Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - MPhys
with a Year Abroad

At Kent, you get involved with real space missions from ESA and NASA, and can work on Hubble Telescope data and images from giant telescopes or work with our own new Beacon Observatory. While spending a year at one of our partner universities, you study equivalent courses to those you would take at Kent, and return to complete the fourth year of our Integrated Masters. This means you graduate with a valuable postgraduate qualification which can help to give you the edge in the job market.

Overview

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

In this MPhys programme, core knowledge and skills are enhanced with the further in-depth training required for a science-based career, including the practical aspects of research.

Reasons to study an Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics degree at Kent

  • Study a wide range of modules and build your degree around your interests, including spacecraft design and operation and nuclear and particle physics.
  • You’ll have access to our state-of-the-art teaching laboratories and research facilities including the Beacon Observatory, which provides a fully automised system with both optical and radio telescope capability
  • You can get involved with real space missions from ESA and NASA, and can work on Hubble Telescope data
  • Our lecturers are both innovative teachers and active researchers working at the cutting-edge of research across a range of fields including quantum materials and space science.
  • Join our student-run Physics, Space and Amateur Rocketry societies, who organise talks, practical demonstrations and social events.
  • Build the connections that matter thanks to our links with optical laboratories, local health authorities, aerospace/defence industries and software and engineering companies.

What you'll learn

In your first year, the focus is on the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and astronomy. These skills are developed further in your second year and third year, along with the chance to explore wider topics such as quantum physics, optics, observational astronomy, and stars, galaxies and the Universe.

Our international exchange programme allows you to spend the third year of your degree studying abroad at one of our partner universities which include institutions in the US, Canada and Hong Kong.

In your final year you can study specialist modules such as advanced quantum mechanics, cosmology and Interstellar medium, rocketry and human spaceflight, and space astronomy and solar system science, as well as in undertaking an in-depth project with one of our cutting-edge research groups.

See the modules you'll study

You can also tailor your degree to suit you with a professional placement year or complete the MPhys without a year abroad.

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Flexible tariff

Make Kent your firm choice – The Kent Guarantee

We understand that applying for university can be stressful, especially when you are also studying for exams. Choose Kent as your firm choice on UCAS and we will guarantee you a place, even if you narrowly miss your offer (for example, by 1 A Level grade)*.

*exceptions apply. Please note that we are unable to offer The Kent Guarantee to those who have already been given a reduced or contextual offer.

Entry requirements

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. All applications are assessed on an individual basis but some of our typical requirements are listed below. Students offering qualifications not listed are welcome to contact our Admissions Team for further advice. Please also see our general entry requirements.

  • medal-empty

    A level

    BBB including A level Mathematics or Physics (not Use of Mathematics)

  • medal-empty Access to HE Diploma

    The University welcomes applications from Access to Higher Education Diploma candidates for consideration. A typical offer may require you to obtain a proportion of Level 3 credits in relevant 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

    30 points overall or 14 points at Higher Level including HL Physics at 5 or SL Physics at 6 and either HL Maths/Maths Methods/Maths: Analysis and Approaches at 5 or SL Maths/Maths Methods at 6 (Note Maths Studies/SL Maths: Applications & Interpretations is not acceptable).

  • medal-empty International Foundation Programme

    N/A

  • medal-empty T level

    The University will consider applicants holding T level qualifications in subjects closely aligned to the course.

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.

Please note that if you do not meet our English language requirements, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.

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Course structure

Duration: 4 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.

Find out more about PHYS3040

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.

Find out more about PHYS3110

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.

Find out more about PHYS3120

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.

Find out more about PHYS3210

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.

Find out more about PHYS3220

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.

Find out more about PHYS3230

This module guides students through a series of experiments giving them experience in using laboratory apparatus and equipment. Students will also learn how to accurately record and analyse data in laboratory notebooks and write scientific laboratory reports. The experiments cover subjects found in the Physics degree program and are run parallel with Computing Skills workshops in which students are introduced to the concept of using programming/scripting languages to analyse and report data from their experiments.

