellar Connection - AA2056

You will build upon the stellar astronomy and astrophysics covered in AA1051 or equivalent and your level-5 study of the Sun (AA2055). You will study the links between solar astrophysics and a range of stellar phenomena and topics in stellar astrophysics. You will explore in detail the evolution of sun-like stars from their formation to their endpoints as white dwarfs.

The emphasis throughout this module is on taking the detailed case study of the Sun and setting it in the wider context of solar-like and other stars, showing their similarities and differences.

Tutor: Dan Holdsworth

Level: 2          Credits: 20

Astronomy Dissertation - AA3050

The dissertation is an extended piece of work that you will undertake in your final year of study for the BSc. It requires research by way of a literature search and/or web search of up-to-date material. You choose your own dissertation topic, subject to availability of a member of staff with the necessary expertise for effective supervision in that topic, and the availability of appropriate learning resources.

Tutor: Barbara Hassall + individual supervisors

Level: 3          Credits: 20

Origins - AA3051

In this module you will explore a selection of topics that are drawn from projects regarded as 'cutting edge research' in astronomy or astrophysics. Examples include the insights into galaxy formation in the early universe, drawing on recent results from space-based telescopes and state-of-the-art numerical simulations, and the discovery and characterisation of extrasolar planets.

Your work takes the form of a number of mini-seminars that are used to seed discussion amongst students on the module.

Tutor: Dan Holdsworth, Mark Norris, Anne Sansome and Barbara Hassall

Level: 3          Credits: 20

Cosmology and Relativity - AA3053

You will build upon the introduction to cosmology provided by AA1053, by adopting a more mathematical approach to cosmology and relativity. You will be presented with the essentials of the subject, emphasising the underlying physics and the observational consequences.

Tutor: Roger Clowes and Tim Cawthorne

Level: 3          Credits: 20

Extreme States of Matter - AA3056

In this module you will cover in depth a limited number of physical concepts that describe the behaviour of matter in extreme conditions using astrophysical examples to illustrate the concepts.

An example topic is 'Emission Mechanisms'. In this you will learn about electromagnetic radiation, astrophysical plasma, bremsstrahlung, cyclotron, synchrotron, masers, radiative transfer and then apply what you have learnt to astrophysical jets, novae, accretion disks and the Eddington limit.

Tutor: Barbara Hassall

Level: 3          Credits: 20

Collaborative Investigation - AA3057

You will collaborate in small groups with other students to research and study a current astronomical topic. Your research will draw on recent results and research-level articles. Finally your group will produce a report and electronic presentation of your work.

Tutor: Barbara Hassall and group supervisors

Level: 3          Credits: 20