Astronomy

Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)

Astronomy, space science and astrophysics allow us to see the Universe and our place in it and the subjects continually evolve and change every year based on discoveries by researchers around the world. At Kent you will learn from academics making these discoveries that shape our world and play a part in this research yourself.


Overview

We have a strong focus on your future career and how to get you there, ensuring that you will gain a range of practical experience, scientific knowledge and transferable skills. Our inhouse careers team, with their expert support and advice, are here to help give you the best possible start to a career in a range of fields including aeronautics, space, finance and manufacturing.

Our degree programme

Like the subjects themselves, our curriculum changes and is adapted based on research and the demands of industry, ensuring your course is innovative and up-to-date. We have recently introduced a new laboratory module based on data analysis, building skills which support directions in science, industry and specifically the ever growing need for data analysts in almost any field. You will also benefit from our fantastic Beacon Observatory, which has recently been refurbished to include a brand new robotic telescope.

In your first year, you get to grips with the broad knowledge base on which physical science is built, studying astronomy and special relativity, computing skills, mathematics, mechanics, electricity, thermodynamics, laboratory and computational skills.

Your second year covers a broad range of subjects such as the multiwavelength universe and exoplanets, spacecraft design and operations, data analysis in astronomy and planetary science, atomic and nuclear physics, quantum physics, mathematical techniques and electromagnetism and optics.

In your final year, the combination of specialist modules and laboratory work on individual and group projects opens avenues for even deeper exploration: for example, stars, galaxies and the Universe, the Sun, the Earth and Mars, thermal and statistical physics and relativity, optics, and Maxwell’s equations.

Your Degree, your way

Our degrees are not only designed to give the best possible start to your career, but they are also flexible so that you can do the best degree for you. You can opt to complete a professional placement to put into practice the skills you learnt and make valuable industry contacts, study abroad for a year or work as part of a research group doing cutting-edge work group with our four-year integrated masters, the MPhys.

Fantastic facilities

The Beacon Observatory provides a fully automised system with both optical telescope and radio telescope capability. It includes a 17" astrograph from Plane Wave Instruments with a 4k x 4k CCD and a BVRIHa filter set, as well as a 90-frames-per-second camera.

You have access to first-class research facilities in new laboratories. These are well equipped for synthetic and analytical techniques ranging from soft organic polymers to nanoparticles to highly sensitive organometallic species.

An excellent student experience

As well as a fascinating course with great opportunities to further your career potential, we work hard to give you the best possible wider student experience.

You will be part of an international scientific community of physics and astronomy, chemistry and forensic science, bioscience and medical and sport science students, as well as being able to join a range of student-led societies and groups.

As well as inspiring you to realise your potential, we are here to support this with excellent in-house student support to assist with pastoral issues and careers experts with specialist knowledge as well as Academic advisors and peer mentors to help with your studies.

Professional networks

You are encouraged to participate in conferences and professional events to build up your knowledge of the science community and enhance your professional development.

The University is a member of the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), which offers a competitive programme of summer internships to Stage 2 and 3 undergraduates.

Our department also has links with:

  • aerospace/defence industries
  • the Home Office
  • optical laboratories
  • the NHS
  • software and engineering companies
  • Interpol

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Flexible tariff

You are more than your grades

At Kent we look at your circumstances as a whole before deciding whether to make you an offer to study here. Find out more about how we offer flexibility and support before and during your degree.

Entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

  • medal-empty

    A level

    BBB, including A level Mathematics at B (not Use of Mathematics)

  • medal-empty Access to HE Diploma

    The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

    If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

  • medal-empty BTEC Nationals

    The University will consider applicants holding/studying BTEC Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF;OCR) in a relevant Science or Engineering subject at 180 credits or more, on a case by case basis. Please contact us via the enquiries tab for further advice on your individual circumstances.

  • medal-empty International Baccalaureate

    34 points overall or 14 at HL including HL Maths/Maths Method or HL Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches at 5 or SL Maths/Maths Methods at 6 (not Maths Studies/SL Maths: Applications & Interpretations).

  • medal-empty International Foundation Programme

    N/A

Please contact the School for more information at study-physics@kent.ac.uk.  

The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.

If you need to increase your level of science/mathematics ready for undergraduate study, we offer a Foundation Year programme which can help boost your previous scientific experience.

Meet our staff in your country

For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events. 

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

If you need to improve your English language standard as a condition of your offer, you can attend one of our pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes before starting your degree programme. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.

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Course structure

Duration: 3 years full-time

The course structure below gives a flavour of the modules and provides details of the content of this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

At all stages in this programme, the modules listed are compulsory.

Stage 1

Compulsory modules currently include

This module provides an introduction to astronomy, beginning with our own solar system and extending to objects at the limits of the universe. Straightforward mathematics is used to develop a geometrical optics model for imaging with lenses and mirrors, and this is then used to explore the principles of astronomical telescopes.