Find out more about PHYS3700

Stage 2

Compulsory modules currently include

This module provides an introduction to quantum mechanics, developing knowledge of wave-functions, the Schrodinger equation, solutions and quantum numbers for important physical properties. Topics include: 2-state systems. Bras and kets. Eigenstates and Eigenvalues; Superposition Principle; Probability Amplitudes; Change of Basis; Operators. The Schrodinger equation. Stationary states. Completeness. Expectation values. Collapse of the wave function. Probability density. Solutions of the Schrodinger equation for simple physical systems with constant potentials: Free particles. Particles in a box. Classically allowed and forbidden regions. Reflection and transmission of particles incident onto a potential barrier. Probability flux. Tunnelling of particles. The simple harmonic oscillator. Atomic vibrations.

Find out more about PHYS5020

This module will build on the general principles of quantum mechanics introduced earlier in the degree and applied them to the description of atoms, starting by the description of the hydrogen atom and covering other topics such as the effect of magnetic fields on an atom or X-ray spectra.

Find out more about PHYS5030

This module looks to introduce a range of important laws and principles relating to the physics of electromagnetism and optics. Students will also learn mathematical techniques to enable the modelling of physical behaviour and apply important theory to a range of electromagnetism and optics scenarios.

Find out more about PHYS5040

Aims: To provide a basic but rigorous grounding in observational, computational and theoretical aspects of astrophysics to build on the descriptive course in Stage 1, and to consider evidence for the existence of exoplanets in other Solar Systems.

Telescopes and detectors:

Radio telescopes; detection of radio waves, heterodyne receivers, bolometers; Optical/NIR Telescopes and detectors; basic band gap theory; CCD cameras; bias, dark and flatfield calibration frames and data reduction; Stellar Photometry: Factors affecting signal from a stars; atmospheric absorption and scattering; Filters; UBV system; Colour Index as temperature diagnostic.

Basic stellar properties:

Mass measurements: Kepler's laws; solar system; binary stars; Visual binaries; Eclipsing binaries, Spectroscopic binaries; Introduction to the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram; spectroscopic parallax Introduction to star formation: Molecular clouds; Jeans criterion for collapse; Protostars; T-Tauri stars; Contraction onto the Main Sequence; Heyney and Hayashi Tracks; Stellar spectral classification: Basic stellar properties; back body radiation; stellar spectra; radiative transfer in stellar atmospheres

Stellar Structure:

equation of hydrostatic support; Virial theorem; central pressure; mean temperature; astrophysical time scales; equations of energy generation and transportation; convective vs radiative energy transport;

Extra Solar Planets

Detection Methods; Direct Detection; Radial velocity technique; Transit method; Microlensing and direct imaging; the population of exoplanet systems, Metallicity, Eccentricity, Core Accretion and Gravitational Instability

Galaxies:

Introduction to Galaxies; Hubble classification; the Milky Way; Spirals; Dark matter; Ellipticals; Irregulars; luminosity functions; Galaxy Clusters, distributions and physical processes; The Hubble Constant, Evolution, Mergers, Star Formation History; Quasars, Seyferts and Radio Galaxies

Find out more about PHYS5070

This module aims to provide a basic understanding of the major subsystems of a spacecraft system and the frameworks for understanding spacecraft trajectory and orbits, including interplanetary orbits, launch phase and altitude control. Students will also gain an awareness of ideas on how space is a business/commercial opportunity and some of the management tools required in business.

Find out more about PHYS5080

Most practicing physicists at some point will be required to perform experiments and take measurements. This module, through a series of experiments, seeks to allow students to become familiar with some more complex apparatus and give them the opportunity to learn the art of accurate recording and analysis of data. This data has to be put in the context of the theoretical background and an estimate of the accuracy made. Keeping of an accurate, intelligible laboratory notebook is most important. Three 3 week experiments are performed. The remaining period is allocated to some additional activities to develop communication skills including communication to a non-specialist audience.

Find out more about PHYS5200

The module will provide a firm grounding in mathematical methods: both for solving differential equations and, through the study of special functions and asymptotic analysis, to determine the properties of solutions.

Find out more about PHYS5880

Year abroad

You spend a year between Stages 2 and 4 at one of our partner universities in the USA, Canada or Hong Kong.  For a full list, please see Go Abroad. Places are subject to availability.

You are expected to adhere to any academic progression requirements in Stages 1 and 2 to proceed to the year abroad.  If the requirement is not met, you are transferred to the equivalent four-year MPhys programme.

Going abroad as part of your degree is an amazing experience and a chance to develop personally, academically and professionally.  You experience a different culture, gain a new academic perspective, establish international contacts and enhance your employability.

