Introduction to Astronomy and Light - PHYS3040

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 4 15 (7.5) Michael Hughes checkmark-circle


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.


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%.

Indicative 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)

    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.


    1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
    2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
    3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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