This Unit aims to provide an introduction to the birth, life and death of stars and the structure of our Galaxy. The emphasis will be on conceptual astronomy rather than mathematical techniques.


Teaching periods
Start and end dates
Last self-enrolment date
Census date
Last withdraw without fail date
Results released date
Study Period 1
Start and end dates
Last self-enrolment date
Census date
Last withdraw without fail date
Results released date

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

  • Identify the way stars are classified and recognise the approaches used to discover their properties
  • Explain and summarise the principles involved in the life cycle of stars, from protostar to stellar remnants
  • Appraise and state the basic principles and concepts about our Galaxy and its constituents (stars, protostars, stellar remnants, gas clouds, dark matter) in a non- technical way understandable to the wider public
  • Judge the limits of our understanding of our place in the Galaxy, and interpret the role of dark matter in modern astronomical theories
  • Use problem solving skills to explain and synthesise solutions to problems in stellar astronomy
  • Design and create an essay on an astronomy topic, assessing and critiquing current knowledge, using credible sources of astronomical information and research articles

Teaching methods


Type Hours per week Number of weeks Total (number of hours)
Directed Online Learning and Independent Learning
12.50 12 weeks 150


Type Task Weighting ULO's
EssayIndividual 50% 
NewsgroupsIndividual 30% 1,2,3,4 
Online TestsIndividual 20% 1,2,3,5 


  • The bulk properties and structure of the Sun
  • Distance, magnitudes, colours and luminosity of stars
  • Spectral lines and spectral types of the stars
  • The interstellar medium and the birth of stars
  • The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram and the ZAMS
  • Life on the main sequence, lifetime and mass-luminosity relations
  • Evolution of a solar mass star: red giants, planetary nebulae and white dwarfs
  • Variable stars
  • Supernovae, supernovae remnants and creation of the elements
  • End products: neutron stars, pulsars, black holes
  • Gamma ray bursts: observations and theory
  • Binary star systems, open clusters and globular clusters
  • The structure of the Milky Way, the galactic centre, dark matter

Study resources

Reading materials

A list of reading materials and/or required textbooks will be available in the Unit Outline on Canvas.