Compulsory modules currently include

PH790 needs to cover a majority of learning outcomes in Stage 3 of the parent MPhys programme. The modules in the university abroad should normally cover similar topics at a similar level. Note that a one-to-one correspondence is not feasible and would negate the purpose of the Year Abroad, which is to provide the student with the experience of the educational system abroad. In addition, the student has the opportunity to study some modules which are not available at University of Kent.

With regards to topics, the academic liaison (typically DoUGS Physics) will check and approve the students choice of modules at the time they are at the university abroad.

Find out more about PHYS7900

Stage 4

Compulsory modules currently include

Aims:

To provide an experience of open-ended research work.

To begin to prepare students for postgraduate work towards degrees by research or for careers in R&D in industrial or government/national laboratories.

To deepen knowledge in a specialised field and be able to communicate that knowledge orally and in writing.

Syllabus

All MPhys students undertake a laboratory, theoretical or computationally-based project related to their degree specialism. These projects may also be undertaken by Diploma students. A list of available project areas is made available during Stage 3, but may be augmented/revised at any time up to and including Week 1 of Stage 4. As far as possible, projects will be assigned on the basis of students' preferences – but this is not always possible: however, the project abstracts are regarded as 'flexible' in the sense that significant modification is possible (subject only to mutual consent between student and supervisor). The projects involve a combination of some or all of: literature search and critique, laboratory work, theoretical work, computational physics and data reduction/analysis. The majority of the projects are directly related to the research conducted in the department and are undertaken within the various SPS research teams.

Find out more about PHYS7000

Space Astronomy:

Why use space telescopes; other platforms for non-ground-based astronomical observatories (sounding rockets, balloons, satellites); mission case study; what wavelengths benefit by being in space; measurements astronomers make in space using UV, x-ray and infra-red, and examples of some recent scientific missions.

Exploration of the Solar System:

Mission types from flybys to sample returns: scientific aims and instrumentation: design requirements for a spacecraft-exploration mission; how to study planetary atmospheres and surfaces: properties of and how to explore minor bodies (e.g. asteroids and comets): current and future missions: mission case study; how space agencies liaise with the scientific community; how to perform calculations related to the orbital transfer of spacecraft.

Solar System Formation and Evolution:

The composition of the Sun and planets will be placed in the context of the current understanding of the evolution of the Solar System. Topics include: Solar system formation and evolution; structure of the solar system; physical and orbital evolution of asteroids.

Extra Solar Planets:

The evidence for extra Solar planets will be presented and reviewed. The implications for the development and evolution of Solar Systems will be discussed.

Life in Space:

Introduction to the issue of what life is, where it may exist in the Solar System and how to look for it.

Find out more about PHYS7090

Flight Operations: Control of spacecraft from the ground, including aspects of telecommunications theory.

Propulsion and attitude control: Physics of combustion in rockets, review of classical mechanics of rotation and its application to spacecraft attitude determination and control.

Impact Damage: The mechanisms by which space vehicles are damaged by high speed impact will be discussed along with protection strategies.

Human spaceflight: A review of human spaceflight programs (past and present). Life-support systems. An introduction to some major topics in space medicine; acceleration, pressurisation, radiation, etc.

International Space Station: Status of this project/mission will be covered.

Find out more about PHYS7110

Interstellar Medium:

The major properties of the Interstellar Medium (ISM) are described. The course will discuss the characteristics of the gaseous and dust components of the ISM, including their distributions throughout the Galaxy, physical and chemical properties, and their influence the star formation process. The excitation of this interstellar material will be examined for the various physical processes which occur in the ISM, including radiative, collisional and shock excitation. The way in which the interstellar material can collapse under the effects of self-gravity to form stars, and their subsequent interaction with the remaining material will be examined. Finally the end stages of stellar evolution will be studied to understand how planetary nebulae and supernova remnants interact with the surrounding ISM.

Extragalactic astrophysics:

Review of FRW metric; source counts; cosmological distance ladder; standard candles/rods.

High-z galaxies: fundamental plane; Tully-Fisher; low surface brightness galaxies; luminosity functions and high-z evolution; the Cosmic Star Formation History

Galaxy clusters: the Butcher-Oemler effect; the morphology-density relation; the SZ effect

AGN and black holes: Beaming and superluminal motion; Unified schemes; Black hole demographics; high-z galaxy and quasar absorption and emission lines.

