This Unit aims to provide an introduction to galaxies and galaxy clustering, theories of dark matter, galaxy formation and evolution.


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:

  • Identify the “big questions” in galactic and extragalactic astronomy, and recognise the current state of our knowledge on these questions
  • Explain and summarise the concepts of galaxy formation and evolution
  • Distinguish the way galaxies are classified and differentiate the approaches used to discover their properties
  • Appraise and state the basic principles and concepts about our and other galaxies, their properties and their constituents in a non-technical way understandable to the wider public
  • Use problem solving skills to explain and synthesise solutions to problems in galactic and extragalactic 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 Milky Way: structure, rotation curves and dark matter, origin.
  • The structure and classification of normal galaxies: Hubble's classification
  • Estimating distances: standard candles, sizes and masses, redshifts.
  • Galactic structures: the Local Group, dark matter in clusters, superclusters & voids
  • Star formation: measuring rates and evolution.
  • Quasars and active galaxies: host galaxies, unified active galactic nuclei model, black holes, gravitational lensing
  • Interacting galaxies, galactic cannibalism & mergers.
  • Galaxy formation and evolution, fluctuations and galaxy seeds, N-body simulations, Cold Dark Matter
  • First stars and galaxies: the dark ages, Population III, galaxies and quasars at high redshift.
  • Quasar absorbers, evolution of gas in the Universe, the intergalactic medium.

Study resources

Reading materials

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