This module builds on prior knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry. It will cover key areas of mathematics which are widely used throughout undergraduate university physics. In the first part it will look at functions, series, derivatives and integrals. In the second part it will look at vectors, matrices and complex numbers.

This module builds on the Mathematics I module to develop key mathematical techniques involving multiple independent variables. These include the topics of differential equations, multivariate calculus, non-Cartesian coordinates, and vector calculus that are needed for Physics modules in Stages 2 and 3.

In this module the mathematics of vectors and calculus are used to describe motion, the effects of forces in accordance with Newton's laws, and the relation to momentum and energy. This description is extended to rotational motion, and the force of gravity. In addition, the modern topic of special relativity is introduced.

This module examines key physical phenomena of waves and fields which extend over time and space. The first part presents a mathematical description of oscillations and develops this to a description of wave phenomena. The second part is an introduction to electromagnetism which includes electric and magnetic fields before providing an introduction to the topic of electrical circuits.

This module develops the principles of mechanics to describe mechanical properties of liquids and solids. It also introduces the principles of thermodynamics and uses them to describe properties of gases. The module also introduces the modern description of atoms and molecules based on quantum mechanics.

This module gives students experience in using laboratory apparatus and equipment to carry out physics experiments. They will also learn how to record and analyse data and write a report. The module also introduce students to using programming/scripting languages to analyse data, and the mathematics of probability and statistics.

Stage 2

Compulsory modules currently include

This module builds on the students' previous introduction to quantum phenomena taught in stage 1. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of quantum physics through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles. This module covers for example the Schödinger equation, its meaning and how to solve it for simple models, the superposition principle and probability amplitudes.

This module applies some of the fundamental principles of physics to the study of atomic physics. Students build on their knowledge of quantum mechanics through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles in topics such as the hydrogen atom, the effect of a magnetic field on the atomic structure or the X-ray spectra of an atom.

This module builds on the brief introduction to electromagnetic fields previously taught in earlier stages. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of electromagnetism through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles. This module covers for example the principles of electrostatics, magnetostatics and Maxwell’s equations.

This module builds on the brief introduction to astronomy previously taught in earlier stages. Students enhance their knowledge of astrophysics through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles developing a rigorous grounding in observational, computational and theoretical aspects of astrophysics. In particular they study topics such as properties of galaxies and stars and the detection of planets outside the solar system.

This module introduces and develops students’ understanding of the major subsystems of a spacecraft through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles, as well as the framework to understand spacecraft trajectories and orbits and the basic ideas about management of space missions.

In this module students develop their experience of the practical nature of physics, including developing their ability to execute an experiment, and to use programming scripts to process data. Students also develop their skill in analysis of uncertainties, and comparison with theory. The module strengthens students’ communication skills and knowledge of, and ability to write, all components of laboratory reports.

This module gives students experience of group work in the context of a physics investigation in an unfamiliar area. The module includes workshops for advice about successful group project work, and culminates in each group producing a report and presentation.

This module builds on the mathematics taught in earlier stages. Students will develop and enhance their knowledge of mathematical methods used in the physical sciences. This module covers for example how to solve linear differential equations and Fourier transforms.

Stage 3

Compulsory modules currently include

This module gives the student a brief introduction to the key aspects of optics fields.  Students develop an ability to accurately deploy techniques of analysis in optics and photonics through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles.  This enables students to describe, and solve problems with light interference and diffraction, fundamentals of lasers and fibre optics.

This module gives the student a systematic understanding of the key aspects of thermal and statistical physics, building on their previous introduction to thermodynamics.  Students develop an ability to accurately deploy techniques of analysis in thermal and statistical physics through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles.  This enables students to describe and solve problems related to advanced statistical concepts in thermodynamics and quantum mechanics.

This module builds on the students' previous introduction to the properties of matter, and electric and magnetic properties. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of condensed matter physics through the study of the theory, formalism and fundamental principles. The module provides foundations for the further study of materials and condensed matter, and detail of solid state electronic and opto-electronic devices. This module covers for example the structure of solids, free electron theory of metals and the study of semiconductors.

This module provides in combination with previous topics a balanced and rigorous course in astrophysics for BSc students, while forming a basis for the more extensive MPhys modules. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of astrophysics through the study of the theory, formalism, and fundamental principles. This module covers for example the enhanced notions on the physics of stars, galaxies, general relativity, and cosmology.

Students develop and enhance their knowledge on understanding of solar terrestrial physics, remote sensing and Martian science. For example, students will study the nature of solar activity, its effects on the Earth’s atmosphere and the near-Earth, communication satellites and current space missions to Mars.

This module aims to develop the ability to undertake investigations where, as part of the exercise, the goals and methods have to be defined by the investigator. It will develop skills to perform literature searches, reviews and to plan, monitor and report on a project. These projects are open ended tasks, with an element of independent learning.