Find out more about PHYS7120

Quantum mechanics is the theoretical basis of much of modern physics. Building on the introductory quantum theory studied in earlier stages, this module will review some key foundational ideas before developing more advanced topics of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory.

Find out more about PHYS7770

Fees

The 2022/23 annual tuition fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9250
  • EU full-time £15900
  • International full-time £21200

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.

Fees for Year in Industry

Fees for Home undergraduates are £1,385.

Fees for Year Abroad

Fees for Home undergraduates are £1,385.

Students studying abroad for less than one academic year will pay full fees according to their fee status.

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. In the MPhys final year, you work with a member of staff on an experimental or computing project.

Assessment is by written examination at the end of each year, plus continuous assessment of written coursework. Practical work is examined by continuous assessment. The year abroad counts towards your final degree 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 and/or enhance a sense of enthusiasm for physics by understanding the role of the discipline at the core of our intellectual knowledge of all aspects of nature and as the foundation of many of the pure and applied sciences.
  • Instil an appreciation of the subject’s application in different contexts, in an intellectually stimulating research-led environment.
  • Motivate and support students to realise their academic potential.
  • 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; in the case of the MPhys to base this in part on an extended research project.
  • Develop the ability to apply skills, knowledge and understanding in physics to the solution of theoretical and practical problems in the subject.
  • Provide knowledge and a skills base from which students can proceed to further studies in specialised areas of physics or multidisciplinary areas involving physical principles; the MPhys is particularly geared for those wishing to undertake physics research.
  • Generate an appreciation of the importance of physics in the industrial, economic, environmental and social contexts.
  • Instil an appreciation of the subject through 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.

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 theory and practice and a knowledge of key physics, the use of electronic data processing and analysis, and modern day mathematical and computational tools.
  • The fundamental laws and principles of physics and of astronomy, astrophysics and space science and their application.

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.
  • 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 the 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 how telescopes are designed, their principles of operation, and their use in astronomy and astrophysics research.
  • Solve advanced problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools, translate problems into mathematical statements and apply knowledge to obtain order of magnitude or more precise solutions.
  • Interpret mathematical descriptions of physical phenomena.
  • Plan an experiment or investigation under supervision and to understand the significance of error analysis.
  • Have a working knowledge of a variety of experimental, mathematical and/or computational techniques applicable to current research within physics.
  • Enhanced knowledge of the science drivers that underpin government-funded research and the commercial activity that provides hardware or software solutions to challenging scientific problems in the fields of astronomy, space science and astrophysics.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in the following:

  • Competent use of appropriate 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 and accurate scientific reports.
  • Familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques.
  • Systematic and reliable recording of experimental data.
  • The ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources.
  • Fluency in C&IT at the level and range needed for project work such as familiarity with a programming language, simulation software or the use of mathematical packages for manipulation and numerical solution of equations.
  • The ability to communicate complex scientific ideas, the conclusion of an experiment, investigation or project concisely, accurately and informatively.
  • Experimental methodology showing the competent use of specialised equipment, the ability to identify appropriate pieces of equipment and to master new techniques and equipment.
  • The ability to make use of research articles and other primary sources.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in the following:

  • Problem-solving, an ability to formulate problems in precise terms and identify key issues, the confidence to try different approaches to make progress on challenging problems, and numeracy.
  • Investigative skills in the context of independent investigation including the use of textbooks and other literature, databases, and interaction with colleagues to extract important information.
  • Communication: dealing with surprising ideas and difficult concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts and presenting complex information in a clear and concise manner.
  • Analytical skills associated with the need to pay attention to detail, the ability 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 to interact constructively with other people.

Independent rankings

Physics and Astronomy at Kent scored 88% overall in The Complete University Guide 2022.

Of final-year Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics students who completed the National Student Survey 2021, 91% were satisfied with the overall quality of their course.

Careers

Graduate destinations

Kent Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics graduates have an excellent employment record with recent graduates going on to work for employers:

  • Airbus
  • The Met Office
  • Defence Engineering and Science Group (MoD)
  • BAE

Career-enhancing skills

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.

You can also enhance your degree studies by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering.

Help finding a job

The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service which can give you advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

Apply for this course

If you are from the UK or Ireland, you must apply for this course through UCAS. If you are not from the UK or Ireland, you can choose to apply through UCAS or directly on our website.

Find out more about how to apply

All applicants

Apply through UCAS

International applicants

Apply now to Kent

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