Introduction to Astronomy and Special Relativity - PH304

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
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4 15 (7.5) DR JS Urquhart


UK Advanced Level Physics Examinations with a normal minimum attainment of a
Grade C on the main Physics A - Level. Any generally accepted equivalent of this
content and attainment is regarded as an acceptable prerequisite.
Co-requisites: PH321 Mechanics, PH322 Electricity and Light, PH323 Thermodynamics and Matter, PS370 Skills for Physicists.





Introduction to Special Relativity:
Inadequacy of Galilean Transformation; Postulates of Relativity; Lorentz transformation; Time dilation, length contraction and simultaneity; Special relativity paradoxes; Invariant intervals; Momentum and energy in special relativity; Equivalence of mass and energy.

Introduction to Astronomy:
Astronomical coordinate systems and conversions; Positions and motions of stars; Timekeeping systems; Introduction to the distance scale.

Introduction to Astrophysics and Cosmology:
Stellar luminosity and magnitudes; Magnitude systems; Colour of stars; Stellar spectral classification; Evolution of stars, Hertzsprung-Russell diagram; Cosmological principle; Redshift; Hubble constant; Space expansion.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Lectures (30 hours); workshop/revision session (3 hours).

Total study time 150 hrs (including private study time).


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Coursework 30% comprising at least one ICT (in-course test) and at least one piece of independent work involving problem solving. Final (written, unseen, length 2 hours) exam 70%.

Preliminary reading

  • Physics (fifth edition), Tipler, P.S, Mosca, G., 2008
  • Introduction to Astronomy and Cosmology, Morison I., 2008
  • An introduction to Modern Astrophysics, Carrol and Ostlie, 2013
  • Introduction to Special Relativity, Rindler, W. 1991
  • Introduction to Planetary Science, Faure, G. & Mensing, T.M., 2008

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

  • Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge and understanding of physical laws and principles in Astrophysics (including Cosmology) and Space Science, and their application to diverse areas of physics.
  • An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems in Astrophysics (including Cosmology) and Space Science, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  • An ability to solve problems in Astrophysics (including Cosmology) and Space Science using appropriate mathematical tools.
  • An ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour in Astrophysics (including Cosmology) and Space Science.
  • An ability to present and interpret information about Astrophysics (including Cosmology) and Space Science graphically.
  • An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.
  • Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
  • Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.

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