Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Astronomy 1 ASTRO1001

  • Academic Session: 2020-21
  • School: School of Physics and Astronomy
  • Credits: 40
  • Level: Level 1 (SCQF level 7)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

Presents a general introduction to the subject of astronomy and in particular the areas of solar system physics, positional astronomy and dynamical astronomy.


Lectures daily at 10am. Laboratories certain Mondays or Thursdays at 1.30pm-4.30pm.

Requirements of Entry

Pass in Maths SQA Higher or equivalent. Pass in Physics SQA Standard Grade or equivalent. (Pass in Physics SQA Higher or equivalent is advised).

Excluded Courses

  Exploring the Cosmos 1X, Exploring the Cosmos 1Y


Degree exam (2 papers) - 55%; Tutorials - 10%; Labs - 15%; Class tests - 20%.

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

To present a general introduction to the subject of astronomy and in particular the areas of solar system physics, positional astronomy and dynamical astronomy and in the context of the wider universe: namely stars & galaxies and cosmology;

To introduce students to some practical aspects of astronomy through laboratory work;

To encourage students to organise their time and work effectively; 

To introduce students to aspects of observational techniques in astronomy.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

On completion of the course, the student should be able to:

(1) describe the structure of the sun, the planets, the satellites and other minor bodies and the structure and origin of the solar system;

(2) state the fundamental physical laws of blackbody radiation, gravitation, the gas laws and radioactivity;

(3) apply the above laws to describe and explain the properties of the bodies in the solar system and the evolution and formation of the solar system;

(4) state the fundamental formulae of spherical trigonometry and be able to apply them to planetary motion and terrestrial navigation;

(5) describe the various co-ordinate systems and how to transfer between them;

(6) solve problems concerning apparent motion of stars in the night sky;

(7) state the basic concepts of Newtonian gravitation and associated phenomena;

(8) use these concepts quantitatively in various situations such as deriving surface gravity and escape velocities and determining properties of planetary orbits;

(9) describe the electromagnetic spectrum, associated units and properties of the sky in different spectral regions;

(10) explain the use of telescopes including quantitative assessment of various properties and consideration of ancillary instrumentation;

(11) describe the main types of stars, the spectral classifications of stars and the Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) diagram;

(12) state the physical principles needed to build simple models of main sequence stars;

(13) state the relationship between stellar evolution and the HR diagram;

(14) describe the nature of gravitational collapse and be familiar with the properties of compact stars and black holes;

(15) list the observational evidence relating to these stellar states;

(16) describe the properties of the main types of galaxies;

(17) describe the large scale structure (clusters and superclusters) in the universe and their relative scales;

(18) explain the big bang model and its status in relation to cosmological observations.


The student should also: carry out practical investigations in elementary astronomy, taking and analysing data and reporting on their findings in written form.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Attendance at 50% of the class tutorials;

Submission of 50% of the assignment questions;

Attendance at 50% of the laboratory sessions and submission of the associated work for marking;

Attendance at class test;

Attendance at both final degree exam papers.