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.

Exploring the Cosmos 1X ASTRO1003

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Physics and Astronomy
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 1 (SCQF level 7)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

To survey our present understanding of our Universe and of our Solar System with the Sun as the source of energy for life on Earth, together with the possibility of life elsewhere.


Daily at 1.00 pm

Requirements of Entry



One 2 hour examination (70 %), continuous assessment (30 %)

Main Assessment In: December

Course Aims

1. To survey our present understanding of the solar system and of the Sun as the source of energy for life on Earth, together with the possibility of life elsewhere.

2. To provide in this context, for students who do not propose to enter an Honours course in physics, some understanding of how data are gathered, evidence assessed, and argument conducted in a physical science.

3. To convey some appreciation of key episodes in the historical development of our knowledge of the Sun and the solar system.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of the course students will be able to :

1. Exploring the Sky.

To provide an understanding of what can be seen in the sky by eye. Describe how these are located in terms of angular position and, for solar system, in terms of distance from Earth.

(2) The Solar System (Parts I & II).

Explain how the modern view of the orbits of planets and other bodies developed in the context of the Copernican revolution and Newton's mechanics.

State how we currently view the variety of environments provided by the individual bodies of the solar system, and how we interpret the evolution of that system.

(3) The Sun and its Radiation.

Explain how nuclear reactions drive the Sun as an energy source radiating to the planets, and how radiation gives the means of accessing information about distant bodies.

(4) Life in the cosmos.

Explain how specific are the conditions Earth satisfies to be able to support life.

Describe the range of scientific disciplines needed to assess whether other life-bearing environments exist, and in particular for the life forms to communicate.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

To sit 1 (from 3) 30 minute class tests

Attendance at the degree examination