Introduction to Astrophysics (F3237)

15 credits, Level 4

Spring 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.

Teaching and assessment

We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 44 hours of contact time and about 106 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

This module is running in the academic year 2020/21. 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.


This module is offered on the following courses: