The University Certificate in Sun, Earth and Climate is a first year undergraduate course designed for people with little or no prior knowledge of the subject but who have a desire to learn about the Sun and the Earth and the relationship between them. The module covers a mixture of theoretical and observational approaches to the subject with data-based and observational exercises. It includes an introduction to the physics of the Sun and Earth, observational solar  and solar-terrestrial phenomena, but focusing on the ways in which our Sun (a variable star) can affect the Earth's environment in space and how it may influence our climate.  The course content is discussed in terms of the underlying physics which sometimes involves the use of equations, but does not require any more than basic high school mathematical ability. The module does not require previous study of University Certificate in Astronomy.

You do not need a telescope or other specialist astronomical equipment to complete this course. However it is indispensable for students to have access to a PC, and it is highly recommended that they have internet access to gain greatest advantage from this course.

The module is also available to students enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education (Cert HE) in Astronomy,  Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) in Astronomy and BSc(Hons) in Astronomy.  

You should never observe the sun directly with either a telescope or the naked eye.


This course runs from October to May following the normal academic year for campus-based students.

Study Mode

Part-time by distance learning only

Learning materials are supplied on-line via the Course Website, which also provides a noticeboard and web-based discussion groups where students can interact with one another and with staff. Tutorial support is available by email, web-based discussion or telephone. The university library's Distance Learning Service is available to students enrolled on this course.

Students are recommended to have access to a PC with internet connections to obtain maximum benefit from the course. Students are responsible for printing out their own paper copies of the learning materials if required.

This course consists of a standard University module (200 hours of study per module) and students should expect to devote 4 - 5 hours per week averaged over the duration of the course.

Admissions Criteria

The course allows the non-specialist access to astronomical concepts and is therefore available to applicants with a minimum level of academic qualifications.

Candidates who can demonstrate that they have a strong interest in the subject and who will benefit in terms of their personal development and enjoyment will be given preference. No prior knowledge of the subject is necessary but we normally expect GCSE mathematics or equivalent high school qualification. Students will also find a science background useful. Applicants who have not been involved in academic study for a number of years should discuss their application with the Course Leader. 

Course Content

The University Certificate in Sun, Earth and Climate consists of a single standard module of 20 national credits at university Level 1: AA1058 Sun, Earth and Climate.

It covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to Sun, Earth and Climate: What are the questions?
  • Astronomy of the Solar System: orbits, gravity, tides, eclipses and transits.
  • Particles and magnets: Gravitational, electrical and magnetic forces in the solar system.
  • Plasma in Space: introduction and observations.
  • Structure of the Sun and Earth: overview of internal structures, atmospheres, magnetosphere.
  • Observations of the Sun and Earth: Safe solar observing. Space and Ground-based observations.
  • Solar Cycles: sunspots, solar dynamo, effects on Earth.
  • From the Sun to the Earth: energy propagation, effect on magnetosphere.
  • Solar Storms, Magnetic Storms and Aurorae - a Case Study.
  • Earth's Climate: Introduction, circulation, El Niño, global warming.
  • Climate Change and the Sun: historical records, cycles.
  • Space Weather and Climate Change: the Past and Future.

The learning material consist of the Sun, Earth and Climate Workbook and Course Notes in twelve sections covering each of the outlined topics which are complemented by suggested further reading . No single textbook covers all this material at the correct level.  

If you have Universe, 8th edition with CD Rom by R. A. Freedman and W. J. Kaufmann, 2007, W. H. Freeman, ISBN-13: 978-07167 9564-3  ISBN: 07167-9564-7, £39.99 then you will find the chapters on the Sun and Earth useful.


Assessment is by coursework only and there is no examination. There are four equally weighted items of coursework typically two question sheets and two experimental reports.

It is not necessary to pass each item of coursework individually provided that at least one question sheet and one Workbook Activity has been attempted and the overall module mark is 40% or more.

Further Courses

The Department offers Level 1 University Certificate courses in related topics which are structured in a similar way. These courses can be studied separately or combined to obtain a Certificate of Higher Education in Astronomy. Please see the relevant factsheets for these courses.

Students who successfully complete the University Certificate in Astronomy  can progress to the University Advanced Certificates (at Level 2). See separate factsheet for details of the Diploma of Higher Education in Astronomy and BSc (Hons) in Astronomy.

In addition, students who fulfill the A-level requirements can study the full-time on-campus degree programmes in Physics or Astrophysics. Prior completion of University Certificate in Astronomy will count towards the degree, by means of accreditation of prior learning. Please see the UCLan Prospectus for Full-time Students for details of the entry requirements. 

International Students

International Students are welcome to apply but should note that the course is only available in the English language.


The tuition fee for a standard module of 20 national credits is set each year. Please visit the Module Fees page on our website for details of this year's fees:

Application Procedure and Further Information

For further information and on-line application form visit the website.

Alternatively,  contact the Programme Administrator at the following address:

The Programme Administrator
Study Astronomy
School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences
University of Central Lancashire
Preston PR1 2HE

Tel:  +44 (0) 1772 893541 (direct line)
Fax: +44 (0) 1772 892996


(This information is correct at the time of going to press but may be subject to change.)

Last updated: 13 July 2010 sd