Introduction to Astrophysics (F3237)

15 credits, Level 4

Autumn teaching

This module aims to explain the contents, dimensions and history of the Universe, primarily at a descriptive level. It applies basic physical laws to the study of the Universe, enabling simple calculations. This module also includes an introduction to special relativity, which is shared with the Introduction to Modern Physics module. This module covers:

  • A brief history of astronomy.
  • The scale of the Universe.
  • Time and motion in the Universe.
  • Planets, asteroids and comets.
  • Stars: their birth and death.
  • The Milky Way and our place within it.
  • Nebulae.
  • Galaxies: types, distance, formation and structure.
  • Cosmology: dynamics of the Universe, the Big Bang and the cosmic microwave background.
  • Relativity: the historical perspective.
  • Inertial frames and transformations and Newton's laws in inertial frames.
  • Michelson-Morley experiment: observed constancy of speed of light and Einstein's assumptions.
  • Lorentz-Einstein transformations, Minkowski diagrams, Lorentz contraction and time dilation.
  • Transformation of velocities: stellar aberration, variation of mass and mass-energy equivalence.
  • Lorentz transformations for momentum and energy.


50%: Lecture
25%: Practical (Workshop)
25%: Seminar (Class)


20%: Coursework (Problem Set)
80%: Examination (Unseen examination)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 36 hours of contact time and 114 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2019/20. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.