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AS1001 - Astronomy and Astrophysics 1

Academic year

2020 to 2021 (Semester 1)

Key module information

SCOTCAT credits


The Scottish Credit Accumulation and Transfer (SCOTCAT) system allows credits gained in Scotland to be transferred between institutions. The number of credits associated with a module gives an indication of the amount of learning effort required by the learner. European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) credits are half the value of SCOTCAT credits.

SCQF level

SCQF level 7

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) provides an indication of the complexity of award qualifications and associated learning and operates on an ascending numeric scale from Levels 1-12 with SCQF Level 10 equating to a Scottish undergraduate Honours degree.

Planned timetable

11am online lectures, one 11am 'in room' workshop a week, one online tutorial a week 2pm, one online lab some weeks 3-5.30pm

This information is given as indicative. Timetable may change at short notice depending on room availability.

Module coordinator

Dr A Scholz

This information is given as indicative. Staff involved in a module may change at short notice depending on availability and circumstances.

Module Staff

Dr Alexander Scholz Scholz; Dr Claudia Cyganowsk;, Prof Moira Jardine; Dr Rita Tojeiro

This information is given as indicative. Staff involved in a module may change at short notice depending on availability and circumstances.

Module description

This module surveys our present state of knowledge of the orbits, surfaces and atmospheres of the planets in our solar system; the structure and evolution of the Sun and other stars, including extra-solar planetary systems; the bizarre menagerie of star-forming regions, violent stellar objects and supermassive black holes found within our own Milky Way Galaxy and in other galaxies; and the large-scale structure and ultimate fate of the expanding Universe. Throughout the module, fundamental observations are interpreted using mathematical models to show how distances and other properties of astronomical objects throughout the Universe have been measured, from the time of Copernicus to the era of the Hubble Telescope and beyond.

Relationship to other modules


The student must have Higher or A-level (or equivalent) Physics and Mathematics at grade B or better


You cannot take this module if you take AS1002 or take AS1101

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews

2-hour Written Examination = 60%, Class Tests = 15%, Laboratory work = 25%

As defined by QAA

Written examinations = 60%
Practical examinations = 0%
Coursework = 40%

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) have compiled/developed an indicative list of learning and teaching methods:
  • Written: Is included in this category any assessment done under exam conditions (exams during diets, class tests) that do not involve the use of practical skills.
  • Practical: Are included in this category oral assessment and presentation as well as practical skills assessed in situ (in a classroom or laboratory for instance). Performances in the performing arts context are also classed as practical assessment.
Further details can be found on the QAA website.


2-hour Written Examination = 75%, Existing Laboratory work = 25%

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact

4 x 1 hr online lectures (A) x 10 weeks, 1 hr online tutorial (A) x 10 weeks, 2.5hr online lab (A) x 4 weeks, 1hr in-person workshop (C) x 10 weeks

Scheduled learning hours


The number of compulsory student:staff contact hours over the period of the module.

Guided independent study hours


The number of hours that students are expected to invest in independent study over the period of the module.

Additional information from school

AS1001 - Astronomy and Astrophysics 1

Aims & Objectives

The aim of this module is to provide an elementary understanding of the structure of the observable universe and our position within it. The physical content of the universe, its structures and their mutual interactions, are explored. It is shown how the properties of planets, stars, galaxies, etc may be determined from observations coupled with theoretical models based on physical principles. The module comprises four 10-lecture courses on The Solar System, Stars and Elementary Astrophysics, The Galaxy, and Cosmology, thereby providing a complete overview of the subject at this level.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students will have gained:

  • an understanding of the structure and evolution of the physical universe from the solar system, through the galaxy, to the large-scale distribution of galaxies and the origin of the universe
  • an ability to calculate astrophysical properties of planets, stars and galaxies from basic physical and mathematical models and simplified data.


(1) The Solar System

Brief historical introduction including basic observations and the calendar, leading to Kepler's laws of planetary motion and Newton's law of gravitation. Modern exploration of the Solar System and the study of the physical properties of the planets and their satellites - interior structure, atmosphere and climate, magnetospheres and interactions with the solar wind; physical properties of comets, meteors. The atmosphere of the Sun - photosphere, chromosphere, corona and the solar wind. Origin of the Solar System.

(2) Stars and Elementary Astrophysics

Astronomical observations. Telescopes: optical, radio, space. Stellar brightness, apparent and absolute magnitudes, distances, inverse square law. Colours of the stars, black body radiation laws and temperature. Spectra from astronomical sources; Kirchhoff's laws for continuous, emission and absorption spectra. Spectral classification; excitation and ionisation; determination of stellar compositions. Distribution of stellar parameters; the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Stellar motions: Doppler effect, radial velocity, redshifts; proper motion. Binary stars for masses, radii, luminosities.

(3) The Galaxy

The main-sequence mass-luminosity relationship. Star clusters, their colour-magnitude diagrams, and distances via main-sequence fitting. Effects of interstellar extinction. Spatial distribution of star clusters, differences in chemical composition. Outline of stellar evolution from formation through to end states of white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. Variable stars as distance indicators. Mass loss from stars, supernovae, pulsars, binary stars with compact components. The interstellar medium - cold molecular clouds, HII regions, 'coronal' component; dust. Structure of the Galaxy - population groups, spiral structure, rotation curve.

(4) Cosmology

A preview of the universe. The extragalactic nebulae (galaxies). The determination of extragalactic distances. Types of galaxies. The Hubble classification. Properties of galaxies - sizes, masses, spectra and luminosities. The distribution of galaxies in space - clusters and superclusters. The red-shift - distance relation. Hubble's law. The expansion of the universe. The age of the universe. The Big Bang origin of the universe. A critical density for expansion and contraction. The evolution of the universe.

Additional information on continuous assessment etc

Recommended Books

Please view University online record:

General Information

Please also read the general information in the School's 1st and 2nd level handbook that is available via