What you will study in the Astrophysics course at The Open University UK
This is a module that builds on skills and concepts you will have developed by studying maths, physics and astronomy at a level equivalent to OU level 2 modules. Although it requires a slightly lower level of mathematics than other OU level 3 physics and astronomy modules, it builds on a broader range of OU level 2 material.
Part 1, Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis, is based around a book which allows you to investigate the properties of stars at different stages of their evolution – how they form, what happens to them as they age, and what becomes of them when they die.
You will also explore the physical processes that sustain the energy output of stars during each stage of their evolution and drive the progression from one stage to the next, as well as the relationship between different stages of stellar evolution and the production of the chemical elements. Your study of this part will allow you to develop basic concepts of hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, plasma physics, quantum physics and nuclear physics.
Part 2, Astrophysical Data Analysis, is rather different from a conventional text. It is a practical component that you study at home, linked via the internet with a small group of students with whom you will work collaboratively on a project involving astrophysical data analysis and interpretation.
You will acquire data either from the OU’s robotic telescope (PIRATE) or from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) archive. In the first case you will devise a project based around photometric light curves of newly discovered variable stars, while in the second case you will devise a project concerning optical spectroscopy of previously unstudied quasars. In either case, your group will acquire, reduce, analyse and interpret a unique dataset before presenting a wiki on your findings.
You will record your individual project activities in a series of Progress Reports and will contribute to the final group wiki report. Note: although you may express a preference for either the PIRATE version of the project or the SDSS version of the project, we cannotguarantee that you will be allocated the one you prefer.
A broadband internet connection is recommended for this project and is particularly important for the PIRATE version where you will be downloading and working with a large volume of data.
Part 3, Transiting Exoplanets, is based around a book which allows you to explore the methods used in the detection and characterisation of exoplanets, and their physical properties. In 1995 the first planet around a main sequence star other than the Sun was discovered. Since then hundreds of exoplanets have been found, creating one of the most exciting and fast moving research fields in astrophysics.
This part focuses on the transiting exoplanets because these are the only planets outside our own solar system with measured sizes. You will explore the methods used to determine the atmospheric properties of transiting exoplanets, to measure the planetary orbit’s alignment with the stellar spin, and to observe the effects of the intense irradiation suffered by some of these planets.
You will discover what these measurements imply for reinvigorated theories of planet formation and evolution, and will examines the question ‘is life unique to Earth?’ in the context of exoplanet research.
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- You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance.
- There will be a number of online tutorials that you can join and access via your computer. You are encouraged, but not obliged, to participate in these. You will also be able to participate in discussions through online forums.
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Start dates & application deadlines
- Apply before
DisciplinesPhysics Mathematics Astronomy & Space Sciences View 12 other Short Courses in Physics in United Kingdom
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We are not aware of any academic requirements for this programme.
We are not aware of any English requirements for this programme.
This is an OU level 3 module that builds on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. It is intended for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject at this level.
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International1584 GBP/fullTuition FeeBased on the tuition of 1584 GBP for the full programme
National1584 GBP/fullTuition FeeBased on the tuition of 1584 GBP for the full programme
Studyportals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.
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Apply and win up to €10000 to cover your tuition fees.