Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Physics


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Foundations of Physics 1 (PHYS1122) AND ((Single Mathematics A (MATH1561) and Single Mathematics B (MATH1571)) OR (Calculus I (MATH1061) and Linear Algebra I (MATH1071))).


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module is designed primarily for students studying Department of Physics or Natural Sciences degree programmes.
  • It provides an introduction to Astronomy and the foundations for Astrophysics courses in later years.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Telescopes; Binary stars and Stellar Parameters; The Classification of Stellar Spectra; Stellar Atmospheres; The Interior of Stars; The Sun; The Process of Star Formation; Post-Main-Sequence Stellar Evolution; Stellar Pulsation; The Degenerate Remnants of Stars; Black Holes; Close Binary Systems; The Milky Way Galaxy; The Nature of Galaxies; Galactic Evolution.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will be aware of the basic techniques of observational astronomy.
  • They will understand the basic physics of stellar interiors.
  • They will appreciate why we see stars of widely differing colours and brightnesses.
  • They will have had their understanding of stellar properties and physics extended to pulsating and binary stars.
  • They will have an introductory knowledge of galactic and extragalactic astronomy.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In addition to the acquisition of subject knowledge, students will be able to apply the principles of physics to the solution of predictable and unpredictable problems.
  • They will know how to produce a well-structured solution, with clearly-explained reasoning and appropriate presentation.
Key Skills:

    Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

    • Teaching will be by lectures and tutorial-style workshops.
    • The lectures provide the means to give a concise, focused presentation of the subject matter of the module. The lecture material will be defined by, and explicitly linked to, the contents of recommended textbooks for the module, thus making clear where students can begin private study. When appropriate, the lectures will also be supported by the distribution of the written material, or by information and relevant links online.
    • Regular problem exercises and workshops will give students the chance to develop their theoretical understanding and problem solving skills.
    • Students will be able to obtain further help in their studies by approaching their lecturers, either after lectures or at other mutually convenient times.
    • Student performance will be summatively assessed through an open-book examination and formatively assessed through problem exercises and a progress test. The open-book examination will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acquisition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem-solving skills. The problem exercises, progress test and workshops will provide opportunities for feedback, for students to gauge their progress and for staff to monitor progress throughout the duration of the module.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Lectures 40 2 per week 1 hour 40
    Workshops 18 Weekly 1 hour 18
    Preparation and Reading 142
    TOTAL 200

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Open-book examination Component Weighting: 100%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Open-book examination 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    Problem exercises and self-assessment; progress test, workshops (not compulsory) and problems solved therein.

    Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University