Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)
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Are you inspired by the wonders and vastness of the Universe? Do you want to investigate the possibilities of life elsewhere within it? Get involved with real space missions from ESA and NASA, and work on Hubble Telescope data and images from giant telescopes, or work with our own Beacon Observatory.
Access our first-class research laboratories, which are equipped for synthetic and analytical techniques ranging from soft organic polymers to nanoparticles, to highly sensitive organometallic species.
Develop the transferable skills to open up a world of job opportunities, leading to careers in research, engineering, aerospace/defence, medical physics, teaching, finance and data analytics.
This course is fully accredited by the Institute of Physics (IOP).
Reasons to study Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics at Kent
- Excellent teaching and research facilities including state-of-the-art laboratories, photonics centre and Beacon Observatory, which provides a fully automised system with both optical and radio telescope capability.
- Our expert lecturers are both innovative teachers and active researchers working at the cutting-edge of research across a range of fields, from quantum materials to medical imaging.
- Students meet regularly with their academic adviser to support their academic and career development.
- Learn in a variety of settings, from lectures and interactive workshops to laboratory classes, computing sessions and team projects.
- Flexible curriculum allows you to move between our courses in the earlier years, ensuring you are studying the best course for you.
- Get involved with real space missions from ESA and NASA, and work on Hubble Telescope data.
- Join our student-run societies: PhySoc, SpaceSoc and Amateur Rocketry Society, 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.
- A dedicated foundation year makes our course accessible to those without a science background.
What you'll learn
In your first year, the focus is on the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and astronomy.
Your second year covers a broad range of subjects such as the multiwavelength universe and exoplanets, spacecraft design and operations, atomic and nuclear physics, and quantum physics.
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.
You can also tailor your degree to suit you with a professional placement year or an integrated Master's (MPhys) where you’ll work with one of our cutting-edge research groups and gain an edge in the job market. Choose the ‘year abroad’ version of the MPhys to broaden your horizons further by studying at another institution for your third year.
If you do not have the grades or scientific background for direct entry to the degree, you have the option of the Physics Foundation Year. Upon successful completion of this year, you are able to progress to any of our Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, or Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics degrees.
School of Physics and Astronomy
The School of Physics and Astronomy is a welcoming and supportive environment with a lively student community. Our physics teaching is underpinned by our research strengths in quantum materials, applied optics and imaging, and astrophysics and planetary science, giving you the chance to learn from experts and providing opportunities to become involved in our research.
The flexible curriculum at Kent allows you to move between our range of physics-based courses in the early years, helping you find the right course for you. The student-run Physics, Space and Amateur Rocketry societies organise talks, practical demonstrations, trips and social events, and the School offers a programme of talks and careers events, including the annual Stephen Gray lecture.
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.
BBB, including A level Mathematics at B (not Use of Mathematics)
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.
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.
30 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).
International Foundation Programme
The University will consider applicants holding T level qualifications in subjects closely aligned to the course.
Please contact our Admissions Team for more information at email@example.com.
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.
Duration: 3 years full-time
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this course. 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 course, the modules listed are compulsory.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
This module provides an opportunity for students to work in groups to tackle open ended research problems. Project themes vary from industry linked projects to academic research and education/outreach projects. Students develop a variety of presentation skills and team work within the module as well as open ended project work.
Special Relativity: Limits of Newtonian Mechanics, Inertial frames of reference, the Galilean and Lorentz transformations, time dilation and length contraction, invariant quantities under Lorentz transformation, energy momentum 4-vector.
Maxwell's equations: operators of vector calculus, Gauss law of electrostatics and magnetostatics, Faraday's law and Ampere's law, physical meanings and integral and differential forms, dielectrics, the wave equation and solutions, Poynting vector, the Fresnel relations, transmission and reflection at dielectric boundaries.
Modern Optics: Resonant cavities and the laser, optical modes, Polarisation and Jones vector formulation.