This module focuses on the use of data processing and analysis techniques as applied to astronomical data from telescopes. Students will learn how telescopes and CCD cameras work, to process astronomical images and spectra and apply a range of data analysis techniques using software packages. Students will also engage in the scientific interpretation of images and spectra of astronomical objects.

This module builds on the brief introduction to special relativity and quantum mechanical principles previously taught in earlier stages. Students develop and enhance their knowledge of these topics further through their use in the study of nuclear and particle physics. In this module, students learn their basic theory, formalism and fundamental principles. This module covers for example 4-vector concepts in relativity, nuclear models and reactions and elementary particles.

Fees

The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

  • Home full-time £9250
  • EU full-time £15400
  • International full-time £20500

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of A*AA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

Search scholarships

Teaching and assessment

Teaching is by lecture, laboratory sessions, and project and console classes. You have approximately nine lectures a week, plus one day of practical work. In addition, you have reading and coursework and practical reports to prepare.

Assessment is by written examination at the end of each year, plus continuous assessment of written coursework. Practical work is examined by continuous assessment.

Contact hours

For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours.  The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • Instil a sense of enthusiasm for physics through an understanding of the role of the discipline at the core of our intellectual understanding of all aspects of nature and as the foundation of many of the pure and applied sciences.
  • Provide knowledge of its application in different contexts in an intellectually stimulating research-led environment.
  • Provide a balanced foundation of physics knowledge and practical skills and an understanding of scientific methodology.
  • Enable students to undertake and report on an experimental and/or theoretical investigation.
  • Develop the ability to to apply skills, knowledge and understanding in physics to the solution of theoretical and practical problems in physics.
  • Provide a knowledge and skills base from which students can proceed to further studies in specialised areas of physics or multi-disciplinary areas involving physical principles.
  • Generate an appreciation of the importance of physics in industrial, economic, environmental and social contexts.
  • Instil and/or enhance in you a sense of enthusiasm for astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and an appreciation of its application in current research.
  • Generate an appreciation of the importance of astronomy, astrophysics and space science and its role in understanding how the universe in which we live came about and how it continues to exist and develop.
  • Provide a grounding in space systems and technology, and the overlap between the science and commercial drivers in the aerospace industry.
  • Motivate and support a wide range of students in their endeavours to realise their academic potential.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • Physical laws and principles, and their application to diverse areas of physics including: electromagnetism, classical and quantum mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics, wave phenomena and the properties of matter as fundamental aspects, with additional material from nuclear and particle physics, condensed matter physics, materials, plasmas and fluids.
  • Aspects of the theory and practice of astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and of those aspects upon which they depend, including a knowledge of key physics, the use of electronic data processing and analysis, and modern day mathematical and computational tools.

Intellectual skills

You gain the following intellectual abilities:

  • Identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  • The ability to solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
  • Execute and analyse critically the results of an experiment or investigation and draw valid conclusions, evaluate the level of uncertainty in these results and compare them with expected outcomes, theoretical predictions or with published data to evaluate the significance of their results in this context.
  • Use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.
  • Comment critically on how spacecraft are designed, their principles of operation, and their use to access and explore space, and on how telescopes (operating at various wavelengths) are designed, their principles of operation, and their use in astronomy and astrophysics research.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in the following:

  • Competent use of C&IT packages/systems for the analysis of data and information retrieval.
  • The ability to present and interpret information graphically.
  • Communicate scientific information and produce clear, accurate scientific reports.
  • Familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.
  • The systematic and reliable recording of experimental data.
  • Use appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing your own learning.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in the following:

  • Problem solving and the confidence to try different approaches to make progress on challenging problems and numeracy.
  • Investigative ability including the use of textbooks and other literature, databases, and interaction with colleagues.
  • Communication, such as dealing with surprising ideas and difficult concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts and presenting complex information in a clear and concise manner.
  • Analytical abilities, in particular attention to detail, to manipulate precise and intricate ideas to construct logical arguments and use technical language correctly.
  • The ability to work independently, to use initiative, meet deadlines and interact constructively with other people.

Independent rankings

Physics and Astronomy at Kent scored 89% overall in The Complete University Guide 2021.

Over 85% of final-year Physics students were satisfied with both the quality of their course and the quality of the teaching in The Guardian University Guide 2021.

Careers

Your Future

You graduate with an excellent grounding in scientific knowledge and extensive laboratory experience. In addition, you also develop the key transferable skills sought by employers, such as:

  • excellent communication skills
  • work independently or as part of a team
  • the ability to solve problems and think analytically
  • time management.

This means that our graduates are well equipped for careers across a range of fields and have gone on to work for companies such as Airbus, The Met Office, Defence Engineering and Science Group (MoD) and BAE. You can read their stories, and find out about the range of support and extra opportunities available to further your career potential here

Professional recognition

Recognised by the Institute of Physics.

Apply for Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2021/22 academic year. Please visit the 2022 entry course pages.

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International student enquiries

Enquire online

T: +44 (0)1227 823254
E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk

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