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Unit information: Stars and Planets 106 in 2013/14

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Unit name Stars and Planets 106
Unit code PHYS10600
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Worrall
Open unit status Open

A-level Mathematics or Physics, or equivalent.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


Stars and Planets consists of elements drawn from Astronomy 1 (PHYS10500) and has been designed to meet the needs of students requiring a 20 cp unit, for example in conjunction with the language unit on programmes with Study in Continental Europe. Planets, Astrophysical Concepts and Stars give a broad introduction to modern astronomy. Familiarity with A-level mathematics, including calculus, is assumed.


Astrophysical concepts:

To give students an introduction to concepts required in the astrophysical interpretation of astronomical observations and to demonstrate the application of physical laws to astrophysics.


To familiarise students with the contents of the solar system and to discuss the physical characteristics and evolution of solar system bodies.


To describe the various characteristics of stars which can be measured from Earth, and the ways in which the physical nature of different types of stars may be inferred from a study of these characteristics and the correlations between them.

Intended learning outcomes

Astrophysical concepts:

Students should gain an understanding of concepts required in the astrophysical interpretation of astronomical observations and be able to demonstrate the application of physical laws to astrophysics.


At the end of this course students should have an appreciation of the physical properties of the various bodies in the solar system, understand the basic processes affecting planetary atmospheres, surfaces and interiors, and gain some insight into observations of other planetary systems and current theories of planetary formation and evolution.


Students should: become familiar with the measurements which can be made on stars. Understand how correlation plots of stellar properties have allowed us to classify stars into different types, and to place these types in an evolutionary sequence. Able to apply the laws governing the behaviour of gases to derive the conditions inside stars and to show that these conditions imply that thermonuclear reactions must be the energy sources of most stars. Be able to explain, in a general way, how the transient phenomena observed on the surfaces of stars can be understood in terms of local concentrations of magnetic field.

Practical work:

Ability to manipulate data, make simple measurements and calculations, and draw logical conclusions for areas covered in lectures.

Teaching details

Lectures, laboratory and revision classes for 3 hours per week total.

Assessment Details

Formative Assessment:

Practical work and the problems sheets provide formative feedback.

Summative Assessment:

A final 2 hour examination (85%), continuously assessed practical work (10%) and problem sheets (5%).

Reading and References

Zeilik and Gregory Introductory Astronomy and Astrophysics (1998 Saunders).