Review of zeroth, first, second laws. Quasistatic processes. Functions of state. Extensive and intensive properties. Exact and inexact differentials. Concept of entropy. Heat capacities. Thermodynamic potentials: internal energy, enthalpy, Helmholtz and Gibbs functions. The Maxwell relations. Concept of chemical potential. Applications to simple systems. Joule free expansion. Joule-Kelvin effect. Equilibrium conditions. Phase equilibria, Clausius-Clapeyron equation. The third law of thermodynamics and its consequences – inaccessibility of the absolute zero.
Statistical Concepts and Statistical Basis of Thermodynamics
Basic statistical concepts. Microscopic and macroscopic descriptions of thermodynamic systems. Statistical basis of Thermodynamics. Boltzmann entropy formula. Temperature and pressure. Statistical properties of molecules in a gas. Basic concepts of probability and probability distributions. Counting the number of ways to place objects in boxes. Distinguishable and indistinguishable objects. Stirling approximation(s). Schottkly defect, Spin 1/2 systems. System of harmonic oscillators. Gibbsian Ensembles. Canonical Ensemble. Gibbs entropy formula. Boltzmann distribution. Partition function. Semi-classical approach. Partition function of a single particle. Partition function of N non-interacting particles. Helmholtz free energy. Pauli paramagnetism. Semi Classical Perfect Gas. Equation of state. Entropy of a monatomic gas, Sackur-Tetrode equation. Density of states. Maxwell velocity distribution. Equipartition of Energy. Heat capacities. Grand Canonical Ensemble.
Classical and Quantum Counting of Microstates. Average occupation numbers: Fermi Dirac and Bose Einstein statistics. The Classical Limit. Black Body radiation and perfect photon gas. Planck's law. Einstein theory of solids. Debye theory of solids.
Aims: To provide, in combination with PH507, a balanced and rigorous course in Astrophysics for B.Sc. Physics with Astrophysics students, while forming a basis of the more extensive M.Phys modules.
Physics of Stars
equations of state for an ideal multiple chemical component star; degenerated stars, Nuclear reactions: PPI, PPII, PPIII chains; CNO cycle, Triple-alpha process; elemental abundances; energy transportation inside a star; derivation of the approximate opacity and energy generation models as function of density, temperature and chemical components; Solar neutrino problem; polytropic models applied to the equations of stars; Lane-Emden equation; Chandrasekhar mass; the Eddington Luminosity and the upper limit of mass; detailed stellar models; Post main sequence evolution of solar mass stars; Red Giants; White Dwarfs; Neutron Stars; Degenerate matter; properties of white dwarfs; Chandrasekhar limit; neutron stars; pulsars; Supernovae
General Relativity and Cosmology
Inadequacy of Newton's Laws of Gravitation, principle of Equivalence, non-Euclidian geometry. Curved surfaces. Schwarzschild solution; Gravitational redshift, the bending of light and gravitational lenses; Einstein Rings, black holes, gravitational waves; Brief survey of the universe; Olbers paradox, Cosmology, principles, FRW Metric, Laws of Motion & Distances, Friedmann equation, Scale Factor, Fluid equation, The Hubble Parameter, Critical Density parameter, Cosmological Constant parameter, Radiation-Matter-Dark Energy phases; The CMB, Temperature Horizons. Monopoles. Flatness problem. Hubble sphere, Inflation, Anisotropies, Polarisation Baryon Acoustic Oscillations, Secondary anisotropies; Baryosynthesis, Nucleosynthesis, Dark Matter observations, Lensing, Bullet Cluster, Dark Matter candidates, Cosmic Distance Ladder, Redshifts Galaxy surveys; Acceleration equation, Deceleration equation, Supernova as standard candles, Dark Energy, Einstein Field equations, Coincidence problem, The Cosmic Dark Ages & AGN Reionisation, High-z galaxies
To understand the nature of the solar activities, emissions and its properties, and its effects on the Earth's atmosphere and the near-Earth space within which spacecraft operate.
To have a familiarity with the modes of operation of remote sensing and communications satellites, understanding their function and how their instruments work.
To be familiar with the current space missions to Mars and their impact on our understanding of that planet.
Solar Terrestrial physics
The sun: Overall structure, magnetic field and solar activities.
Interactions with Earth: plasma physics, solar wind, Earth's magnetic field.
Ionospheric physics. Terrestrial physics: Earth's energy balance, Atmosphere. Environmental effects.
Modes of operation of remote sensing satellite instruments: radio, microwave, visual and infrared instruments. Basic uses of the instruments. Digital image processing, structure of digital images, image-processing overview, information extraction, environmental applications: UV radiation and Ozone concentration, climate and weather.
An overview of recent and future Mars space missions and their scientific aims. Discussions of the new data concerning Mars and the changing picture of Mars that is currently emerging.
This module provides a foundation in numerical approximations to analytical methods – these techniques are essential for solving problems by computer. An indicative list of methods is: Linear equations, zeros and roots, least squares & linear regression, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, errors and finite differences, linear programming, interpolation and plotting functions, numerical integration, numerical differentiation, solutions to ordinary differential equations using numerical methods.
To provide experience in laboratory based experimentation, data recording and analysis and drawing of conclusions.
To develop report writing skills for scientific material.
To develop the ability to undertake investigations where, as part of the exercise, the goals and methods have to be defined by the investigator.
To develop skills in literature searches and reviews.
The module has two parts: Laboratory experiments and a mini-project. For half the term the students will work in pairs on a series of 3 two-week experiments. A report will be written by each student for each experiment.
Gamma ray spectroscopy.
Mini-projects. For half the term, the students will work in pairs on a mini-project. These will be more open-ended tasks than the experiments, with only brief introductions stating the topic to be investigated with an emphasis on independent learning. A report will be written by each student on their project.
This module will introduce students to basic concepts in nuclear and particle physics, and will provide an understanding of how the principles of quantum mechanics are used to describe matter at sub-atomic length scales. The following concepts will be covered:
* Properties of nuclei: Rutherford scattering. Size, mass and binding energy, stability, spin and parity.
* Nuclear Forces: properties of the deuteron, magnetic dipole moment, spin-dependent forces.
* Nuclear Models: Semi-empirical mass formula M(A, Z), stability, binding energy B(A, Z)/A. Shell model, magic numbers, spin-orbit interaction, shell closure effects.
* Alpha and Beta decay: Energetics and stability, the positron, neutrino and anti-neutrino.
* Nuclear Reactions: Q-value. Fission and fusion reactions, chain reactions and nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons, solar energy and the helium cycle.
* Experimental methods in Nuclear and Particle Physics (Accelerators, detectors, analysis methods, case studies will be given).
* Discovery of elementary particles and the standard model of particles
* Leptons, quarks and vector bosons
* The concept of four different forces and fields in classical and quantum physics; mediation of forces via virtual particles, Feynman Diagrams
* Relativistic Kinematics
* Relativistic Quantum Mechanics and Prediction of Antiparticles
* Symmetries and Conservation Laws
* Hadron flavours, isospin, strangeness and the quark model
* Weak Interactions, W and Z bosons
The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:
- Home full-time £9,250
- EU full-time £16,400
- International full-time £21,900
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.
Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.
We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.Search scholarships
Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over 86% of final-year Physics students were satisfied with the quality of the teaching on their course in The Guardian University Guide 2023.
Kent Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics graduates have an excellent employment record with recent graduates going on to work for employers:
- The Met Office
- Defence Engineering and Science Group (MoD)
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 Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics - BSc (Hons)
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 apply through UCAS or directly on our website if you have never used UCAS and you do not intend to use UCAS in the future.
Find out more about how to apply
United Kingdom/EU enquiries
Enquire online for full-time study
International student enquiries
T: +44 (0)1227 823254
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