This unit aims to provide an introduction to our solar neighbourhood, including terrestrial planets, giant planets, minor bodies and the Sun. The emphasis is 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 3
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:

  • Explain the basic principles of both celestial motion and planetary astronomy, and summarise these concepts in a non-technical manner understandable to the general public
  • Describe night sky observing and compare and contrast celestial phenomena
  • Distinguish our place in the solar neighbourhood, and differentiate between our present environment on Earth and that of our companions in the Solar System
  • Recognise and discuss the social implications of planetary research
  • Use problem solving skills to explain and synthesise solutions to problems in solar system 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 


  • Observing the night sky, star trails, the planets as wanderers
  • Lunar orbit and phases, tidal forces, synchronous rotation
  • Modelling the formation of the Solar System
  • The Earth: structure, surface geology, atmosphere and magnetic field
  • The Moon: interior, lunar surface characteristics and theory of formation
  • The terrestrials: Mercury, Venus and Mars; comparative planetary geology
  • Planets as habitats and signs of life
  • The asteroid belt: properties and evolution
  • The giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune
  • Satellites and planetary rings
  • Dwarf planets, Pluto and the Kuiper Belt
  • Comets and the dirty snowball model
  • The Sun: structure, nuclear power, solar activity and its effects on Earth

Study resources

Reading materials

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